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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jacket Design: Five Tips for What an Author Can do to Help . . .

I can't recall where I got these from (sorry), but here are a handful of tips authors can do to help sell their book (and by extension and implication, HURT their book sales). It centers around the jacket/cover design. At Savas Beatie, we almost always bring in the author for assistance, comment, opinion, and do our best to make him or her happy with the final product.

However . . .  Do you know what a camel is? It's a quarter horse put together by a committee. We don't want camels here. And with so many people stirring the pot, the actual book jacket may suffer from the compromises of consensus. (It doesn't here, but it does in some houses.) So if you are an author trying to influence the jacket design for your book, here are five tips:

1. Try not to assume that you know what’s best for the book, even if it’s true. Cultivate good relations with everyone at the company and maintain a position of modesty, humility, and cooperation.

2. Don’t bring in your 9-year-old child’s cute little pencil drawing of her horse for the cover, even if the book is about how to ride bareback Western Style. The only exceptions to this rule are genius-level kids with their own TV show.

3. Muster empathy for the sales and publicity people who may seem to be marching to a different drummer but have mutual interests to share. Keep in mind that they have to sell your book, and without their enthusiastic efforts, you’ll be severely handicapped.

4. Remember that in the end, this isn’t a science and we don’t always know what ultimately sells a book. Books with less than fabulous jacket designs have become huge sellers anyway. Take a book I published, The Scarlatti Inheritance, by Robert Ludlum. I thought the cover was boring and that it didn’t say anything about the book itself. Nevertheless the historical thriller was such a hit that the design was used again for subsequent titles.

5. Once the jacket is designed and chosen, put aside any regrets and do everything you can to help sell the book, including your own strenuous on-line web marketing, blogging, twittering, and other brilliant new techniques that emerge in these rapidly changing times.



Anonymous said...

One of your best posts yet, tps, showing that publishing is a team effort. However, the 'book jacket', aimed at customers browsing at a bookstore (Remember them?) is as dated as Robert Ludlum.
Thanks to SB's rep and Art Department, the cover of every one of its Civil War books brims with authenticity. In three seconds, the potential customer can see that each is a quality product.
But 'beyond the fringe' of SB's niche?
Instead of 'jacket', think poster: Title + Image + Tagline because once a manuscript has been approved, proofread, and fact-checked, 99.99% of the selling has already been done; if the book can't sell itself, nobody else can.
Imagine starting a touchdown drive on your own one-yard with time running out. Yes, there has been one 99-yard running play and 6 99-yard TD passes in NFL history, but a much higher number of fumbles and interceptions leading to disaster.
So how about we get a first down?
In the time compression of the Internet Age, the mission of the publishing team is to make the potential customer open the book. Do that and you give the work its chance to sell itself.

(BTW, tps, my cover still needs work.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ted

Wasn't sure where to put this post. You don't need to even publish it. I met you at the RMCWRT Symposium a few years ago. I've been buying your books for years. I always love to see your comments in Drew's blog regarding upcoming SB titles. I saw the recent post about the Big Bethel title. I thought I also saw another that you had a South Mountain study coming out. Keep up the great work and looking forward to your upcoming titles.

Don Hallstrom