One of the great sayings in publishing is, “You do judge a book by its cover.” In fact, a good book, well-written, can be completely undermined by a poor or inapproriate cover, and all yout good work goes to waste. On the other hand, a really well-designed cover can attract a reader’s attention and their curiosity to look inside. Then it’s over to you, the author, to make sure that reader isn’t disappointed.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to share some thoughts in a series of posts covering the design of covers, and what you, the author can do to help. Even if you eventually decide to go for a professional book cover designer, it’s still a good idea to know what you’re really looking for – you can’t expect designers just to guess.
The first thing to consider is size. We deal in fiction, and I’m assuming that as a self-publisher you’d want your book published immediately as a paperback. (Hardbacks are a special case, generally.) I’d suggest that you’re looking at either the ‘B-Trade’ paperback size 129mm wide x 198mm tall, or the slightly bigger ‘Demy’ – pronounced “dehm-eye” – which is around 138mm wide x 229mm. I certainly wouldn’t suggest anything larger, and booksellers would probably be reluctant to stock something that didn’t sit easily on their shelves with other books. Avoid any attempts by printers to get you to print on A5; it looks amateurish.
Which of these two sizes you choose is up to you. In theory, a slightly larger page can hold more type, but in practice it can look wrong if you don’t increase the font size to match. All that you end up with is a book that’s bigger and heavier (and therefore costs more to post).
However, you need to consider your readership, too: is yours the sort of story with readers who might like larger print, or perhaps it’s a book aimed at a reader who might prefer something easily placed in a bag or a coat pocket? It’s a matter of judgement. I’d certainly consider Demy for younger readers, but nothing’s set in stone.
Finally, any ebook will simply have the portrait image you first imagined. On the other hand, remember that printed books have rear covers and spines, too, so your total print cover will actually be a landscape picture. And that’s where the fun starts...
(Watch out for the next instalment coming soon.)