Call in the Professionals

The thing is, until someone who does know points it out to you, you often don’t know what it is you don’t know.

Using experts – and/or the perils of not doing so – is a common theme in self-publishing discussions. Most people agree that not paying for professional help in editing and cover design is a false economy and I had no hesitation in paying for professional support when I decided to self-publish – I knew I didn’t know enough to even begin to do a competent job.

That I’ve taken the right approach was confirmed this week. I love my cover (created by the incredibly talented JD Smith design – check out her Facebook page which is filled with objects of beauty), and I’ve had lots of compliments on it so other people seem to like it, too. So I entered it in The Book Designer’s monthly awards to get a professional view.

Cover image for The Last Gatekeeper

I’m delighted to say The Book Designer loved my cover and awarded it a gold star, but looking through all the entries (if you have some spare time, it really is an education to scroll through and check out the covers alongside the comments – from writers/designers and from Joel, the Book Designer) I was reminded of how little I know about cover design. I might nod, ‘that’s nice’ at a cover, or pull a face at one that looks amateur to my untrained eyes, but reading the comments gives an insight into why they are good or bad – and it’s usually not things I would have picked up on.

For example, my own cover got the comment, ‘especially nice type treatment for the title’. Hmm, yes, I like the font, too – but I know I’d never be able to pick it out from the million other fonts out there as right for my genre (YA fantasy) and right for my cover – and once the font’s chosen there’s also the arrangement of the words and the spacing: all JD Smith’s skill. That’s exactly why I hired a professional – I don’t know how to do this myself and I don’t have the desire to learn it; I’d much rather hire in expertise.

And that’s in no way a shameful admission. I’m a professional writer. That’s where my talent lies, and that’s where my energy is focussed – on becoming an ever-better writer. When I became a professional self-publisher I recognised that just as there’s more to writing than friends who casually confess their intention to write a book ‘some day’ realise, so there is also a lot more to publishing than simply writing the book.

Writing may be a solitary activity, but publishing is definitely a group effort. As writer I do my part to the best of my abilities … and then delegate everything else to people who know much more than I do. That approach works, and I intend to stick with it.

I’m curious – are there other writers out there who are glad they used a professional cover designer – or who didn’t and now wish they had?

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