book dedications,book cover design,publishing success,book editor,author websites,self-editing,rules of self-publishing,self-publishing workshop,proofread,self-publishing,booktrack

A Pro’s Advice on Book Cover Design

Thinking about your book cover design, but not sure where to turn for advice? Book cover artist Alexander von Ness shares some tips with The Editor’s Desk.

Many authors, especially ones who go the self-publishing route, will one day need to come face-to-face with book cover design.

For many, it’s a daunting prospect. Sure, we know how to tell stories. But what do we know about cover art? Should we even try to attempt it ourselves?

Personally, I believe that, along with editing, book cover design should be left to a professional. After all, the cover will be the first thing a prospective reader will see. Shouldn’t it be the best it can be?

So, where do we start? To give us insight, I turned to book cover design artist Alexander von Ness, who agreed to answer some questions about this important part of your book’s overall development.

1) How many book covers have you designed? Do you primarily work for indie authors?

I’ve designed approximately 2,000 covers, which includes covers designed for indie authors, book coaches, medium-size publishing companies, and design contests.

I personally never make any differences between first time indie authors and authors who have already sold millions of books. Every new cover design is a new challenge where I try to create a little masterpiece every time.

Even though I do this for a living, and put food on the table by doing it, this is still a form of art – and art doesn’t include any boundaries in its nature.

2) When authors approach you to design their cover, what are some of their biggest concerns?

Mostly indie authors, who have never worked with me, are concerned that their message wouldn’t be recognized on the cover at first glance. But I reassure them that I make unlimited changes until the author is 100% satisfied.

Also, first time authors are very concerned that I won’t be able to present the main character (and secondary characters) in the way they are described in the book. This is by far the greatest mistake authors make when thinking about a cover! The main character should never be on the cover, unless it’s only in one segment, or as an undefined character whose appearance could still be imagined by the reader while reading the book.

If we have the main character “served” on the book cover, especially in fiction, a lot of readers will forever be deprived of imagining and daydreaming, and might possibly be disappointed by their actual appearance on the cover!

3) What are the most important elements to consider when designing a book cover?

Definitely typography: the font choice and its placement on the cover. Nothing can be compared to that. If your typography is lame, there is no point in having a great design with the best imagery.

I saw a lot of great designs that were literally ruined by bad typography. I would even dare to say that a good designer can be exclusively recognized by a good typography choice. For example, I sometimes send my clients the same design with different typography to prove to them how important this is in the overall design. The typography change was so powerful that the cover was sending a completely different message than it was supposed to.

One of the most important features today, compared to a couple of years back, is the visibility, readability and recognition in a thumbnail size. Today the majority of books are being sold online. So today you’ll see a lot designs with the title over the whole cover, which was unthinkable, even unacceptable a while ago.

Because of this, I’ve seen a new trend in redesigning existing covers. Many authors have done their cover very quickly, unprepared and unprofessional or with a very low budget, so some great, high quality books weren’t selling at all. In the end, they would realize that it is more profitable to make a cover redesign then to write a new book!

For example, at the beginning of this year, I redesigned one fiction novel. Before I made the redesign, the book was selling about seven copies per week. After my redesign, and some extra marketing efforts on the part of the author, the same book was selling almost 2,000 per month! A redesign of the book cover can be a great opportunity to revive sales. Trust me, the results can be surprising!

4) Is it necessary for you to read the book before designing the cover?

No. If that were necessary, I would only be able to create a few covers per year!

After an author contacts me, I send them a few questions to see what they really want, what they like and what they expect from their cover design. Of course, regardless of the different wishes I get from the authors, I design the book cover so it connects to the book and its content and with the message that the author wants to convey to his audience. My goal is, above all, to draw the reader in with the cover design and to give the book a professional appearance that will improve sales.

It’s also important to know the author’s target audience. After I have determined that, I start developing a design concept. Without a strictly defined target audience there is no point in doing a cover design. The majority of authors say that their target audience is males and females from 7 – 77! The author has to realize that his book wasn’t written for every person that enters the bookstore. Once this is determined, I can create an eye-catching book cover.

5) What about interior design? How important is that to the overall reading experience?

Every single part of the book is equally important for success. The interior layout should be readable for everyone. It may not be as important as the title, editing, proofreading, cover design and back copy, because a flawless interior layout design is useless when the book wasn’t edited properly and is filled with grammatical errors.

6) Do you have an opinion about online design tools that allow authors to create book covers on their own?

I think that this is very good and useful, but only to a point. As technology moves on, we have the opportunity to witness the appearance of new tools every day, which are helping us in our everyday work, so it’s no wonder that book cover design also got its turn.

Some book cover designers are frowning because they are afraid that it might take their job away. However, I don’t see any problem here. Just the opposite! I see that the book cover culture is developing in a positive direction and that the awareness of the importance of book cover design is larger every day. We as a community can only gain through that. The ones with a lower budget will be able to have their own book cover, which is something that makes me very happy.

One of the most useful and serious tools would be www.canva.com, which started very well and one that I hope will develop in a good direction. Every tool or application which helps the authors to create their book with less effort can only be beneficial for us who are engaged in the book business. Here I don’t only mean book cover design, but also editing, proofreading, etc. However, I would never recommend people to do these things on their own if they have serious intentions with their book.

Alexander von Ness is a book cover designer with almost 20 years of professional experience in graphic design, and over a decade as Art Director in a branding agency. In the past few years his main area of focus is book cover design. His website Nessgraphica is among the top trusted sites for book cover design services overall.

Questions? Send them to info@editorsdesk.net.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.


book dedications,book cover design,publishing success,book editor,author websites,self-editing,rules of self-publishing,self-publishing workshop,proofread,self-publishing,booktrack

Measuring Publishing Success

Is publishing success only measured in sales?

Here in North America, one of the first questions you’re asked when you first meet someone is, “What do you do for a living?” And because success is too often equated with money, status, and possessions, the rest of the conversation (and ensuing relationship) could very well hinge on your answer.

For authors, publishing success should be measured by accomplishments, not by book sales. I’ve had many folks (writers and non-writers alike) call me a success simply because I wrote a book and had it published. People seem astounded, without even knowing any sales figures.

And I’ve also written a second? Amazing!

So for all you writers out there, the next time you are disappointed at lagging sales, be proud that you were committed enough to see such an enormous project straight through to the end. I know it’s not easy. And I can attest to the fact that many people admire your efforts as well.

Come to think of it, the only ones who consider low book sales as a sign of failure are the traditional publishers. So self publish away and hold your head up high!

You’re already a publishing success. Believe it.

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk.


worst places to write

The 10 Worst Places to Write

Need somewhere to create that compelling content? Whatever you do, avoid these 10 worst places to write.

All writers have their favourite places to write. Mine is my couch. In fact, I’m on it right now.

But there are some places where even seasoned writers just can’t seem to find that proverbial muse. We polled several of them for their “favourite” worst places to write, and while you might be able to relate to some of their responses, others might surprise you.

10) Around their kids: Yep. Little ones are a constant distraction, from wanting more milk to needing the channel changed. They also tend to peek over your shoulder, breathing down your neck as they inspect what’s keeping you from showering them with attention. But who can blame them for being curious about what you’re doing? It looks so interesting…for about three seconds.

Then it becomes all about them again. Pouring milk. Changing channels.

If you have teenagers, you’re slightly better off. They won’t want anything to do with you, as long as there’s food, TV, and available car keys. So you’ll have lots of time to write, probably about how much you miss them being little.

Face it: no matter how old they are, you’re screwed.

9) Near the TV: In this on-demand world, you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want. So, you can always catch up on those episodes of Modern Family that you missed.

In fact, why not watch them right now? They’ll just be on in the background while you write.

Two hours later you’re caught up on watching, but the page will still be blank. Stupid TV.

8) In the Nude: Ok, not really a “where”, but a “state of undress” is still a state, isn’t it?

They say that Oscar Wilde used to write in an empty room, completely naked, so he had no distractions. But that was in the days of pen and paper, before the threat of having our web cams broken into existed.

But leaked nude pictures have actually helped some careers.

Would it help yours? Hmm….

7) Around a cat: “Feed me.”

“Be my scratching post.”

“Your keyboard looks warm – I think I’ll lie on it.”

“Chase me away and I’ll stare at you from across the room. Try to concentrate now, human, under the powerful gaze of my stare.”

“Just try.”

“Ha! Knew you couldn’t.”

6) Home: See ALL of the above. If you have no kids, no pets, no TV, and enjoy wearing clothes, you might be okay.

Oh wait, there’s wine?

5) Anywhere you can access Facebook: WiFi is everywhere, so the temptation to check your Facebook newsfeed, upload some pictures, or play Candy Crush can be insurmountable. For authors, theses distractions are all too common.

In fact, I ran this poll on Facebook and got a huge response. Point proven.

4) On Date Night: You think the cat has a powerful death stare? Check out the one on your partner when you bring the laptop to date night.

The cat will probably never leave you, but your partner might.

Then again, look at all the time you’ll have to write now.

3) In the Mall: Great for people watching. But the constant stream of humanity flowing by can be too entertaining to be distracted by writing. People are just too darn fun to miss!

Maybe avoid the mall. Besides, nothing in the food court is brain food. More like drain food. For mall rats.

2) At Work:  Hee! I know someone who actually did this! Good thing their boss was away at the time. Make sure yours is too before you use company time to write your retirement book.

Unless, of course, you’re prepared to live solely on a typical writer’s income. If you like Kraft Dinner three times per day, you might not mind so much.

1) Starbucks: Strangely, few mentioned coffee shops in general. Starbucks was specifically named, so I suppose Timothy’s and Second Cup are fine.

What’s the difference that makes Starbucks stand out in such dubious fashion?

They’re noisy. Every Starbucks I’ve been in seems designed to broadcast every whispered conversation so that you drown in a cacophony of voices.

They’re crowded. Good luck getting a table, no matter the time of day.

And, worst of all, they’re stereotypical. “There’s ANOTHER writer with his laptop, taking two hours to drink his coffee!”

Where do you find it impossible to write? Leave your answer in the comments below!