(as featured on my weekly Huffington Post blog)
What to do if you're not JK Rowling, you don't have a big publishing house to promote you but you're determined to make your book a success?
Rule Nr 1. Do your research. There are certain guidelines to designing a book cover depending on its genre, so take a trip to your local bookshop and look around. You'll immediately spot the obvious: chicklit, for example, usually has soft girly covers (no surprise there), often in pink with handwritten font for the titles and authors names, while thrillers have a harder, darker look with large, bold typeface and often one striking image. Whatever genre your book fits into, your potential readers need to know in advance what they are picking up - or in the case of Amazon, what they are clicking on.
Having gone down the path of insisting that I do the cover myself, I asked a printmaker and artist friend with a very keen eye, to help me. The result was perfect - in my mind - but then I took it round a few bookshops. Everyone said the same thing, that it looked great, but it didn't work as a book cover. So it was back to the drawing board.
After gathering a lot of personal recommendations and price comparisons (from £250 - £400), two reputable designers stood out for me: Joel Friedlander (www.thebookdesigner.com) and Scarlett Rugers (www.scarlettrugers.com) In the end I went for Scarlett and I couldn't have been happier with the result.
But whoever you decide on to create your cover, make sure that a) multiple revisions are included in the cost and b) you own the rights to the final design. Check out this very useful article on the subject of copyright - click here. Also book well ahead, great designers are busy at least two months in advance.
If money's tight and you have to do the cover yourself, Free Images (www.freeimages.com) and Shutterstock (www.shutterstock.com) are both reasonably priced. NB when it says royalty free, it's not actually free - which is what I thought - it means you pay a one-off fee. Also remember that most people will only see your cover as a thumbnail size, so shrink it down to see how it will appear on your Amazon page. But once it's done, I really recommend that you take it around several local bookshops to see what they think of it. While we always need the supportive thumbs-up from our families and mates, you really, really want a professional's honest opinion on this one.
What I ate: Although I had a lovely tuna sandwich at my mate's house, when designing that first cover, it didn't look so thrilling in the flesh. So instead I've selected a picture of Dennis, her insanely greedy Bassett hound who, just before I arrived, had necked half a leg of leftover lamb.
Next Week : Choosing the Best Self-Publishing Service for your Book.