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We’re going to start today’s post with two contradictory idioms you are probably very familiar with. We’d like you to keep these two idioms in mind as you read the rest of this entry:

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

You only get one chance to make a first impression.

Book Maze

Navigating the cover art maze. Image courtesy of Groume via Flickr licensed for use under CC

Now, let’s talk about packaging, or since we’re talking about ebooks, let’s speak specifically about cover art. In ebook publishing the art of packaging is going to encompass three of the five Ps of marketing: Product, Promotion, and Positioning.

For physical objects, packaging is a way to protect your product and to aid in distribution. Think IKEA flat-packed boxes, plain brown boxes that dramatically lower the cost of shipping to pass on the savings to you and me. With physical objects it’s also a vehicle to pass on more information, and to differentiate itself from other products on the shelf.

The idea isn’t very different for electronic books. The publishing world is very competitive, and your readers have to choose between your work and millions of others, not to mention any number of alternative activities they could be spending time doing other than reading. Your cover art provides a brief moment to cut through the clutter. If you can provide something interesting and visually striking, then you will have one more opportunity to stand out from the rest. Readers will associate your ebook with your cover. When you engage in promotional efforts for your book, you will likely be using the cover art as an accompanying image. That in turn helps to position your work in contrast with other works whether they are printed or electronic.

Cover art is important in the marketing efforts of your product, and we realize and understand that self-publishing authors often have limited resources. In the self-publishing process there are usually many trade-offs between time and money. If you’re willing to invest, we now have a professional cover art design app in our Publishing App Store that provides professional cover art design at a reasonable price. And, if you’re not ready to invest the money, but you’ve got the time and the hustle, we have a few suggestions for you in putting together beautiful cover art:

  • Familiarize yourself with the basics of good design to get acquainted with what good design looks and feels like. Here are 50 Graphic Design blogs to get you started.
  • Look at other covers in your genre to get an idea of where you want to go with your cover. One of my personal favorite covers of the year is Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. The cover is very basic, however, it pulls you in with the title and the cover art combined. It makes you want to know more, yet it uses very basic design concepts: proximity, alignment, and contrast.
  • Test your designs with your friends and family, and listen to their honest feedback. Friends and family can be difficult sometimes because they think everything you touch may be gold, and as nice as it is to get positive feedback, it’s the negative, yet constructive criticism that will often help more. Warm them up by saying something like, “I want this to be the best it can be, so I would appreciate if you could give me your honest feedback. If you really don’t like it, please let me know, and let me know why.” And then be ready for the criticism. You don’t have to listen to everything, but feedback is the only way to get out of our vacuum and get better.
  • As Nike would say, just do it. There is no such thing as perfection, so just do the best that you can, and if it’s not perfect, make a note that when you publish the second edition, you’ll spruce up the cover art.

And now we’ll leave you with a quote from the Father of Modern Political Science, Niccolo Machiavelli, and we only do so because politicians are excellent salesmen.

“Men in general judge more by the sense of sight than by the sense of touch, because everyone can see, but only a few can test by feeling. Everyone sees what you seem to be, few know what you really are, and those few do not dare take a stand against the general opinion.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

As you continue with your self-publishing journey, which idiom are you going to use as a guiding principle for your cover art design? We’d love to know your thoughts on the topic of packaging and cover art design, so please leave comments below.

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