Advice for Non-Designers

If you want to sell your product, hire a professional designer to make your product functional and attractive to your target market.

Do not shackle your designer into creating your design to meet your personal taste. Your product is not for you, it is for your potential end user/buyer/reader.

Keep it simple and uncluttered. Reduce your idea down to what is absolutely necessary. Also, consider using darker backgrounds instead of brighter backgrounds which are harder on the eyes.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that hiring a professional designer is too expensive. Bad design is much more costly, and people never forget a bad design/logo/book cover/commercial.

2019 Design trends to consider via 99Designs:

  1. 3D design and typography
  2. Asymmetrical layouts
  3. Art Deco
  4. Modern Mid-Century Modern
  5. The evolution of duotones and gradients
  6. Warm and moody color palettes for photos
  7. Light and delicate custom illustrations
  8. Buxom serifs
  9. Open compositions
  10. Isometric design

Bottom line – unless you have the skills, knowledge and experience in design/layout/typography/print preparation/industry standard design software to do the job of packaging and marketing your product, hire a graphic designer and trust that designer to do their job.


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September Project Schedule

A snapshot of September – working on the following design jobs:

I also have a few more tasks that I need to complete if possible as well. And no doubt other clients will reach out with further requests. The above list is my average work load per month – each cover design project taking 5 to 6 business days to sort out the front cover, then another day or two in order to get the paperback layout set once I am supplied with the printer’s specifications.

A mellow Coffeehouse playlist

Every month I juggle around 10 to 15 projects on top of my duties as a cover design judge on two sites and the updating of two websites. Never assume that I am idle awaiting work. I have been steadily busy for the past 5 years of my 11 years in the book cover design business.

graphic banner

The Importance of Book Cover Design

So you have written a book…

I am going to be blunt, jump right to the point here and yell out “The Book Cover MATTERS.”

You might have written brilliant, engaging and potentially award-winning words between the covers, but if the cover sucks, no one will ever discover what you’ve written on the pages inside (well, except your friends and family if you pester them enough to read your book).

…now professionally package it in order to sell it.

It is never okay to use a photo that you snapped on your phone for your book cover, and simply add your title and name over it in order to publish your work. NEVER. I cannot stress this enough.

Bad Cover Design
This is a poorly designed cover example

I have always found it a challenge to effectively explain to potential clients why they should invest in professional services, like cover designers, formatters and editors, in order to give their book the best chance at success in today’s extremely competitive publishing market. Yes, we professionals do charge for our services (usually a very competitive fee if you do your research), and you might think that we are too expensive, and that you can just do it yourself. But what clients are paying for when they hire publishing professionals is our experience and formal education in what we provide. We know what the industry standards are in our fields and what is selling in the bookstores. But how to stress the importance of this point to someone only looking at the costs involved in publishing?

I’m going to paraphrase here, but a great example of why an author should hire a professional cover designer was recently shared with me by Amy Collins of New Shelves Books:

Ask authors if they can name the top 25 best selling books right now, either from The New York Times or Publishers Weekly without looking it up. If the author cannot rattle them off (a good amount of them at least), then they do NOT know what is selling books right now.

Thus why an author needs an agent, if possible, but at the very least a book cover designer who does know. It is our job to know the trends, what is selling and why. A part of our design commission covers the research for each client’s genre, and the experience to implement trending styles, colors and layouts. The author’s job is to write while the graphic designer’s job (book cover designer) is to design effective coverings for those books.

Research what is selling books.

The major mistake a large number of independent authors make is thinking that their cover needs to reflect what they like. That is not the appropriate way to approach a cover design for your novel. A book cover needs to attract readers, and much of that does depend on what is currently selling books (trends in colors, layout and typography).

A book cover is for readers, not the author.

Do not make that mistake with your book – trust a professional to design that cover for you. Hire an agent if you have the budget for it and listen to that agent’s advice on marketing. However, if you can only invest in one professional service, hire a designer for your book’s cover. What the book looks like, both inside and out, matters. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Do not skimp on the design and layout of your book. Appearance, from too many typos, not aligning your copy correctly, to using the wrong fonts and having a poor quality cover jacket will cost you sales. For a great list of resources and advice, visit Discovering Diamonds.

Straight-shooting from the desk of Cathy Helms, exhausted book cover designer and coffee enthusiast.

Tools of the Trade – Photoshop

Magic and a Little Mayhem

Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

I discovered Adobe Photoshop around fifteen years ago. It was overwhelming the first time that I attempted to actually use it. Photoshop is not for the faint of heart and certainly not for a novice. While I did learn enough to actually design things for myself and my first handful of paying clients, I realized that I needed to learn a great deal more to actually become a graphic designer. The best decision I ever made was going to college and learning the ins and outs of the Adobe Creative Suite of programs. I utilize not only Photoshop, but also Illustrator and InDesign every time I develop a new book cover design, logo, and/or series branding for a client.

Photoshop is vastly complex

“Just because you have access to Photoshop does not mean that you should use Photoshop.” In other words, get some training. Graphic designers are one of the most underrated specialist in the publishing business…that much I have experienced first-hand.

PSDbox gallery

I continue to learn new ways to create my art almost every day. Never stop learning and exploring different ways to create unique artwork using these powerful programs. While it may look easy to some, design is anything but.

Three of my Pre-Made Book Cover Designs. More info on my professional website Avalon Graphics as they are available for licensing.

Timing is Everything in the Publishing Business

So you have written a book, or formed a new company, or want to revamp your identity/brand as an author…fantastic! Congratulations on writing your masterpiece. No doubt it took you several laborious months (or even years) to write, edit and edit again until now you are ready to share your literature with the world. So what now? You need some professional help if you want your book to look its best, right?

The greatest advice that anyone can give a new author is to hire professionals to help them best present their manuscript to potential readers. Get your manuscript professionally edited, formatted, and a solid cover design before uploading anything to retailers. A great place for overall self-publishing advice is HERE by Helen Hollick as my area of expertise is book cover design and marketing.

And coming to my main point directed at authors on self-publishing a novel – plan ahead. I cannot stress enough that those of us working as professionals within the publishing business are often carrying multiple jobs within any given week, and we schedule new projects several weeks (sometimes months) into the future. Mainstream publishers often take months (can be a year) to process and release new titles as well – even assisted publishing companies need time to process new submissions.

Please do not assume that when you are ready to get your book on Kindle, you can instantly get it formatted, copy edited, and a cover designed within days. You might get lucky and find a few folks who are willing to do a quick job for you, likely you’ll pay a rush fee, but overall do not count on or expect that. Think of all the other authors who have been patiently waiting to have their manuscripts properly processed for publication – you place the professional in a tight spot when you ask us to rush your job ahead of those who might have been waiting a month or more for their own manuscript to be taken care of.

I recommend contacting publishing professionals up to two months ahead of the time you plan to release your book. Give as much notice as you can so the professionals can work you into their busy schedules without added stress of short notices. While you might have taken months, even years, to write your book, designers and formatters are constantly processing books for numerous authors at the same time to meet demands within the industry.

And if the professional you have contacted is indeed booked up for the next several weeks, this is a good sign that they are in high demand and actually know what they are doing. I would be wary of someone who isn’t busy in this business! Also, look for professionals with a formal education in their field – this especially refers to book cover designers. They should have at least a two-year degree in graphic design to truly understand formatting, typography, and layout: all key elements in designing a successful, balanced, and professional book cover. This does not refer to traditional artists whom you can license artwork to be used for your cover design – you will still need a graphic designer to properly set your typography over the artist’s artwork.

We publishing professionals are your partners in this business and wish to do all that we can to help bring your manuscript to press. All that we ask is for common courtesy and patience as we are busy individuals balancing work and life on an often insane schedule. Coffee usually plays a big part of our days too. *laughs* That and wine! *cheers*

TUESDAY TALK CROSSES THE ATLANTIC TO TALK TO THE TALENTED CATHY HELMS

JO LAMBERT - A WRITER'S JOURNEY

2015-Avalon-Graphics-A5-WebTell us a little about yourself.

I live with my husband of twenty three years in Troutman, North Carolina, USA. I earned a degree in Advertising and Graphic Design in 2008 as what I call my own personal midlife crisis – attempting to embark on a career in a creative field after spending over twenty years working in customer service and billing (which felt like a slow death to me). I grew up with a healthy interest in anything related to the Arthurian legends – thus the inspiration for naming my design business ‘Avalon Graphics’. Fantasizing about castles, knights in shining armour and all that frivolity were (and still are!) my favourite pastime. Also, I have always been fascinated with British history; in particular the Dark Ages. I regularly attend local Renaissance Festivals here in North Carolina, and plan to travel to the UK to explore all of the…

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