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From Karen Saunders

Your Branding, Marketing & Self-Publishing Coach

Case Study: Improving a Self-Published Book Cover

Are you writing a book? Are you designing your own book cover? Here’s a case study to improving a self-published book cover.

If you are a consultant, speaker or coach, you may find that publishing a book may boost your credibility, open doors to more opportunities and help you land more gigs or clients. With the Internet at your fingertips and easy access to expert cover designers, editors, illustrators and page layout artists, it is much easier to self-publish a book than it was twenty years ago. You can take the role as general contractor and hire consultants to help assemble all the pieces.

To save money, you may be tempted to do more than just write the manuscript. But I caution you to not venture into areas outside your expertise. One area that should be done with care by an experience designer is your book cover.

Covers that scream “amateur” and have a made-at-home look are difficult to sell. A graphic designer or illustrator has the creativity, skills, software, access to stock photography, and printing knowledge that will make your cover stand out above others in the marketplace.

Shown below is an example of how we helped one of our clients with the task of improving a self-published book cover. The first is a book cover was created by our client Cecilia Izquierdo. She asked us to use our magic and take her cover illustration to the next level.

Improving a Self-Published Book Cover : BEFORE

The next image is the final book cover design delivered by Marty Petersen, a talented illustrator and member of our team. When I first saw Marty’s illustration, it took my breath away. The clouds seemed more “real” to me than real clouds. Does it evoke any strong feelings in you?

Improving a Self-Published Book Cover : AFTER

Why does Marty’s cover have so much impact? In his own words, here is Marty’s critique on the design elements that make this cover so powerful.

“Designing and illustrating a cover is always an exciting challenge, and I love getting involved with the concept, purpose and psychology of a book’s message. Cecilia came to us with an endearing story and an illustration that provided great starting point, put lacked the punch and sophistication of a professionally designed cover.

I made her composition much more dramatic and evocative with better use of color, depth, balance and dimensional realism.

I created a darker overall illustration to bring the meaningful symbols —the halo, doves, light shafts — to life with dramatic bright tonal contrasts. The original’s softer blue sky and clouds lacked the visual pizzazz that is so important to grab and keep a book buyer’s attention.

The bold and evocative tonal contrasts forcefully direct the viewer’s eye from the light source (halo), down the shafts of light and cloud bank into the lower text, quickly communicating the thrust of the book’s message. The much more realistically rendered doves symbolize the real and spiritual nature of the book. I also used powerful color psychology by playing the colder, darker, less-soothing background tones against the radiant, uplifting tones of the golden illuminated light shafts.

In summary, the tonal contrasts, interplay of hot and cold color hues, and specific placement of dramatic symbolic elements creates much more powerful, communicative and effective cover image.”

— Marty Petersen

Shown below are a couple more covers illustrated by Marty. Here’s a little bit of information on him. He is an established professional commercial illustrator and designer based Colorado. He’s been in the business for over 26 years, 12 of those being focused in digital media. Marty illustrates science fantasy and children’s books, creates logos, event posters, interface designs, splash screens, static images & layered art for animation, digital photo retouching, technical and medical illustration. A very versatile artist, he can illustrate anything from basic line art to full color highly detailed illustrations in many styles; airbrush, watercolor, pen & ink. All of his creations are completely hand painted, digitally.

Improving a Self-Published Book Cover

The Colony: A Political Tale, was named the First Place Winner in the General Fiction category of the Premier Book Awards. The author, Reggie Rivers received a letter from the Awards Chair who wrote, “The competition was fierce and it was a difficult decision choosing from so many deserving books. However, the judges were unanimous in their selection of The Colony: A Political Tale as a winning novel.”

Improving a Self-Published Book Cover: The Colony