As an author, you want people to read your books and for them to sell, so you are an entrepreneur as well. That means not only writing the book but promoting it too — so design becomes a key ally.
Design will help develop a strong brand image for the book as well as a personal brand for the author, which is crucial for getting recognition and developing influence online. This is as necessary for authors with publishing contracts as it is for those who are self-published, as publishers expect their authors to play a role in marketing their books too. But if you self-publish, you are also responsible for the design of the book — inside and out.
Design brings all these elements together — branding, marketing and book design — into a beautiful whole.
Why should a writer use a professional designer?
Professional, custom design will not only get you a beautiful cover that is on target for your subject matter and market, but will also help establish your personal brand so important for a robust marketing effort when promoting your book. A holistic approach becomes particularly important when you try to maintain a consistent presence throughout all the various social media and online channels, including your website.
A good, well-rounded designer will consult with authors on the overall marketing strategy and design beyond just the book cover, bringing their entire presence together into an effective package. That’s why I think it is important to hire a designer who does more than just book covers — they see the big picture and advise on things along the way you may not have thought of. A comprehensive solution is far better than doing everything piecemeal, which only leads to a disjointed effort that not only looks unprofessional, it won’t get the results you desire either.
What is the downside to using services like Fiverr?
You mean services that offer designs “starting at $5?” The problem with things like that is they leave the most important aspect of doing good work out of the equation — the relationship between designer and client and overall design process. Good design is accomplished by partnering with a designer you trust. That’s the only way to produce effective design that pleases the author certainly, but just as important, design that pleases the audience for which the book was intended. From my experience, the better designers aren’t signed onto those types of services. I would also stay away from things like crowdsourcing, but that’s a whole other discussion!
Good design is not produced in a vacuum where the designer goes off to his creative dungeon only to surface days later with the perfect design. That may produce a decorative result that is pleasing to the eye, but one which doesn’t necessarily support the content or the market being targeted. Design should be more than just mere surface decoration — good design is about encapsulating and visually communicating the gist of an idea (your book!) in a simple, powerful, compelling way that gets people to take notice and act. Yes, custom design will cost more but it’s an investment in something important, likely saving money in the long run while achieving the desired result.
What are the most common mistakes you see with social media design?
The amount of bad, unprofessional, and downright amateurish profiles and pages I see in social media is staggering. People who are otherwise very smart and well-respected with brilliant credentials often present themselves online in a way that belies their reputations. I find that mind-boggling.
Everywhere you look there are blurry, low resolution images, bad logos that look muddy when small, and run-of-the-mill or worse — busy, cluttered, indecipherable page designs. I think it’s mostly the result of someone opening a new Facebook or Twitter page one evening, perhaps with well-meaning intentions to make it better someday, but then that day never comes. As an author selling a book, you can’t afford to let that sit — you need to start establishing yourself and developing your presence now — as you’re writing the book if not earlier. And it needs to be buttoned-up to be effective.
Just as you wouldn’t wear a rumpled suit to an important business meeting, your online persona shouldn’t be any different. At the very minimum, start with a professionally photographed portrait — then hire a professional designer to take all of your social media profiles and turn them into a well coordinated brand image that is not only eye-catching, but on target with accomplishing your business goals (same as in your book cover and design).
You did a fantastic job on my social media design work. Can you explain how you chose the colors and style for my social media design and blog?
I generally tend to focus more on the overall design and typography more than I do color, which is probably one of the more subjective things you can engage in. Color decisions are usually arrived at during the overall design process and working through the various components.
Color should be a factor of what is appropriate for the project, the audience, and practical considerations such as what will be most legible or reproduce better when printed. It is less about what someone’s personal preferences are. For personal branding, however, color does become as much a function of who the person is and what they are comfortable with as it is what makes sense from a business perspective.
In your case, you already had a bubbly, sparkly reputation, so it was a matter of taking that — maintaining your fun personality — while also presenting yourself as a smart, professional businessperson. A tricky balance for sure, but based on all the positive feedback you received and what you’ve accomplished, I think we achieved that! And yes, we also used your favorite color.
Why is it important for design to be at the front of the branding process and not an afterthought?
Since design is a fundamental component of the brand strategy, it should be involved at the earliest stages. If it is tagged on at the end, then it’s just a layer of decoration on top of an approach that may not be sound or well thought through. Although the strategy informs the design, design is also integral to the process as it is being shaped.
Oftentimes when design is brought in late, issues arise that should have been corrected much earlier, leading to costly fixes or worse, a flawed plan left as is because it’s so late in the game.
What other design tips do you think are important for authors to build their social media platform?
Most people tend to think of designers as decorators who make stuff look good. But good designers take a much broader approach and if you want to accomplish your business objectives, design is so much more than that.
My single most important piece of advice is to think of designers more as business and marketing strategists, and less as artists. Design is certainly an art, but professional designers are as savvy at business, psychology and communications as they are at being creative. Good designers know how to ask the right questions and distill your messaging down to its essence, setting the foundation for an elegant design solution that will meet all your various marketing and communications needs — only then do we also make it look great!
If you don’t know where to start, I suggest hiring someone you trust and listening to them as they guide you through the design process. A good designer will listen to you and assist in defining your objectives to get you where you need to go.
If you don’t know any designers, the social channels also provide the tools you need to find them and the social proof to back it up. Ask around — check and see what they’ve have done, how much experience they have, how they engage with people online, how responsible they appear and what they’re recommendations are like. It all adds up to a pretty solid picture of what your experience with them will be like too. And if you like what I’ve said here, maybe you’ll think of me too!