I am on the third edition of my dot to dot book, and it is already more successful than both the previous versions combined. The only thing I’ve changed is the cover.
I am an art school grad. I’ve worked as a designer. I took the Ryerson Publishing programme’s book design course. Dripping with the skills I thought I possessed, boosted by an undeserved sense of marketing savvy, that describes me when I started on this project.
I mean, my first attempts at cover design weren’t Edsel or mullet-bad, but I’m no Chip Kidd.
The first covers I created were for the PDF versions of my puzzles, which I publish on Teachers Pay Teachers. I tried to be mindful of a number of factors.
Teachers Pay Teachers is like Amazon. You see the thumbnail in the search first. This cover was supposed to catch your attention and tell you what the book was about with a glance. I thought I did that, but I did not.
Upon reflection, I decided it would be a good idea to actually show what picture you’d be drawing. I released these puzzles in a collection and as singles. Each individual cover featured a boring little outline of the finished image. Each one also had a giant graphic of a pumpkin outline, just to confuse matters.
I realized that the most unique feature of these dot to dots was missing. I got rid of the giant counting dots and focussed on the puzzle images and all the extra dots.
When I decided it was time to release the paperback to the world, I wanted to showcase all the different holiday themes in the book. I hadn’t learned the lesson about the bad title and I ended up making the dots too small. You can’t read most of the text, but the drop shadow is nice.
I did get wise about the font size.
Eventually, I figured out that the title needed to go. I also mention the extra dots this time. I thought the specially shaped dots used in the book would be a nice touch. I thought wrong. They look like ink blotches or moles.
Giving myself credit where it’s actually due, I have sold many copies of the dot to dot puzzles on TPT, despite the graphic horrors. However, I have to admit that the competition on the site is not made up of award-winning artists and marketing experts. Clip-art reigns supreme over there, meaning I could potentially sell even more with the right cover.
When I decided to release a third, expanded edition of the paperback book using Ingram instead of Create Space (Another blog topic), I took advantage of the opportunity to change the design almost completely.
This is what I came up with.
First, I simplified the title. Playing with the text orientation makes it stand out from all the other titles on the search page. Next, I further emphasized the puzzle image and the extra dots by using the image at a 1:1 scale. You don’t see the dots as numbers in the thumbnail, but the mass they create contrasts very well against the big, bold line drawing of the cat. You are curious to see what they might be. Finally, I kept the text simple, big, and informative. Even shrunken down, most of it’s legible.
Since the upload of the redesigned book, two weeks ago, I’ve sold 22 copies online without even trying. I had 13 pre-orders before the title was officially available because a few die-hard searchers noticed it among the thumbnails on page 17 of their Amazon search “extreme dot to dot.”
Needless to say, I will be revising the layouts of all 88 puzzles and collections on TPT.
The process of redesigning these covers over the past three years has taught me a lot. Even if I hire someone else to do my next cover, here is what I must remember.
- Don’t go with the first design. Too bad if you’re anxious to launch and you want it done right now. Instead, just do it right.
- Keep It Simple, Stupid. Leave the filters, tricks, and design-school cleverness to the experts who can afford to experiment because they’ve got a million-dollar ad campaign forcing the book on people, bad cover or not. I still have some drop shadows on the back cover (wink).
- Even if you’ve hired an expert (especially if), get feedback from people you don’t have to share a dinner table with. You need honest opinions. Ask artists what they hate about it. Ask philistines what they like.
Keep this in mind when designing your book because, in the world of online shopping and search page scrolling, you will absolutely be judged by your cover.