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book cover

When You See the Big Picture, You See It

The author’s photograph is a key elements of cover design. It needs to convey personality characteristics that are aligned with the biography, content and writing style to help the reader decide whether the book is worth reading (and buying).

I first had my picture taken professionally, when I was twenty-four. I was approached by a “drama instructor” who was convinced I had a career in advertising. All I needed to do was invest in a $100 photo shoot (and drama lessons) and I would be set. I took the bait and visited her photographer. He took seventy-two shots and two weeks later I returned to review the proof pages. He had difficulty finding a “good one,” which was a signal that the advertising world was better off without my contributions. I didn’t take the drama lessons.

Since then, I have had four corporate photos taken. They are all straight-on head and shoulder portraits with me smiling in front of a “grade school photo” blue background. The uniformity of this style is well-suited for organization charts and i-d badges but lacks the essence of the person. I wanted to avoid that look for my book cover. 

A highlight of my authoring journey has been working with amazing people. Everyone has been a friend or a friend of a friend, which has added trust, connectivity and respect to all activities. I remembered that my friend Shari had asked a friend of hers to take her professional photographs. They are fantastic and captured her warmth, depth and glowing spirit in a way I had never seen before in pictures. I was thrilled when Shari agreed to introduce me to her photographer friend, Marlene.

Fortunately, Marlene agreed to take my photographs and we met at her home for the shoot. I have never enjoyed a photo shoot until now. Marlene’s supportive and relaxed personality turned an uncomfortable activity into an enjoyable conversation with someone I felt I had known for a long time. In minutes we were done and I wished we had more time to talk.

I was on a tight timeline because I needed to submit a photograph in  two days to my publisher. Even though Marlene was not feeling well, she sent me the seven best photos within hours. 

I chose my favourite two photos, which conveyed different parts of my personality: the friendly, exuberant guy and the serious, knowledgeable guy. I chose the serious, knowledgeable guy for my cover, which friends and family members also chose. I didn’t labour over this decision like others because when you see the big picture, you see it.  


The Power of Visualization

My first exposure to self help business books was in 1995 when I borrowed an audio cassette (it was 1995 after all) series called Self-Esteem and Peak Performance by Jack Canfield, of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame. He discussed many concepts that are now standard self help fare. 

I had forgotten about Jack until I received an email last week from Steve Harrison, a marketer who is partnering with him on a “how to get published and sell tonnes of books” program. I watched a few promotional videos and Jack is the same likable and knowledgeable guy. 

He shared a few tips that I remember from his earlier program. The one that stands out is visualization. This is a technique of forming a positive mental image of a goal being achieved. An Olympic swimmer might visualize touching the pool wall before his competitors or a home renovator visualize her fully furnished new kitchen. The theory states that when you can see your desired outcome you will both consciously and unconsciously take actions that will move you toward that goal. 

Since visualization has helped me in the past I thought I would try it with my book. I chose to visualize the cover because it’s the most powerful image of the final product. After studying recent business book covers I decided on the following design principles:

  • Bold text that is easy to read
  • One graphic that is a metaphor for the title
  • Only a few colours

It felt strange creating a cover for a book that has not yet been published. It also felt good. Like all things creative, it was fun too. I hope the New York Times doesn’t mind my unauthorized use of their brand on my unauthorized cover.

What have been the benefits of visualizing my book’s cover? It has become a mental hub for all elements of my book, including content, format, tone, and benefits, which helps me discuss them as a cohesive whole. It also has made my book more real and complete, which is a very motivating. And it’s been exciting, which suggest that there is more excitement to come! 


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