Monday, April 9, 2012

Should you self-publish AND do your own cover art?

As some of you might know, I've been practicing "un-plugging." That's where (in my case) you check your email and then don't go near the computer for the rest of the day. It's been wonderful.

However, today I browsed a forum online that was discussing the pros and cons of a few topics I feel do not have a clear answer. What I mean is, the answer is different for everyone.

The first topic I stumbled across was more of a listing of cons than a discussion. It was someone stating how an author should NEVER do their own cover art. Their reasoning was that an author didn't know the proper size for the image and didn't know how to blend backgrounds. They also said that authors would only use standard fonts that came with the software they were using and that these fonts were boring.

Although I understand their point (there are lots of examples of this on Amazon) I disagree that you should always hire a cover artist. There are many authors out there who do an amazing job on their own cover art. Mandy Roth and Michelle Pillow are two that come to mind. Just because you write doesn't mean you don't have other talents.

I don't think I've done too badly on the covers for my self-pub titles either. I created the look I wanted and that as a reader would attract my attention. That can't be all bad. I also didn't use "standard" font. I found something that I believed conveyed the mood of the story. I took everything into consideration. The initial cover image, the background, the colors, fonts, placement of fonts, how it would look in a thumbnail on Amazon, as well as how it would look on the front of a print copy.

In this same forum someone also said that they thought it was expensive to hire a cover artist. Someone else replied (snidely I thought) that, "If you think $50-100 is expensive, then yes." Um, it isn't cheap. If you've been affected by this economy the way many have and need to carefully plan your budget, you don't have $50-100 to just throw around. I'll admit I don't. Now that is a very rough estimate. Some artists will do covers for less and some charge more. I also respect the fact that they need to make a living as well. I'm simply saying that from my point of view, it is an expense that doesn't make sense.

I also respect the fact that not everyone is comfortable or has the desire to do their own cover art. However, if you CAN do it and do it well, then I say go for it.

Another hot topic I stumbled across in these forums was the old argument of self-published vs. traditional. This decision is personal to each individual and depends on lots of factors. Many argue the point that if you use a traditional publisher, you don't have to do all the marketing yourself. Um, wrong. While publishers will do some small amount of advertising, they generally advertise their company and not individual authors. I don't blame them. Who could afford to advertise for EVERY author in a big house? For the cover of your book to even be included in a big ad, you generally need to be established with the house and your books need to be selling pretty well.

I'm not knocking publishers for this at all. It makes good business sense. I'm just pointing out that the idea of, "I'll get a contract and then someone else will do the rest of the work," is way off base.

Regardless of whether you self or traditionally publish, there is marketing to be done. Lots and lots of it. It can be overwhelming and even depressing at times. Then again, there are some publishers who will put your book up for sale and never advertise it at all. It just sits there looking pretty on their site. In these cases, uploading it to Amazon and letting it just sit THERE looking pretty might get your title more visibility based on location alone. It's a lot to consider.

Another point made was that everyone needs an editor. I agree. No one is perfect. I'm a better writer because of the editors I've worked with and I'm grateful for that. That is why I continue to traditionally publish as well as dipping my toes into self-pub. For my self-published titles, I have someone who helps me edit. I'm lucky to know someone who is so good at this. I also use test readers from time to time to check everything about the story I can think of that needs to be checked.

In this same forum (which I don't plan to read any more LOL) someone was expressing their opinion about the importance of reviews. They believed that people religiously checked book reviews just as they do movie reviews before purchase and that reviews were therefore VERY important.

While I understand their point and see where it is entirely reasonable for someone to have this opinion, I disagree. I never read movie reviews unless I've already seen the film, hated it, and want to see if others agree. Ha. Ha. Sad, but true. Movie reviews, just like most film trailers these days, ruin the plot for me. I do not appreciate spoilers.

Now, back to the subject of books. I agree that an honest review is a very nice thing to take into consideration before a purchase. However, those are getting harder and harder to find. As I've often shared my opinions on this topic here, I'm not going to get into a rant. I promise. Many sites that allow for reviews to be posted will let people say anything. Reviews have become the place for the author to be bashed, not the book. Rather than sharing honest points they liked or disliked and the reasoning behind it, many "reviewers" just sling insults and bad language. They seem to be of the opinion that being rude means they're being honest. No, it just means they are an ass with no consideration for others and no respect for themselves.

Now, I'm reeling in that rant like I promised. My point is, I don't put a lot of faith in reviews in general. That's not to say that there aren't some REVIEWERS whose opinions I trust and value. THAT is a different matter entirely. I'm talking about the general subject of reviews.

It's too easy for people who haven't even read a book to go online and trash it and the author. Likewise, it's just as easy for someone to get their friends to write 5 star reviews.

Thanks to the advice of a fellow author, I've stopped reading reviews unless someone emails me a link. You wouldn't believe how much my stress levels have dropped when I stopped obsessing over every little thing other people say. Sure, public opinion is important. I don't mean to dismiss that. Readers send me positive letters all the time to let me know I'm on track. I listen to THEM. I write for THEM. Know what I mean?

The decision to self-publish or not isn't an easy one. It's also not easy to decide what to do about cover art. Here are my closing thoughts on both topics. Hopefully, they will be of some help.

If you are computer savy, formatting an ebook (or print book) isn't that difficult.

Photoshop is pretty user friendly. There are many videos on youtube that can teach you the basics.

Just because you have a contract with a publisher, doesn't mean your part of the deal is finished. There is still work to do regardless of which route you choose.

With self-publishing you get a larger percentage of your profits.

With self-publishing you have complete creative control. Don't let it go to your head. This makes it easier to tell the story you want to tell. However, it also makes it easier to publish crap.

Here are examples of cover art I've done myself. I'm proud of them. :)

As always, I hope some of this is helpful to you in your publishing adventures. :)


Rebecca Bloomer said...

Huzzah! Say it again! This is a great post and I'm so glad someone else said it :-)

Tracey H. Kitts said...

Thanks, Rebecca. :)

Kindle Self Publishing said...

Great covers! They say you should never judge a book by its cover. But as human beings, we’re inherently shallow creatures. Especially in a world where there are so many shiny things vying for our attention. Book covers are no exception. When marketing your work, presentation means everything. And in the case of books, presentation starts with the very first thing that the audience sees; the cover. So, I think it would be best to make it a point to make it look gorgeous.

Tracey H. Kitts said...

I agree completely. :)