How Great Covers Can Help You Transition From Traditional to Indie Publishing


So, your book was traditionally published. You had a professional editor help you to make it awesome, and a professional designer create your cover. Now the rights for that book have reverted back to you and you’re considering self publishing. While you have the rights to the book itself, you almost certainly don’t have the rights to your book’s cover art. For better or for worse, whether you loved it or hated it, that cover is gone.

So what should you do now?

Get a professional cover for your book!

It’s not good enough to just slap up the book with any old cover art, you need to get a cover that’s just as good as your original cover (if not better). You will need to invest some cash.

Why is this so important?

You already have a solid fan base to sell to, you should be able to sell this book based on your name right? Wrong. You will do irreparable damage to your brand if you self publish with an amateur cover.

You aren’t convinced? Let me explain.

I like to go to an authors Amazon page and look at all their books in a row. There is nothing more jarring for me than seeing a line up of lovely professional covers and then my eye is snagged by an unprofessional (dare I say ugly?) book cover.

I don’t just cringe, I feel worried about that book. Is it really up to the quality level of the other books by that author? If the cover is that bad, can I trust that it was written with as much care as the other books? Was it even edited?

I think to myself “Well, maybe it was one of their first books,” so I click and check the publishing date. Last month?

At this point I assume that either A) the publisher has lost faith in this author and isn’t putting the investment into her covers that they used to or B) the author has decided to self publish and couldn’t afford a good cover. And if she can’t afford a good cover, that means business is going poorly. Maybe her stories aren’t as good as they used to be?

“Now, Hanna,” you’re thinking, “You’re being dramatic. Most readers are not professional designers. They aren’t going to think about it that critically.” You’re right, they aren’t. They’re just going to go “hmmm…” and buy a different book. Good design is obvious, and your readers can spot it, even if they can’t articulate the details (you can read more on reader perceptions of cover quality here).

On the brighter side.

That was all a bit of a downer, but there are some really exciting things about investing in new covers for your books! If you didn’t love your original covers, now you have a chance to to do it right. No more blonde models on the cover of your book about a redhead.

You also have a great opportunity to update your backlist covers to be more current. Tamara Leigh did a fabulous job of this with her contemporary romance backlist. Have a look at the cover evolutions here (scroll past the historicals). Her original covers were decent(ish), but were starting to look dated. Her new indie covers are gorgeous and modern (and have much stronger series branding). I’m sure they are attracting a new crop of readers to her work. I’ve read them and I have an urge to buy them again!

So, if you were traditionally published and are getting started with the indie publishing game, invest in some beautiful covers. You’re starting from a position of strength, don’t endanger it for short term savings, leverage your existing platform and grow (and enjoy those higher royalties!).

P.S. If you think that the covers you designed yourself are pretty good, please read my post: Should I Invest in a Cover Designer, or Just Buy Photoshop?

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