Spacescape 13 -- Book cover illustration by book cover designer Duncan Long

Ebooks did well in 2011, and I suspect with all the ebook readers that were handed out by Santa Claus this Christmas, they’ll be in very solid footing in 2012. Many in the publishing industry are expecting that in the not too distant future, ebooks will be outselling print in most markets with the exception of the “coffee table” books with lots of pictures, over-sized layouts, or such where print will likely remain king for some time to come.

2011 also saw several unknown authors break out and sell over a million ebooks with their new titles and self-marketing sans agent and big publishing house. So it appears there really is a major upside potential for self-publishing authors in 2012. It will be interesting to see how many more break this million-sales barrier. .

I think there are several key elements that can help improve the selling potential of any title whether self published or printed by a large established press. The first is the self-promotion of the book – and to some extent the author – to potential buyers.

The second is to be sure the book is well written and carefully edited before going to print. Of course big presses pretty much handle this angle (though they expect manuscripts to be pretty error free when submitted — which was not the case 50 years ago when a lot of the polishing and proofing was done by the publisher). Consequently, authors wanting their book to do well in today’s marketplace often find themselves hiring someone to proof and perhaps even editor their manuscript.

The third essential is that the book should have a professional, attractive layout, especially with the cover. While most large presses do well with this, I can tell horror stories — and it seems a sizable chunk of my business in 2011 came from authors looking for a cover illustration that was better than that offered by the press handling their title.

And there’s little wonder that savvy author’s are concerned about the cover for their book. An attractive cover can be key to a book’s success these days. Competition is intense with more and more authors self publishing. Because of this, the quality of the cover has become the new “gatekeeper” by which potential buyers/readers of a book judge its quality. This is especially true for fiction.

If an author wants to meet with success, then no little effort needs to be placed toward achieving each of these key components. That’s the only way for an author to get ahead of the pack and have a chance of making serious money, especially in the case of a self-published book.

The old idea that an author can simply write a good story and then meet with great success is long past (if it ever was true). Today an author must carefully polish his manuscript, promote the tome, and be sure it has a professional layout and cover if it is to have any chance for becoming a runaway hit.

Here’s wishing my readers and clients a very prosperous 2012 — with lots of new ebooks and print books that soar as high and free as their authors want them to.

Duncan Long creates book cover illustrations and often lays out entire covers for presses and self-publishing authors. His work appears on books from HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, Moonstone Books, and Enslow Publishers. See more of his illustrations and book cover design at Duncan Long’s Book Cover Portfolio