Becoming the Publisher

Something has happened… and it has changed EVERYTHING.  Yesterday, I was browsing some book covers in a graphic designer’s portfolio, when I saw a cover that just spoke to me.  It’s not at all the cover I had in mind, but it seemed to incorporate everything about my protagonist’s story in one glance.  And then it came to me – packaging is paramount to your book’s success.  

Obviously you want an attractive cover, because good artwork will always appeal to the visual senses of your potential audience, but you also need an image that will encapsulate the theme of your novel, before you’ve said a word.  I think the cover image is like your blurb; a distilled essence of what your book is about, but with enough mystery to encourage the reader to open the book.  

Now don’t get me wrong – I already knew this on some level, high up in the top selves of my brain.  But it is only when you switch gears from author to self-publisher that these elements really start to come into focus.  I always thought the fact that my novel moves playfully between two genres, made it exciting, fresh and intriguing.  I now realise that it makes for more of a challenge when it comes to marketing and packaging.  “Don’t confine my creativity by your need to pigeon-hole me!” I cry, fist waving in the air.  But let’s face it, publishers and book distributors don’t categorise people for the fun of it – the whole process is designed to make things easier for the reader.  Maybe publishers try to use similar covers on similar genres for a reason – so readers can find what they are looking for in one quick glance.  

The most surprising thing of all however, is how much this has fired up my enthusiasm for launching my book.  I’m not sure if this is the same for every writer, but when you are sending out manuscripts to publishing houses, you kind of hope that they will take care of the packaging and mould your work into the beautiful book that it deserves to be.  But now I  realise that that is just handing over responsibility for the parts of the process you may feel under-qualified to deliver on.  When realistically speaking, who better to choose the dressing for the story than the author?  

It can be difficult to see the wood for the trees when you’ve spent months or even years crafting a story.  So once the editing is done and the self-publishing process begins, you can create a little space between yourself and your writing and begin to see your book through the eyes of a publisher.  Look at books that are similar to your own and see how they are packaged.  What makes the reader think, “Yes, this is the kind of book I like” and hit the Buy button.  Read blurbs on your favourite books and see what it was that caught  your attention or drew you in.  

Yes, it’s more work, but frankly it’s enjoyable work and vital for your story to reach it’s full potential, i.e. being read.


2 thoughts on “Becoming the Publisher

    1. Hi Cassandra, I just read an article by Polly Courtney who decided to leave her publisher and self-publish her new novel Feral Youth because she wasn’t happy with the covers they used. So it’s true, the author does know best.

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