5 Tips for an awesome Book Cover Design

By Jeremy Gotwals | Photo by MIranda Hewins

By Jeremy Gotwals | Photo by MIranda Hewins

1. Less is More

In book design, clarity is essential. Typically, you have only milliseconds to appeal to your potential reader. Therefore, keep it simple. The best book covers have one incredible piece of art, and basic typography. Don't burden your cover with unnecessary effects or extras. 

2. Find a Brilliant Photo or Illustration

Find a unique image that represents your book, identity, and  brand. Remember: in a matter of moments, to a potential reader, the image, as well as the title, will tell the reader everything they want to know. Sometimes, to compel your reader, all you have is an image; so make sure it counts! Finding a brilliant photo or illustration often means finding a brilliant photographer or illustrator. Stock photos do not count! Remember, you want a unique image. 

3. Typography & Font selection

A title speaks 1,000 words, even if your title is only one word. However, it is not only the words that will speak to its readers on a subconscious level, but the typeface. Correct use and alignment of typography is often greatly overlooked by the Indie Author. You want to be sure to stick with fonts that are clear, easy to read, and also strong. Your font should never be an overused, or overdone font, such as Times New Roman, Papyrus, or Comic Sans, and you almost never want to have more than three fonts on the cover of your book. Furthermore, never mix moods to the point of confusion. 

4. Mood

Bring to life a cover that matches the mood of your manuscript. If your book is satire, you want the life of your cover to reflect the satyrical nature of your book. If you've written a thriller novel, craft a cover that takes the potential reader into the suspense of your tail. Treat your book cover like a living thing, allow it to speak for itself. A great book deserves a great book cover - allow for the mood and atmosphere to resonate with the reader upon the first glance. 

5. Tell Your Story 

The First Edition of the Hobbit, or There and Back Again, by J.R.R Tolkien. 

The First Edition of the Hobbit, or There and Back Again, by J.R.R Tolkien. 

Later edition of the Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien. 

Later edition of the Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien. 

The cover of your book should deliver a microcosm of your story. The very first edition of The Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien, portrayed a simple illustration of one of the books chief characters Smaug, and a simple portrayal of the Lonely Mountain at the top. This first illustration, by the author, is an example of the kind of minimalism we're discussing here, which gives readers a magical piece of the story, begging them to look deeper. Later, the over art was re-illustrated more elaborately, but still executed the same principles.

Whether you've crafted a work of fiction, a Children's book, or an educational treatise into health and happiness, tell the readers a story by delivering a cover that gives an insight into the nature of your core message. 

Remember that a great cover design is something to be carefully considered. If you're an independent author, or you're using a self-publishing service, sometimes the temptation to design the cover yourself is strong. If you want your book to be in the hands of readers, it's worth your time to invest in great design. Carefully chose designers, or a company, that can fit your budget and design needs.

Also remember that designing for web is not the same as designing for print. Make sure that your design utilizes high resolution images and files, and is also standardized for web, so that you can get the best of both worlds. 

What Does it Take to Successfully Publish a Book Today?

What does it take?     Original Photo credit

What does it take?   Original Photo credit

     by Jeremy Gotwals, Founder at Holon Publishing 

So, what does it take to successfully publish a book? This is perhaps the most relevant question we could possible ask on our web site/blog/etc.

his was definitely the most relevant question yesterday, when I ran into my old friend Gagan Singh, who I had last seen exactly a year prior on the same day, after nearly two-years of having graduated from Indiana University Kelley School of Business with his MBA. Gagan now lives in San Francisco with his newly wed wife, where he works at PayPal.

Gagan Singh's Twitter Icon - Aka "The Urban Turban Guy" 

Gagan Singh's Twitter Icon - Aka "The Urban Turban Guy" 

"Suppose I wanted to translate various Sikh writings into english and publish them as a book, what would I need to do?"  Gagan inquired.

llow me to preface by telling you a little about Gagan (Pronounced sort-of like 'Guh-gun" ... think 'HUG - in' but 'GUHG-in').

ot only is Gagan a tech-savvy, highly knowledge,  Product Manager at PayPal, who graduated from IU with his MBA... he's also is a spiritual brother of mine who practices the art of meditation and the spiritual disciplines of Yoga. He was known, during his time at Indiana University, as the "Urban Turban Guy," because he could always be seen sporting his bright-yellow turban (particularly at the Starbucks that all of us frequented on Indiana Avenue).

agan is also a trail-blazing Social Media expert. One who I definitely look up to in his areas of tech and web expertise. Gagan and I originally met at that Coffee Shop on Indiana Avenue, during his time in Bloomington. Outside of that beautiful coffee-shop, we spontaneously connected over music. We both chanted Sanskrit Mantras together while he played the harmonium and I played guitar. memory I hold close. I was only 20 then, and striving to find the next-step in my professional as well as personal/spiritual career. 

So when Gagan asked me yesterday, what he should do about publishing his book of Sikh literature, my most immediate response was "Well, I think that you should crowd-fund the costs of publication, you-know? Like, throw a Kickstarter or something." 

e ruminated on the topic for a moment while his wonderful wife listened intently outside of the Sample Gates, in Bloomington. 

Kickstarter  is a crowd-funding platform that allows people or organizations to launch their creative projects to the public with the goal of generating funding to begin and complete their projects .

Kickstarter is a crowd-funding platform that allows people or organizations to launch their creative projects to the public with the goal of generating funding to begin and complete their projects .

The main reason I mentioned crowd-funding to Gagan as the most direct means of publishing his work has to do with his already thorough command of his audience through Social Media. 

He asked "But beyond that, what does that actually take?" 
k, so let's talk about that answer. 

"Well printing is actually not that expensive," I said to Gagan. The unit cost of most basic, perfect-bound, paperback books is less than $4. hipping can make things hairy sometimes. Hugely epic 400+ page books can be expensive to print. Full-color books can also be expensive.

"If you have a concept for a brand and/or niche, an image, a look and feel of your title, then getting it out there is not that difficult." I continued to explain. "If 100 people 'pre-ordered' your book for $15 then you would have a enough funding for each of them o have a copy of your book, plus a little bit more left over, to invest in the book's production."  I also forgot to mention to him that, then, the book would be published, and available for Print on Demand and could be purchased through Amazon or directly through whomever was handling the publishing - including himself.

Ape: How to Publisher a Book, by Guy Kawasaki, former evangelist of Apple.  In 2011 the publisher of Guy Kawasaki’s  New York Times bestseller,  Enchantment, could not fill an order for 500 ebook copies of the book. Because of this experience, Guy self-published his next book,      What the Plus!  and learned first-hand that self-publishing is a complex, confusing, and idiosyncratic process. As Steve Jobs said, “There must be a better way.”

Ape: How to Publisher a Book, by Guy Kawasaki, former evangelist of Apple.  In 2011 the publisher of Guy Kawasaki’s New York Times bestseller, Enchantment, could not fill an order for 500 ebook copies of the book. Because of this experience, Guy self-published his next book, 

What the Plus! and learned first-hand that self-publishing is a complex, confusing, and idiosyncratic process. As Steve Jobs said, “There must be a better way.”

Gagan also asked "What would make someone want to order, buy, or invest my book if they don't know how good I am as a translator, or how skilled of a writer I am?"

told him that thus far, I was assuming that his network already had faith in his knowledge and abilities as a Punjabi/English translator, as well as a Sikh practitioner.
oreover, he's already spent years cultivating friendships, acquaintances and an internet following that was already interested in what he has to say. Which is necessary for every author today. The bottom line, if you yourself are not taking your message, your words, your story, or your creative works, to your audience, then you can't expect to sell books. 

A lot of what I'm expressing here can also be found in Guy Kawasaki's book "Ape: How to Publish a Book", where he divulges the guts of what it means to truly take control of publishing your work today. 

None of this necessarily accounts for editing, book-formatting, or graphic design. However, those are all human resources. Which is where an imprint or a physical publisher can come into play and be very useful. Otherwise, one can attempt those things themselves, or rope their friends into those tasks, but from experience - I would not recommend that. Unless you know what you're doing or your friends are professionals. Lest your book run the risk of winding up on one of those sites of lousy book covers

Bringing all of these pieces together can take time and work. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you're releasing a finished product. Beyond good editing, branding is absolutely essential. o one will purchase a book that has a horrible cover. Besides this aspect of branding, retailers who could sell your book will ALWAYS want to know "Who published this book?" They will often turn you down if you tell them that it's self-published. Which is why this aspect of the publishing process should be handled artfully. Which is why we're not just a "self-publisher" at Holon. We're also partially playing the role of a traditional publisher, striving to create a brand that resonates with the same artistry and style that traditional publishers did in the 20th century. With new flavors and a new edge never seen before. 


Let's say you want to "get-your-book-pubished," by someone else, by a third party, by a traditional publisher - who is paying for your book to be published. 

First of all, the age of the literary agent is becoming obsolete. One no longer needs to be "shopped around" in this way to get ahead. Social media means that you can bring your book to the world directly. Moreover, traditional publishing fundamentally isn't what it used to be. It has its purpose, it has its place. You can acquire a deal, if that's your goal. However, control will not be yours. You might make 15% of royalties, if you're lucky. Ultimately, you, the author, will often know your audience better than your publisher - especially through Social Media. Which begs the question: why would you want a traditional publisher? 

The biggest reason you probably shouldn't vie for a traditional publisher is simply that: you will be doing the same amount of work, either way. Only, one option leads to lesser control. If your burning desire is to get that call from your magical, far-away literary agent, in some New York or Seattle tower, who says... "Billy (or Sally), daw'ling! We have an offer from Random House! Fifteen-Thou' for your advance! They want us to fly to Manhattan right away!" I mean... it can happen. I also hear so many people who say "But, I want the rejection, so that one day, when I'm published, it will all be rewarding!" Which is also a fruitless attitude. Primarily because it doesn't involve any work in the "here and now." It implies that there's some far and distant realm of success that is detached from the work you're doing at this time, to actually get "there." Wherever "there" is. 

The attitude should be "How can I share my work and ideas with the world?"

This is a beautiful attitude that will guide you towards success. This is the attitude that assists you in cultivating the best work possible, instead of searching for instant gratification. This is the attitude that will eliminate the distractions of fame and fortune, because publishing books is not about that.

If you get out there, if you keep up the pace, keep connecting with people, whatever your means - you will find great editors, great designers and people who will want to read your work. That is, if you are willing to put your ideas out there for them to try. 

In reflection, I also want to tie it all together by mentioning my brief encounter with Gagan a-year-ago-yesterday. He walked into the coffee-shop by his lonesome. I hadn't seen him since 2010. I was just standing to get a refill of my coffee. We caught up on everything and I told him about Holon. What Gagan had to say was fundamentally one of the most important things that he could have possibly said at that time, which was something to the effect of: 

"You can make a company about anything, but what you fundamentally want to share with people or market to the world are ideas. Ideas are what drive people. Ideas are what build great businesses." 

This is also one of the most important facets of striving to be an author.
he sharing of ideas. Or experiences, as the case may be. 
r perhaps just a really great story. 

What does it take to successfully publish a book today?
atience, diligence, information. But also a willingness to leave your comfort zone and find the people that A) you want to work with and B) whom you want to read your work. 

Why Self-Publish? A quick glance...

Why Self-Publish? A quick glance at other publishing opportunities.

Anyone who has glanced at the hefty list of pre-publishing requirements has likely had something bordering a heart attack. Generally, our fantasies concerning publishing resemble young and hopeful writers sending off their manuscripts blindly into the great melting pot of big-name publishers. More realist fantasies might include the inevitable rejection letter and the returned manuscript scribed bloody with ink. The process, while necessarily heartbreaking, is still rather simple.

Self-Publishing, Photocredit:  ProBlogger

Self-Publishing, Photocredit: ProBlogger

What our fantasies don’t account for is the thousand factors which lead up to this step; query letters, cover letters, synopses, follow-up letters, and then of course, the eventual rejection of a perfectly clean and hardly read manifesto of three or more years’ labor. There is also the matter of agents to deal with; the publishing houses that will reject due to lack of solicitation; the exhausted editors who take but a glance at the opening sentence before dooming the pages to the rejection table.

In short, mainstream publishing is such a heavily guarded field that it’s a small miracle that people even submit their pieces to the big houses anymore when they have a 1/19,000 per cent chance of seeing any actual feedback.

In lieu of publishing’s fortifications however, scribbled pages can still see clean dust jackets and even bookshelves without the added emotional turmoil. This is of course the avenue offered by self-publishing, a long-chastised and still relatively small market which has nevertheless allowed for authors such as Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde, and books such as Eragon and (of course) 50 Shades of Grey to make their way into the literary limelight (for better or for worse).

The arguments for self-publishing’s less-than-glowing reputation is relatively simple: everyone can do it. This is of course true, and yet it’s an answer that begs introspection. Everyone can self-publish, yet not everyone can write, much less write a book. For anyone who has tried, the process is tedious to say the least. To say the most; it’s barbaric, heart-rending, emotionally fulfilling and emotionally flushing; and beautifully satisfying in ways only writers can know.

Unfortunately, what writers feel or what writers know is seldom on the agenda of big-name publishers, whose concerns are business foremost and literature secondary. Editors and publishers can’t afford to make personal connections with the writer or the piece for fear that prejudice will muddle the true question: will it sell? (A question which goes very well explored in a recent Paris Review article:

Too often, writers forget this golden rule when submitting their manuscripts. The romanticism of writing takes precedence almost always for the writer, and when the coldly formal rejection comes, it is seen as a vindictive affront, which the writer might coolly disregard only after muttering the artistic cliché they just don’t understand me.

Editors, publishers, and agents however understand you and your work only too well. It is their job to understand your fit and to tell you when the fit won’t work, and for this reason one might as well bear the sting of rejection within the frame of “I think you should see other publishers.”

Self-publishing bypasses this process in favour of personal relationships and the quality of the piece itself, and not the quality of the piece on a global market. Because the manuscript is self-invested, publishing’s lavish display of formality is rendered superfluous, and the process becomes centralized upon the piece itself. In so many words, self-publishing is the writer’s market.

Unfortunately even in the writer’s market, writing doesn’t count for everything (or else the world would be far too simple a place) and the author feels particular concern for his audience; namely, whether or not there will be one. It’s a concern every writer faces and one that has but one remedy: confidence.

The best writing will infallibly speak for itself, regardless of where or by whom it is published. History comes to the author’s aid here more than anywhere, positing such notable self-published authors as Proust, Austen, Blake, Twain, Cummings, and Shaw.

It’s a tragic reality to think that, in the society of contemporary publishing, the world might never have seen A la recherché du temps perdu or Huckleberry Finn because of an editor’s bad day. Self-publishing is ultimately motivated towards the belief that this ultimatum needs not be completely encompassing. One may draw the distinction between two questions: big publishing’s can it sell, and self-publishing’s is it worth selling

By Brandon Cook, Staff Writer @Holonpublishing & New Media Journalist