Friday, April 15, 2011

E-Covers that Sell!



by Rebecca Forster

I doubt this will come as a surprise, but ‘pretty’ sells. So does intriguing, shocking, soothing and sexy. That’s why I spent the last three weeks sweating over cover designs for my backlist romances and redesigning my thriller covers - all of which I hope you'll be downloading to your E-reader of choice someday. But today the topic is E-covers.

Why, you may wonder, did this exercise in cover design create such angst? After all, nobody will run their thumb over the richly embossed type, check the weight of the stock or touch it in a bookstore. This isn’t a ‘real’ cover on a ‘real’ book and that is exactly the point. These covers are more important than a paper cover because they will live on in perpetuity.

In this new publishing reality, authors who have backlists and don’t own the rights to their covers must now become designers; indie authors who have never had the benefit of seeing their work transformed into a visual face a daunting task of identifying the soul of their books. Bottom line, unlike paper, an E-cover's impact will be farther reaching than any of us can even imagine.

In the old days an author might reproduce their cover image on bookmarks and mugs. In this brave new world, E-covers pop up as thumbnails on Facebook, Linked-In and other social media posts. They are broadcast to readers of blogs and reviewers who promote your work. An E-cover makes a statement on your own website. An E-book cover is brought up full-size and full color on most readers. An E- cover sets the tone for my book in a way that a paper cover never could because I – the author – have designed it and that is the truly exquisite bottom line.**

No longer am I at the mercy of a New York art director working off a synopsis of the book I spent months writing. Never again will I have a cover where Lady Justice had a sex change and became a sword-toting Roman guy. I have seen the last of a beautiful ocean on the cover of my book that is set in the high desert of California. Hurrah! I have taken the beaches of cover design, planted my flag and you can too.

I must confess that initially I was like a young soldier rushing into war without realizing how important the battle was. I lucked out with my Witness Series covers but others looked amateurish, weak and unmemorable. I had that revelation as I readied my romance backlist for E-publication. I was determined to make my covers as easily identifiable as my writing style. Faced with the prospect of creating a minimum of 8 new covers, I made a plan. I studied E-covers of books I admired and those on the top seller lists. I began to experiment. I realized that like a first draft of a book my covers were not perfect the first time out. I began to understand that I had to kick everything up a notch to get noticed: visuals, color, and content.

Old Version

New Version

The new covers now reflect the theme of each book or are evocative of the mood of that work. With the romances and women’s fiction in particular I tried to limit the use of full-on portrait photography in order not to inhibit the romantic reader’s imagination. For me, blocking and color worked for the romances. For other authors, flowers and pastels might be the key to success. For my thrillers, I decided to go darker with ominous and/or graphic images. Though there are no hard and fast rules, here are some guidelines that worked for me:

• Clean is better than fussy
• People (especially parts of people) are intriguing***
• Experimenting is good. Odd colors and disparate type faces can work together and create drama
• The covers should reflect the tone of the book
• Slugs should be tight and to the point
• Spend a little money on stock photos (I use ‘small’).
• Plug in image search words that aren’t obvious.
• Use PowerPoint portrait setting for your design. The pixel height and width will be perfect for uploading to Amazon, PubIt! and Smashwords.

So, Heck Yeah! Get on top of the the covers. Your E-career will thank you for it.****

*Check out all my covers at http://www.rebeccaforster.com
**Even if you had a designer, they worked at your direction. Own that cover!
***See The Reckless Ones – my favorite partial body shot.
****The same thoughts hold true for E-packaging!