Sunday, August 26, 2018

Celeste Barclay

I Told You So and Book Covers

Hello Readers,

I'm a cliche, or at least the lessons I learned are...

Well, I can say that I am learning my lesson when it comes to book covers.  

I will have learned it completely, I anticipate, when sales improve.  It's been almost three weeks since I last posted, but that's because of all the learning I've been busy doing.  I bit the bullet and decided to have my two book covers completely redone by a professional graphic artist (The Write Designer).  It is like every cliche I can think of, but most particularly, it's like night and day.  I liked the covers that I designed, but I do not have the software or the means to keep the vivid image alive when it is loaded to KDP.  No matter what I tried, it always looked flat and low resolution.

His Highland Lass Cover 1
His Highland Lass Cover 1

His Highland Lass Cover Image 2
His Highland Lass Cover Image 2

DIY Covers...that flop

I have just enough graphic design (and html) knowledge to be dangerous.  

I have used Pixlr before for other projects, and it has worked really, really well.  It's like a free, mini Photoshop online software. I can adjust the image in any number of ways and even create layers.  I also use Adobe Spark for a lot of marketing images, promo videos, and for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook images.  However, even with the combination of these two online platforms, and online optimizers, I could not get the resolution (DPI) high enough to create a good quality cover.  I tried over and over again to increase the DPI, but no matter what I did, KDP kept telling me my images were between 70 and 90 DPI.  That's a very long way from 300.

His Highland Lass Cover with Plaid
His Highland Lass Cover 3

Why, you ask.

Why did I think that I could make the covers myself?  

His Highland Lass Cover 4 with banner
His Highland Lass Cover 4

Why didn't I listen to ALL the advice that I read over and over and over again on so many sites and in so many articles?  The answer is simple: I didn't want to spend the money.  When I first started this adventure, I had a story that I wanted to tell and a book that I wanted to attempt to sell.  I wanted to see if I could do it well enough for someone, anyone, to buy.  Even with my multiple versions of my rinky dink cover, I did manage to sell, either through paid purchases or Kindle Unlimited, over a 100 copies in the first 3-4 months of His Highland Lass.  I chose to invest in marketing through paid ads on Amazon and Facebook (shared with Instagram).  I got mixed results with those, and that is for another post.  Now that I've seen that my writing can hold water, I think it's time to up the ante (yes, another two cliches).

Old adages and more cliches...

Haven't we all heard that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover?  

And don't we all still do it anyway?  A book with a great cover can turn out to be a dud, but we were wooed by the enticing cover.  We have all most likely missed out on great gems that never saw the light because the cover wasn't appealing, and we assumed that the story wouldn't be either.  I know that I have been guilty of this.  I know I am still guilty of this, and yet, I still didn't invest in a professional cover for my own work.  A large part of that was also because I didn't have a solid marketing plan before the release of my first book.  I'm still developing it, and my second book book releases in five days.

Another reason why, to go back a step or two, was the cost.  Or at least the perceived cost.  I wasn't sure that sinking $200 for my cover would be worth it.  I worried that I would be in the hole before I even started.  I didn't look at it as an investment.  Now that I have spent approximately that amount on advertising with mixed results, I realize that my first step should have been the cover---are you learning through my repetition? Not to beat a dead horse, but...

Sticker shock fades when it's the right investment for the right price.

Through the wonderfully interwoven world of Twitter, Instagram, and Google, I started to learn more about book cover designers that my initial search for images afforded me.  Once I accepted that I needed to have the covers done by a pro, it seemed like designers were popping out of the woodwork everywhere.  Some of the designers I stumbled across almost made me swallow my tongue with the number of digits after the dollar sign.  Anything with four numbers after the dollar sign with no decimal in sight was immediately ruled out.  I'm no where near that, and honestly, I've seen some amazing work (and even recognized a ton of covers) from designers in the $99-$200 range.  I've learned to live with that amount.

I found and narrowed down to three different designers who had pre-made covers around $99-$120.  I was tempted by any and all three, but I quickly thought about the fact that I'm writing a series.  I needed to take that into consideration and find a designer who could make at least five similar covers.  I also have a rapidly approaching deadline for the new release, His Bonnie Highland Temptation, and I wanted to redo (as in completely start from scratch) for His Highland Lass.  I needed a designer who I was willing to afford for two back to back covers, who could meet my ridiculous deadline of a week and a half, and who would be willing to take on a series.  I reached out to the three designers I'd narrowed it down to, and decided (very happily and incredibly impressed) to move forward with Lisa Messsegee of The Write Designer.  Lisa has created a cover for His Bonnie Highland Temptation in what felt like overnight.  She's been so helpful with little bits of advice here and there.  I am eternally grateful that I turned this project over to her knowledgeable hands.

Moral of the story:

I recently read one of Aesop's fables to my students for a lesson on visualizing what we read.  "The Frogs at the End of the Rainbow" is about three frogs who want diamonds, gold, and pearls.  They hear that they exist where the rainbow ends which happens to be a dark cave with a snake that eventually eats them.  The moral of the story was: from out greatest hopes can come our greatest disappointments.  My hopes were to write a book that people would enjoy while getting away with designing my own cover to save a little money.  The quality of my work was disappointing, and I suspect that I will feel even more disappointed in my own art after sales pick up thanks to real cover art.

Invest in the professional cover design, and do yourself a favor by freeing up your time and labor for what you excel in: writing.

Cover reveal for His Bonnie Highland Temptation!

His Bonnie Highland Temptation The Write Designer
His Bonnie Highland Temptation Pro Cover
 The Write Designer (Lisa Messegee)

What do you think about using professional cover art?  Do you agree or disagree with my opinion?

Comments are always welcome, and I respond to all of them personally.  
Relevant Comments Welcome

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