You Can’t Judge a Book…

Whoever coined the adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover wasn’t in the publishing business. Apparently, everybody judges a book by its cover. Then the back cover.

Up to this point in my quest to publish, my primary concern was getting the inside of the book right – the guts, the story. However, once editing was underway, I needed to turn my sights to the outside – what was this little elephant going to look like?

I am definitely going the way of an electronic book. However, I want print options for Embracing the Elephant, too. I have dreams (delusions?) of book-signing tours! Well, you can’t sign an Ebook! Besides, I like the look and feel of books. I am particularly fond of hardbound books, but any book will do.

Of course (as with every other aspect of the production of Embracing the Elephant) I have discovered that there is a lot more to the making of a printed book than the cover. There are inside elements that are critical to the creation of a professional-looking book: font size and white space and headings (oh my). I needed both an eye-catching cover and a well-designed interior. Neither of these things had anything to do with my prose.

Creating a book is a science. A science about which I know nothing – or knew nothing (other than my personal preferences – which don’t necessarily correlate to anything that will help to sell a book). But, I’m learning.

Per the experts, people spend about 4 seconds looking at your cover, trying to decide if they will pick it off of the shelf (or choose it from an Ebook thumbnail line-up). Then they turn the book over and spend about 14 seconds on the back cover reading summaries or testimonials or reviews – whatever has been printed there. Then, if you’re in luck, they buy the book. That’s roughly 17 seconds to make a sale.* Holy cow! Better grab their attention fast or they’re onto the next book!

I couldn’t do this alone – so I went looking for a book designer.

I’d heard about book designers from my friend Sumant (a self-published author) who used one to get his book Raising Yourself created. However, his was a different audience (teens) and he did not have a recommendation for what I wanted. My publishing-goddess friend Megan had worked for publishing companies which did all of that scientific book-designing stuff in-house; therefore, she had no freelance recommendation either.

Without a personal recommendation for this phase, for the umpteenth time, I turned to the internet.

As with editors, there are a lot of freelance book design companies out there. Their sites provide great information about their services, the details of their craft, etc. Once in a while, I found a site that gave approximate pricing. All good information. All overwhelming (which is a feeling I was to get used to during this process).

The deciding factor for me was how the website looked: was it logically organized? Did it have a good amount of white space? Was the font easy to read? Had they been generous with the space within their site? Were their sample book covers eye-catching?** Did they show examples of the inside and, if so, was the work shown to advantage?

Not a very scientific approach, I admit. After all, these were just my opinions about their website. However, I figured if the designer paid that much attention to the look of their site, they’d pay attention to the look of my book.

* These statistics are cited in both How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book and other sources I have read the last few months.

** Unfortunately, the first few books highlighted by the book designer I chose were cartoonish – too cartoonish for my tastes. However, scrolling through the selections, I found some beautiful, bold samples and was pleased with the inside look of each of them. Therefore, my advice is not to judge the first few books by their covers! Take a look at everything the designer has to offer.

By the way, several of the designer’s sample covers are art books – I figured the artist probably had a great deal to do with the finished product. Well, I have my own opinions about what the cover of Embracing the Elephant should look like. Therefore, if the cover on my final product is not the greatest, I have only myself to blame.

However, I think it’s gorgeous.

EBook Cover reduced 300px

About Lori Hart Beninger

Lori Hart Beninger is a native California writer with three critically acclaimed historical novels (Embracing the Elephant, A Veil of Fog and Flames, and A Peculiar Peace) that follow two 19th century young adults as they struggle with survival and acceptance in the pivotal era of the California Gold Rush up to the American Civil War. Please visit for synopses, availability, reviews, and more.
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