Self-pub covers

One of our long-standing gripes with self-pub has been that most self-pub covers look like self-pub covers. They have tended to look more visibly amateurish than the things you find in bookshops – and if you’re selling a product that has a vastly smaller marketing budget / distribution network / name recognition / media support, why on earth do people add this extra encumbrance to success?

But of course the issue there isn’t that people choose to publish themselves – we’ve always been keen on the freedom that offers – it’s that too many people choose to publish badly. And nothing, but nothing, about self-pub needs to be anything other than immaculately professional.

That means (A) proper editorial work, (B) proper copy-editing, and (C) proper production values, with cover design the most prominent part of that. We’ve always liked Matador self-publishing because they have the best values in their industry. Apart from anything else, they actually try to sell books. It sounds crazy, but most of their rivals don’t. They print em, but don’t care about selling em. Matador do.

And by way of illustrating those values, here are – ahem – some illustrations: a gallery of the best Matador designs of 2012. If you click that link, you can see the covers and vote for your favourite. (Matador is donating money to charity if they secure enough votes, and the winner will also receive a small prize.) I’d say that there are no covers in the collection that look weaker than a typical cover from Penguin, Random House, or anyone else. Rather the opposite: I’d say that the first 9 covers of that selection are as good as, or stronger, than any cover I’ve had in 10+ years of being published by regular publishers.

Good covers don’t just look good on a bookshop table, they also, these days, have to look good at thumbnail size and large-icon size in digital bookstores.

And if you personally are self-publishing right now, ask yourself honestly whether your putative covers stands comparison with the best covers out there now. If it does, then well done you! These things aren’t easy to achieve and you’ve done well. But if it doesn’t, then – advice from one author to another – I’d suggest you go back and try again. These things matter!

This entry was posted in How to get published. Bookmark the permalink.
  • As usual, your blogs are always helpful and informative. I could not agree more with the three points you highlight… A, B + C. However, could I just add a bit. The cover of a book is the whole cover. The back is just as important as the front. Within a week of having my first self-published book in my hands I got into onto the shelves of WHS. When I took my book to be viewed the first thing the manager did was to turn it over. ‘How refreshing!’ was his immediate response. I asked why and was told the following…
    1. There was no photo of myself on the back and he told me it’s the first thing a lot of self-published authors do.
    2. It had a short blurb that caught the interest of the prospective buyer without spilling out the whole plot.
    3. It was a wrap around cover. (the design on the front continued around the back with a specific place for the blurb ~ this apparently is costly, I didn’t know that at the time and it was something I’d done myself on photoshop)
    4. It had an ISBN, a price, and the genre.

    I put a lot of time and effort into both the content and the cover of my book because although people say ‘you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover’ people do.

    I hope this helps.

  • Ooops! My proof reader’s just spotted two deliberate mistakes!

    (there’s an ‘into’ that should be an ‘it’)
    (‘you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover’)

    Just to prove the point that proof reading is essential.

  • Alanboy

    I also agree with the points you make. I am going to self-pub this year, and I have enlisted an artist to create a cover to a tight spec. I intend being as finicky with the design as I am about the content of my book. Fortunately I have an artistic background, so I don’t think I’m being arrogant.

    I’ve taken a look at the matador covers and selected one. I have to say, I am not impressed with the overall standard – sorry. In most of those covers, both imaginative flair and visual impact is absent. I also doubt some of the titles will be legible in thumbprint size. Okay, it’s just my opinion.

    Thanks for your blog. It reinforces what I already strongly believe.

  • Pingback: Self-Publishing Cover Design Survey and Some Wise Words | The Independent Publishing Magazine()