Have a great cover—There’s an old saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The sad reality is that we live in a world where we all do just that each and every day. Most readers are drawn to a visually attractive and appealing cover on a book. On a bookshelf with hundreds of other books that are your competitors or in a grid of book covers at online retailers, you need to have a cover that jumps out at people. This is where I see most indie authors drop the ball. They spend all their efforts in writing the book then they use a generic template to make the cover or they try to do it themselves. This only makes your work look amateur, and there is no excuse not to try to find a good graphic designer. With online services, you can put out a request for proposals and get a ton of bids in a matter of hours. And you will probably be surprised at how reasonably priced custom artwork can be.
As the writer you know what the key elements are in the book. What are some unique things that you have in the book? Is there any symbolism in the book? Consider these factors and how they can be incorporated into a book cover. Then, find a good graphic designer and communicate these ideas to him (or her). Tell them about the book, about the characters, about the setting, about the time period, and so on so that they have a general idea when they go to work designing the cover. Put the creativity in their hands and let them present you with an idea or several ideas. Most of them are well trained in what is visually appealing and what is not visually appealing to an audience. Then collaborate with them to decide what you like and don’t like about the cover. Rarely will you get the final design on the first try. It may take several iterations until you’re satisfied.
Once you’ve put in all the time and effort to write your manuscript, don’t ruin your chances of success with a poor book cover. Collaborate with a graphic designer to come up with something that really showcases your book and jumps off the page at a reader. You only have a few seconds to make that first impression on a potential reader and to get them to pick up the book or click on the icon. You may have a great novel, but once they’ve passed you by, they’re not going to come back and take a second look.