Love Your Book? Choose A Great Cover

“Writing a novel… Now THAT’s hard,” my friend Phil said to me recently.

Phil is a neurologist. He’s brilliant enough to understand the inner-workings of the brain and that carving a creative path isn’t easy. To those of us who adore the process, however, it’s worth every brain cell and glucose molecule required.

Brains = Beauty

As many of you know, LOVE has been a theme in my life lately. Deciding to self-publish and related happenings have left me punch-drunk exhilarated. Thanks to Steena Holmes, indie author and graphic/book artist extraordinnaire, my latest heart swell derived from developing my cover—one of the most valuable ways we authors have of showing our work some love.

Having complete control over book covers is a huge benefit of self-publishing. It’s also one of the most important factors separating successful indie-authors and those whose books scarcely see the light of day.

The biggest giveaway that one is dealing with a self-published book is a poorly designed cover, says thriller author and executive editor of CNET David Carnoy, which is too often the case. Traditionally published books with ineffective covers also do poorly. Whether we like it or not, it’s human nature to judge books by their covers.

“Studies show that you have 12 seconds—in a bookstore—to turn a browser into a buyer… Covers are the way that we attract buyers.” — Midwest Book Review

Imagine how much more significant book covers are online, where we can view ten, twenty or more at once.

Choices, choices…

Stories we put our hearts, minds, souls and sweat into should appear as valuable as they are. Because my graphic “art” skills are limited to making 🙂 faces, coloring text and cropping photos, I knew that my cover decision would require serious research and expert insight. Here’s a handful of tips I learned in the process.

7 Tips for Choosing a Great Cover

1. Sit in your story. Close your eyes and think of your book without judgment. If you’re like me, an image (or images) and mood will surface. I carried this habit over from acting to writing, and most recently to choosing my cover.

2. Browse many covers. Go to Google images, Amazon or Barnes and Noble and peruse covers in your genre. Which ones stand out? Turn you off? Which would you buy? It can be tough to convey all we desire to a designer. Having an example can help us formulate our vision and relay it to others.

3. Hire someone awesome! If you’re artistically inclined, you may not want or need help. Otherwise, a fantastic, experienced designer can help ensure cover-creating success. If my book were a Christmas tree, Steena Holmes added lights and a star.

4. Make sure it looks fabulous small. With readers buying continually more books via iPads, smart phones and e-readers, it only makes sense that our covers look sharp as thumbnails.

5. Avoid clutter. Using one main image, not cluttering up the background and using readable, pleasing-to-the-eye font can help accomplish number four. And let’s face it. Clutter is generally unappealing. (Yeah, that funky bed I suggested Steena add? Not so much.)

6. Seek input from qualified others. I asked trusted friends and professionals who are familiar with my novel for their thoughts on my cover along the way. Sharing our covers with the masses too soon could confuse, frustrate or lead us astray. Agents, publishers, artists and experienced authors make valuable choices.

7. Go with your gut. While others’ opinions can help tremendously, choosing a cover that pleases others but doesn’t sit well with us isn’t wise. As with all aspects of writing, I believe that our instincts know best. Like deciding on Mr./Mrs. Right, you “just know.”

When I saw this rendition, the little voice at the back of my head yelped, YES! I’m delighted with it, and hope my readers will be too.

IN HER SHADOW will pre-release in December and officially release in January. I can’t WAIT to share the fun with you all. 🙂

Steena has a brand spankin’ new book, Dear Jack… A Finding Emma Novella, out TODAY! I’m eager to read the heart-wrenching, hope-filled story, told through love letters. I hope you’ll check it out, too.

What book covers resonate with you? Any design tips to add? Experiences to share? I love hearing from you. ♥

Addicted to Self-Publishing and Chocolate: Guest Post by Steena Holmes

Connecting with fantastic, driven artists is one of my favorite things about being a writer in the digital age. Today I’m thrilled to share my blog-stage with one of its superstars—Steena Holmes. She’s as sweet as chocolate and has some awesome insight to share about the work and decisions that have contributed to her award-winning indie-author career.

Take it away, Steena!


Hello, my name is Steena Holmes and I’m an addict. Not only to chocolate though, but also to self publishing.

I have a confession to make. The moment I met August and discovered her website and blog, I fell in love! Didn’t you? I mean here is this beautiful woman who has such an open heart and she loves chocolate! Hello! Match made in writing heaven! August – you are an absolute darling and thank you for having me on your blog today! (Mutual, darlin’! Thanks for being here. :))

It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year now since I made a decision that changed my life. It was an eye-opening experience for me, something that I never expected, not in a million years. You know that heart pounding, stomach churning, teeth clenching, hand shaking type of feeling you get when your life does a complete 180 without you even realizing it?

That’s what happened to me when I decided to enter the world of self-publishing. For years I had been seeking the right agent, the perfect agent to fall in love with my story. I perfected the query, trampled through writing a synopsis. Joined critique groups and did everything I could to garner the interest of someone who would help me fulfill my dream. Little did I realize that I was looking in the wrong direction. I should have been looking to myself to fulfill that dream, not someone else.

Going indie a year ago took a lot of courage. For me, it was akin to deciding to do a chocolate fast – except with indie publishing, I actually went through with the decision! LOL

Why do I like indie-publishing? Because it means taking control of my dream and being the one responsible for seeing it come true. It means taking what I’ve learned and using that to empower others. It means being able to prove to myself, my family and my friends that yes, I can write and yes, I’m good at it. It means seeing a monthly pay cheque that rivals what I make with my full-time job and actually being able to quit my full-time job so that I can write more! (I made a cake the day I gave my notice … Go figure).

There are so many roads now for those seeking publication. With the rise of self publishing there has been a ‘doom and gloom’ attitude when it comes to traditional publishing. I hope that attitude goes away one day. What I love about this journey we’re all on is that there is no ‘one way’ that will work. We can still go after that traditional publishing dream, we can still work with the awesome e-publishers out there and even self publish while we are at it. There are so many choices and it’s now up to us to decide which choice works best for us individually.

A few months ago I made the decision to take a novel that had garnered quite a few agents’ attention and pulled it so that I could self-publish it. Talk about a hard decision, but one I’m so glad I made. This is a story that is from my heart. Finding Emma – the story of a mother who will do anything to find her kidnapped daughter. I’ve partnered with an agency – The Missing Children’s Society of Canada – and will be donating proceeds from every book sold to this charity. I want to help them reunite families that have been torn apart. I’m excited that I can do so. Finding Emma made the bestsellers list within two weeks of being released and stayed #1 in it’s category for over a month. It has even won the 2012 National Indie Excellence Award for Fiction.

My little success story isn’t the only one out there. If I can do it, anyone can. All you need is the determination, the dedication and the ability to write a story that will reach the hearts of your readers. This is true whether you go the traditional publishing route, the e-publishing road or venture off into the wild unknown path of self-publishing.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your stories. Where are you on your journey? What path are you taking? Is there a way I can help you see your dreams become reality? Shoot – I’ll even share my chocolate with you. 😉

Isn’t she terrific??? To learn more, visit Steena’s website and follow her on Twitter: @SteenaHolmes. You can also visit her blog today for my (practically) instant whole grain chocolate recipe, and 5 simple ways to eat your cake and stay healthy, too.