Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Cover your book before you write the book.
If you write a book that gets published by a traditional publisher, it can take three years to find an agent and for the agent to find a publisher who will accept you and produce the book. In this long process, one of the last things that gets done is designing the cover.
The author may have some input, but the publisher has the final say on the design -- and even on the title of the book, which can certainly influence the way the cover looks.
If you are working with a vanity press, the time between writing and printing is compressed from years to months, but the cover still comes after the writing.
In independent self-publishing, I've found (speaking after self-pubbing three books and starting about five others) that it can be very useful to have a cover design even before the first word is written.
You don't have to have a final design (in fact, you shouldn't) but even a "rough layout" will help solidify the project in your mind. The more real the book is to you, the more likely you are to keep typing. If you have front and back covers, and maybe a financial investment in what you've paid your designer, it's natural to want to fill the space between the covers and start selling some books.
Living with a cover design over a period of months while you write can be very useful. There can be, and should be, an interaction between the exterior and interior of the book. Exterior and interior will evolve together.
The back cover of the book should have a strong indication of what's in the book -- a reason for book-store shoppers to to carry it from the shelf to the cash register. It could be your last opportunity to make a sale, so make it a strong sales pitch!
But even if your books are going to be sold online only, and no purchaser will read the back until after the book is delivered (although you can show the back on Amazon.com), the back of the book can be very useful to you. It's a summary, a statement of principles, that should help to keep you focused and remind you of what you had in mind when you first conceived the book.
It's normal for the words on the cover to change as you write words for the inside. Sometimes the title may change. Sometimes you just have a "working title" and the final title emerges from deep inside the book. Sometimes you'll come up with a new subtitle, or even swap title and subtitle.
From a strictly-business standpoint, having a preliminary title design allows you to start promotion to build awareness and desire in advance. If you have a "writer" website, your future covers should be shown there, along with brief descriptions and approximate publication dates. If you blog, show your next book on the blog, like I've done up above on the left.