Friday, May 18, 2018

How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—What Your Book Cover Looks Like Matters

by Traci Tyne Hilton @TraciTyneHilton

*disclaimer. This series is about following rules. I know that Indies don’t have to follow rules. That’s the whole point of being indie. But indies who pay attention to what rich and famous authors do, have a much better shot at fame and riches.*

What Your book Cover Looks Like Matters
1. Readers do judge a book by the cover. For $40 or less at times, you can get a professional quality stock cover. Unless you are experienced and trained as a graphic designer, do this. For $300 and up you can get a custom cover. Totally do that if you can afford it. It’s worth it.

2. Once they’ve got the book, they will judge your mistakes. Typos matter. Sure, you know that. But you really know that when you get an email from the reader who found the three mistakes you accidentally left in. And like mice, where there are three there are probably a thousand. But that might just be me. Work hard on your final proofreading. Readers forgive a lot, but they have a hard time forgiving perceived laziness.

3. Formatting is time consuming when you first learn how if you don’t have fancy software to do it for you. If you have a Mac and a few hundred dollars, please buy Vellum. It is a gift to indies from the software making gods. If you don’t, check out what Draft 2 Digital is offering. It’s kind of amazing. They are a distributor who go above and beyond with their services.
  • My first subpoint! Here’s what to do if all you have is Microsoft Office. You can have charming chapter headings by creating them in Publisher and inserting them as jpegs in your document. 
  • Make sure your spacing is Ereader friendly by having no more than three returns as any white space. This keeps the book from having random blank “pages” as an eBook.
  • Save the book in Word as “web page, filtered.” Go to the place you have saved it. Select the file, and a file folder called “your book title files” and zip those together. This is the final copy that you will upload at Amazon. It’s what you need to do if you have included attractive jpegs in the file.

4. Don’t hire a formatter. Sorry formatters! I don’t want you to starve, but if my gentle readers are planning to start an indie empire they really need to learn to do this themselves. There will be times it is important for them to have quick access to their files so they can make changes and re-upload them without having to contact someone to do it for them. An indie empire is built on hard work, investment, research and knowledge. You can’t found an empire on things you don’t know how to do.

5. Then why can’t I make my own covers? Because cover making isn’t as simple as formatting. Sorry again freelance formatters! I don’t mean to be rude, but formatting is only hard the first time or two. Once you know how it is simple, quick-ish, and something an indie should be able to do for themselves.

I made formatting in Word look like a simple three step process. My apologies in advance for it not being as simple the first time you do it, as I made it sound. Just count your blessings that you didn’t waste time trying to design a cover, too!

For #indieauthors, what your book cover looks like matters - @TraciTyneHilton on @edieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Readers do judge a book by its cover - thoughts from @TraciTyneHilton on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Plain Jane Mysteries, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and the Tillgiven RomanticMysteries. Traci has a degree in history from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, two busy kids, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin.

More of Traci’s work can be found at

Don't miss the previous posts
1. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—What You Write Matters

2. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—How You Advertise Matters

3. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—How You Release Books Matters

4. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—What You Write Matters

5. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—What Your Book Cover Looks Like Matter


  1. Great tips Ms. Traci. For all of us. I am working for a client where we've written five volumes with more than 100,000 words in approximately three weeks. We are nearing the "polishing" stage now and proofreading is a MUST. Lord willing, I'm not too sleepy to not catch those little nits that separate a professional document from an "also ran." Great reminders ma'am; that apply to much more than just our manuscripts. God's blessings...

    1. My jaw is on the floor thinking about what you just accomplished!

  2. Great post, Traci. I self-pubbed two books last year with Vellum and can't sing its praises enough! Also, having a superb line editor do the final sweep helped to keep the copy clean for my readers. Thanks!! I always enjoy your Indie insights.

    1. Thanks! Vellum really revolutionalized my life!

  3. Thanks Traci, We need the formatting encouragement. I've already heeded the do not do cover yourself advice. I wish I had started this earlier in life, some days my poor brain is just too addle pated.

    1. You know, some days my pate is addled as well! I just really hear you on that.

  4. I've been told to hire a formatting expert. I would like my book in digital as well as print, and the two need different formatting as I'm sure you know. I have a PC, not a Mac, and frankly am a bit scared to format for both copies. I want to add drawings and/or photos too. My computer is old, and I only have MS Word 2007. I sincerely believe this will be only only book out, so...

    1. I'm so sorry, I keep trying to post a reply to you--if you are planning one book you don't have to know how every single thing in the business works. :D Blessings on your book. :D