Several months ago I was helping an author try to make a book cover.

They had something very ugly, and I made something much better.

I was working mostly for free (something I’m trying to stop doing) because I felt bad for the author (I feel bad for authors with ugly covers). Even though I did lots of revisions and ALSO offered to do the formatting for free, ultimately the author became unhappy that I wasn’t doing it exactly as he wanted, and got fed up waiting for me to make changes.

Today, looking over another book cover designer’s website, I found that the same author had hired a new designer to make him a new cover. The cover design isn’t terrible, but makes basic amateur mistakes like too many colors, too much different and confusing stuff going on (too symbolic) and dropshadow on text – a rookie habit for sure.

Very telling, was the author’s raving testimonial: the designer is a genius. The author got exactly what he wanted. After having “disappointing” experiences with other designers (me), the author is thrilled to have found a designer at half the cost! Wahoo!

That book, with the new cover, has a sales rank of almost 2million. That’s not very good.

Price isn’t necessarily an indication of quality; I know for a fact there are better designers than me charging much less. But I also know there are a lot of designers who are just mediocre.

Finding a designer who will take your money and make what YOU want is a narcissistic exercise of a control freak and is destined to kill your book sales. Especially if you have a certain scene or symbolic representations in mind, or you choose the colors and fonts that appeal to you personally.

I don’t know why, but most authors are drawn to ugly designs (usually because they are thinking symbolically and conceptually, and ignore aesthetics). Their taste in style and design is completely out of whack. They love Comic Sans and red and blue and green and yellow.

If left to their own devices they will use and love really ugly book covers.

Getting exactly the cover you want is usually a great way to destroy your author career.

I try my best to make book covers that sell books; it’s a passion of mine, and I love the challenge.

But the biggest difficulty – the biggest barrier to creating an amazing book cover that sells books – is almost always the author. And that’s frustrating. And stupid.

It’s like having a customer walk into a high-end salon and saying, “I want you to die my hair blue, shave half my head and write my initials with a trimmer.”

And they’ll pay you, and they’re happy, but you still feel like you let them down.

If I were better at business, I would focus on giving clients what they want and making them happy. Except… I know it’s really better, for them and me, if I’m kind of a jerk, refuse to make what they want, and tell them they have to use this or that cover design instead because it will sell more books.

They may be unhappy in the beginning. Maybe they really loved the idea that I shot down and feel regretful about it.

That’s why I’m always happy to give refunds to authors so they can go find another designer to make them happy.

I’m not that guy.

I help you sell books.



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