“It looks self-published.”
How many times have we read that comment in a critique thread? I know I’ve said it myself many times.
But it clanged in my own ears when I recently said this to a new author. Before hiring me, this author had been working with a very talented illustrator for several weeks.
So why did the cover look “self-published?”
It’s not because it was self-published. I design beautiful, award-winning books for my self-publishing clients all the time.
From the outside looking in, the author was doing everything right.
- has a high level of education,
- isn’t a vanity author,
- has a huge platform that is ready to purchase the book,
- runs a very successful business,
- has good taste in art,
- has kids, and
- invested $3K with one illustrator who was later released, and then $8K with the current illustrator (who is legit amazing!).
The author even signed up for a $10K well-known children’s book publishing course. After realizing it was just a group of “grandmas writing books about their puppy dogs,” the client cut their losses and reached out to their network, who put the client in touch with me.
So what happened? Why couldn’t the author bring this cover around?
The simple answer is, neither the author nor the illustrator had the experience necessary to steer this project to the level the author needed in order for it to have its best chance at success. Thankfully, the author self-evaluated and was able to go from stage 1 to stage 2 of the competence curve very quickly.
Even though the illustrator has a Fine Arts degree, illustrators usually do not double as production artists. She was relieved to have me on board.
“Since working with you, I can’t ever imagine working directly with an author again. You’re so perfect in every way.”
Unfortunately, Facebook groups are rife with illustrators who just see the money they can make by doing it all. But, in reality, they don’t do it all because they don’t even know what “doing it all” entails. Using Photoshop or Procreate to put text on an illustration and exporting it for print-on-demand is not “doing it all.” It’s doing the bare minimum.
I am a firm believer that most people can learn most things, but it’s impossible to know how to do a thing well if you’ve never even done it before. A blueprint/formula/course/book is only going to get you so far. And most of those are designed by authors or others who don’t have the full experience of managing a professional publishing team, so you’re still missing some extremely crucial information.
I have been designing books for 10+ years. I am a professional production artist, and I call myself the missing link.
“A production artist is someone who is creative, computer savvy and very skilled at content design. An effective production artist has an excellent eye for design and graphics and will have good interpersonal skills for collaborating with other employees in the creative department.
They must be both technical and creative, using those skills to create a finished product that meets organizational and/or client branding goals.” —Celarity
Professional illustrators often require a production artist to be between them and the author, because the scope creep that happens otherwise is exasperating.
Inexperienced author-directed projects are why self-publishing has had such an uphill battle, and that’s what should be avoided at all costs to give your book and this industry its best chance at real success.
If publishing is just a hobby for you, have fun with it! Don’t hire me, lol, but have fun with it. 😛
But if publishing is a business venture, you need a production artist at the helm who will help protect your investment. I’m not the only one out there, so you still don’t have to hire me, but you can schedule a fit call to see if I’m the right production artist for you.