View Full Version : A poll of sorts

04-09-2016, 01:17 PM
I am curious, as a designer and writer, what people think of design in the self-publishing community. I have come across any number of self-published books with terrible designs that render the finished product unreadable. I understand most of you would be working with tight budgets, and therefore high-end book and cover design might not be viable, but how many self-publishers would actually like or consider a qualified book designer for the design of their book and how many prefer to just do it themselves. Considering that a decent book design can vastly improve the chance of sales, I would love to see a discussion on this.


Latina Bunny
04-09-2016, 06:55 PM
As a reader, I would like to see designs that look professionally done. I think it's better to hire a good cover artist than to do a cover oneself unless one is really good at graphic design (and knows what makes a good book cover).

One area I think that is very important for book cover design is the font (typography?).

There are times when I can tell when a book is badly self-published (or done by an unprofessional indie or vanity publishers) by simply looking at terrible font choices, such as difficult to read font, awkward placing of font, or bad color choices, etc. For some reason, awkward font choices jump at me more, even if the rest of the cover looks lovely.

(The other area, of course, is the actual rest of the artwork or design of the cover itself. But I've seen some great artwork or design ruined by bad font choices, so that is why I mentioned the importance of the typography.)

ETA: If I were to ever self-publish, I would definitely want to hire a cover artist or a really good graphic design artist. I would definitely look at artists who are particularly good at font/typography, and if I have to hire a separate artisf for that aspect, I would be willing to do so. :)

Chris P
04-09-2016, 07:07 PM
I absolutely fail at anything visual or design related. I have a printed off sheet of pictures of all my dress shirts and the ties that go with them, otherwise I honestly don't know what matches. I can't shop for nice clothes by myself. I'm not colorblind; I'm fashionblind and all that stuff makes literally no sense to me.

Therefore I would never design a book cover myself. Even my suggestions done by others come off embarrassingly bad.

On the other hand, now that I read nearly all of my books on Kindle, I care less about cover art than I did when I bought them in print. Not sure if that means anything for the data you are looking for from us, but that's how it is for me.

04-09-2016, 07:28 PM
I won't buy a book if it has an unprofessional looking cover. I prefer simple covers that are well laid out than those ones with human figures that look like CGI/computer avatars or elements cut and pasted against a backdrop. I've never seen a trade-published book with such a cover, so they scream self-published to me. I don't tend to buy self-published books unless they're by someone I know is a good writer or unless they look like they're really professionally put together. A bad cover design to me suggests that the author probably cut other corners too, or that they aren't a very good judge of what comes off as professional in the first place.

With trade-published books, covers matter less, since they usually have a minimum standard of quality these days. Though some designs (half-dressed women in spine-twisting poses) do hint that I may not be the target audience for the book.

For me, the cover is the first thing I notice about a book, even online. If it looks intriguing, I read the blurb. If the blurb looks interesting, I'll flip to the opening pages. If the first few pages are nothing but filler, or if I spot klunky writing or typos, or if the opening scene is dull, I won't buy it.

04-09-2016, 11:20 PM
Being a designer, it is heartening to see these responses. It's rare that I fall foul of poor covers, the only time I've been caught out by self-published books with poor covers is on Amazon when the images are less clear. I may be biased, but obviously I agree that, if you're serious about marketing a book, you should get a proper designer in to put your cover together. And I agree with BunnyGypsy that the most obvious indicator of a poor design is the typography - though I've met many designers who have degrees in the subject but no understanding of type - but seeing Times New Roman Floating in awkwardly in empty space with a glow behind it is always going to put me off a book.

I also see your point about ebooks, afterall a cover is more or less a point of sale for a book - you see it stand out on a shelf. ebooks are more or less viewed in isolation with all the information you need provided by Amazon, there's less to convey on these covers perhaps. Still, it can't hurt to have a decent ebook cover.

04-10-2016, 06:40 AM
BG made a good point about inappropriate fonts too. Also, art that isn't proportioned to work as a book cover. I'll reiterate that I've never seen a cgi/poser type cover that made me want to buy a book. Photo manipulations seem to be really popular in some genres these days. I'll admit I still have a preference for covers that look like an actual artist actually painted them, but those can be really pricey these days, and they may look kind of old fashioned to some readers. But photo manipulations can fail too. I've noticed some (even trade published) for YA fantasy that look a bit like embarrassed-looking models in period costume. I prefer them where they've been manipulated to look a bit more like art, at least.

Latina Bunny
04-10-2016, 06:40 AM
For me, even e-book covers have to catch my eye, too. But at a "thumbnail" size. When I skim through Amazon or a publisher's website, the book covers are somewhat thumbnails (or maybe a little bit bigger) size, and those thumbnails have to be appealing to my eye for me to want to click and find the blurb.

There are dozens of thumbnail pics, so I do still consider covers important for that first impression, even for e-books.

04-10-2016, 07:21 AM
Lousy covers represent, for me, a lousy book. It shows that the author is willing to settle for less or not put in the extra effort. And I say this not to argue that self-published authors should hire others to create a cover for them. Just as with editing, professional or not you can have similar outcomes. If the author isn't willing to invest in a cover designer or take the time to learn how to make their own, then I see that as a reflection of what's behind the cover. Same thing for the title, the blurb, the opening pages, ect..

But this doesn't make the book bad. Many self-published writers do so out of passion, and the outcome of success is secondary. I speak more to authors seeking monetary or readership success.

04-10-2016, 08:42 AM
This is a hard question for me to answer, because there are a few factors at play.

1. I am an aspiring amateur graphic designer. I love designing book covers and would love to be able to create truly professional-level work. Therefore, I love designing my covers.

2. That said, I'm certainly aware that I have my limitations and that I don't have all the resources that professionals have. Therefore, with a really big project that I hoped to make a profit on, I would probably hire a professional.

3. But most of my self-publishing interests involve short erotica that I don't intend to make any profit from. Hiring a professional might put me at a disadvantage if I'm not going to earn that money back from sales, and some professionals might not be interested in making covers for hardcore gay porn. So I'm happy to make my own covers or enlist a friend's help.

04-10-2016, 08:48 PM
1. If money were no object, I would *love* to commission professional covers.

2. I have strong feelings about the value of art, and would never ask someone to create on the cheap.

Since I can't afford fair prices and refuse to pay unfair prices, that leaves me with making my own. And I'll admit I feel a bit awkward commenting in this thread with my home-made cover, but there you go.

04-10-2016, 10:51 PM
It's an unrealistic question: of course I'd prefer to have a masterful designer do my book design. In practice, that would take an expensive hobby into the range of being an unaffordable hobby.

Latina Bunny
04-10-2016, 10:56 PM
When I answered this poll, I'm speaking for myself as a reader on what kinds of cover catches my eye.

I rarely read self-published books, but the handful I did read did have nice, well-done covers.

If a person can make good covers without hiring professionals, then all the more power to them.

I am also thinking of some good artists and designers, here on AW, and on other online sites. :)

If it's a passion or niche project, then go for it! :)

I'm just speaking about my own tastes as a reader, is all. ^_^

With a bazillion books out there, the covers are the first thing to catch my attention in the bookstores, whether it's a physical bookstore, or an online store, like Amazon or a publisher's website.

04-10-2016, 11:44 PM
Who wouldn't want a pro-designed cover? It looks better, catches more eyes, and makes people think the insides have received the same amount of care.

However, a self-made cover can still look pro if the author has the artist eye and good software. Likewise one done by a pro-book designer can look like poo.

Asking a designer to work for less, is asking them to put in less time and less thought. Like any job, people need to make money to eat. If one looks around they can find a really good designer out there that fits their budget.

I do read self-published books and they all have pro-looking covers and some have done them themselves, others hire a designer. Like bunny-gypsy said, some are even AWers.

ETA: same holds true for the innards

06-06-2016, 07:48 PM
Quality artwork on a cover is important. You want to sell the book, right?

I've run three Kickstarter campaigns for board games ($40k, $42k, and $92k). We paid big bucks for an excellent artist on the later. The cost per pledge was half of the prior campaigns and we had more backers than the others combined. The art was cited as the biggest driver.