The tortuous story of a book cover

For the last few books I’ve written, I’ve chosen to self-publish (here are the reasons), and it has been a very rewarding creative experience. There are a lot of moving parts and it is a thrill to see the project come together. But the book cover … nearly made me lose my mind!

Although it took me two years to write and publish the book, it seems I always get stuck on the cover. I should have known better. The cover for Marketing Rebellion turned out to be very cool, but oh my gosh it was a struggle to come up with just the right concept:

mark schaefer

Now I had a new book in the works called Cumulative Advantage and the topic is creating personal and business momentum — even when the odds are stacked against you.

How do you draw momentum on a book cover???

If you try an image search, and this is basically the penultimate view of momentum:

book cover

This is 90 percent of the images on “momentum.” Egads. I had to do better than that. This was too normal and boring. The primary criteria I was looking for:

a) It had to show up well as a thumbnail image on Amazon. This requires simple images and bold colors.

b) It would be nice if the main image could be used as an asset for social media posts and videos.

c) It had to be original and compelling.

d) I really wanted an exciting image that just sang out to me: “This is it!” That’s the feeling I had when I saw that Marketing Rebellion peace sign cover!

Some people also wanted me to stick to the black and yellow theme of my other books but this was not that big of a deal to me. I was willing to be flexible!

My manuscript was coming together so I started looking for a cover idea about five months before I wanted to publish. Normally, plenty of time.

So I went to my designer friend for some ideas. Here were the earliest concepts:

book cover

There were advantages and disadvantages to these choices. I liked the power of the panther but ruled out the white cover — it disappears as a thumbnail on Amazon. I posted tweaked versions of covers one and three to my social media audience. Why not ask the fans?

  • My Facebook friends overwhelmingly loved the rocket.
  • My LinkedIn friends overwhelmingly loved the rising dots.

I decided I hated both of them. Neither captured the unique excitement and passionate energy of the book. It seemed like I was settling. I especially hated the rocket because that rocket image seems to be everywhere!

People loved the colors of the rocket cover and I had many comments that suggested that the dots were an unusual representation of momentum. So we tried again. Next versions:

book cover

Notice that we worked in the Marketing Rebellion typeface to provide some continuity.

These covers were probably serviceable, but they didn’t sing to me. By this time, we had spent several months on these concepts. It was now November and I had to submit the cover for publication in about a month. I was running out of time and money.

We were hopelessly stuck.

I made a drastic decision to throw a bomb on the whole thing and start over.

At this point, I didn’t care about the money. I had to find the right cover that was going to live by my name forever. I was even willing to delay the whole book launch. I just decided there could be no compromise on quality. I had to do better.

But what was my symbol of momentum???

In early December I recruited my stepdaughter, an art major, to help me brainstorm ideas. She pulled up some cool retro images of what people in the 1950s thought the future was going to look like. As I looked at these art deco images, suddenly it dawned on me.

The Rocketeer!

I loved the look of that movie and the Rocketeer costume. There was a cool energy and a feeling that the image was soaring toward something better. It was image I could use in a lot of ways to promote the book:

book cover

I went to the whiteboard and drew a crude idea for a cover, and sent it to my designer. Sorry, I can’t find my drawing because it would have been amusing! Here were the first versions of the new concept:

book cover

I smiled. I heard singing.

We were getting closer. These covers “popped,” and I liked the idea of this rocket dude soaring into a better world. I was finally excited by the direction.

Now to make things even more nerve-wracking, I was also developing an animated movie to describe the book.

In December.

Yikes. I was cutting everything too close. I sent these covers to Jon Briggs of Food Fight Studios, who did the trailer for Marketing Rebellion (AWESOME and you can see it here!)

He loved the rocket man and an artist on his staff said, “let me take a crack at it.” This is what she sent me:book cover

Yes. Yes Yes Yes!

Also, YES!

There was one final problem. The black type on the blue background. It didn’t show up well as a thumbnail on Amazon — and that’s VERY important. What if we went to the color theme of my other books? Black and gold. We did a little re-arranging added some flames, and … Voila!

cumulative advantage

This is my favorite book cover of all my books … but boy, did I sweat through this one!

The big lesson for me here was that even with a five-month head start, I simply did not allow enough time to develop the cover. After nine books, you would think I would learn my lessons by now!

I’m very happy with the final version and best of all, Food Fight Studios hustled to make the rocket man come alive in this awesome animation:

So that’s the story of my book cover. Quite the drama.

Will I ever go through this again someday? Who knows? I just have to have that next big idea!

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He is the author of several best-selling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

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