Marketing Missteps Episode 4 : Designing your own book cover

Three weeks ago, I began this series to define and explore some of the many important marketing mistakes I’ve made or seen made over my many years of experience in the self-publishing industry.  I say “important” because each of the missteps I’ve listed: Devolving into a self-centered campaigner,  confusing the sales message with the marketing campaign, and waiting till the book is done to start marketing–each of these things can tank your book sales singly and for a long time, and a combination of these mistakes will leave you struggling to recover years in the future.  The worst part is, they’re all incredibly easy to make, and making one or two is no bad reflection on you as a person and writer, but the inevitable consequence of those of us who do know choosing not to share that information.  After all, there are so many hundreds of thousands of blog posts, advice columns, and self-help books out there these days–it seems impossible to filter them all.

That’s why this series is here. These are the Big Ones, the Absolute Disasters, the mistakes you really must work to avoid when possible, and work to minimize if unavoidable. And what’s this week’s misstep, you may very well ask?

Designing your own book cover.

book covers

… or at the very least, designing your own book cover without seeking professional advice.

A book cover is a powerful thing.  It’s the first thing your readers see when they pull books off of the self at their local indie bookstore.  It’s the first thing they see when they Google your name and click on your Amazon author page.  It’s what distinguishes your book, on sight, from every other book on the market–and at the same time, a good cover will clue your readers in on the genre and atmosphere of your book.  It’s one of the most important puzzle pieces in your marketing plan, so crafting a good book cover just isn’t enough.  You need to craft a perfect book cover.

Hiring a graphic designer is worth it.  You’ll hear a lot of waffling on this subject in various corners of the internet, and allowing for the remote possibility that you may be a working graphic designer yourself, perhaps you yourself do have the skill to create something that will knock new readers flat with its beauty and efficacy.  In general, however–and the graphic designers amongst you can affirm this–the best artistic work is done by paid professionals on the clock, working as part of a responsive design team who can provide feedback as the design process is underway.  Graphic designers who have worked in the book industry for years are more than just paid consultants for your book cover: they have been around long enough to know the ins and outs of the big picture, and they are invaluable resources in positioning your book for success in both visual and contextual ways.

The other day, I was browsing the Goodreads giveaway page, and I noticed something.  Every book with a beautiful custom cover that displayed well at the size of a postage stamp had more than a thousand entries–a thousand people vying for copies of that book.  And every book with one of those tacky, generic-looking free template covers?  The numbers fell to somewhere between twenty and forty.  There are of course other mitigating factors (books published by traditional means will have a large-scale marketing campaign funneling more people on to Goodreads in the first place, for example), the trend was noticeable enough to be undeniable.  You want your book to grab people, even in competition with high-powered traditionally published works!

So find yourself a designer, or purchase a package from a hybrid self-publishing company that puts your book in the running for Most Beautiful Book on the Goodreads Giveaway Page.  You want your book to be that book.


book cover design

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, 10:00 AM

Self-Publishing Takes Patience

One of the many benefits of self-publishing is the turnaround time. Self-published books can often be printed much quicker than traditionally published books. That said, successful self-published authors understand that publishing a quality book takes patience. Here is why.

1. Your manuscript should be near flawless.

Before self-publishing your book, you want to make sure you spend plenty of time revising and editing. For some authors, a developmental editor could be extremely beneficial, and for all writers, hiring a professional copyeditor is a must. While no book is completely flawless, readers expect quality books to be close to perfect. If you want your book to be successful, you need to have the patience to go through the editing process.

2. The cover is extremely important.

Despite the cliché “don’t choose a book by its cover,” most readers are highly influenced by the front and back cover of your book. Take the time to design a quality, personalized front cover that depicts the essence of your book. Also, spend time writing professional back cover copy and author bio, and don’t forget to have this copy edited and proofread.

3. Plan, plan, and plan some more.

Even the most well-crafted book can’t be successful if readers don’t know it exists. Successful self-published authors understand the importance of a great marketing and promotion plan. Take time to figure out who your target market is and how you are going to reach them. Some possibilities include setting up and maintaining social media pages, contacting local media, and scheduling book signings.

Remember, patience is a virtue. While you are excited to finally see your book in print, don’t be in such a rush that you skip over important steps in the self-publishing process. Being patient now will pay off in the long run.

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 25 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Director of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.

Are Book Covers Still Important in the Digital Age?

There was a time when readers would venture to a bookstore or library and browse the shelves for a book that grabbed their attention. Despite the old cliché “never judge a book by its cover,” most people are drawn to books with interesting cover art. While there are still people who purchase print books and who enjoy an afternoon stroll through a bookstore, more and more people are purchasing books online and using e-readers. This shift has authors, and artists, wondering if cover art is still important in the digital age.

While e-book formats require less emphasis on physical appearance (interior formatting is simpler and a full cover design is not necessary), they still need “cover” artwork. Since the reader will be viewing the cover on a screen, it is very important that the design is appealing and captures the essence of the book.

As a self-publishing author, it is important to consider the current trends when making decisions about your book. If you are only publishing an electronic version of your book at first, make sure the cover is appealing on a screen and grabs the attention of a potential reader.  The cover design of your e-book format is just as important as the full cover design of any hardcopy format.

I’d love to know, does the cover design make a difference in the e-books you choose to buy?

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Vice President of Outskirts Press.  In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog at

Self Publishing Saturday: What Happened this Week?

On weekend mornings, I enjoy nothing more than reading the paper to find out what has happened this week (now I primarily read the news online) in one place without searching many places. With many “tweeps” (Twitter slang for “people”) using to put together information, you can keep track of things pretty easily. What if you don’t have a Twitter account? What about the sources the things that weren’t mentioned?

Here we aim to feature things that are going on in self publishing so that you don’t have to find out on your own. Plus, we want to share other resource with you so that you can be well-advised on the publishing process.

So, sit back, relax, and enjoy this week’s digest.

Have you written something our readers can benefit from this week? Post a link in the comments.