Bright book covers from India

I recently came across these snapshots of bright and beautiful book covers I saw in a bookstore in India in 2014. I still find India's enthusiasm for color so inspirational — browsing their bookstores was always a pleasure!

Why does the color on my ebook cover look different than the color on my printed book cover?

Recently a client sent me a screenshot of his print book cover and his ebook cover side by side, and asked me why he saw such a visible color shift between the two.

I explained to him that the ebook cover is in the RGB color space, but the printed book cover is in the CMYK color space. RGB is the color space used for on-screen images, while CMYK is the color space that printing devices can capture. As a basic explanation, the RGB images look brighter because they are being shown on a lit screen. It's hard to achieve the same brightness with ink on paper. As you can see in the chart below, CMYK captures a smaller range of color than RGB captures (and both capture fewer colors than our incredibly-designed eyes can really see!) 

 Image by The Graphic Mac

Image by The Graphic Mac

My client's cover designer had always sent his bright teal cover to him in RGB, and suddenly before printing, he saw the teal for the first time in CMYK and was surprised at the significant color shift.

If you don't convert your images to CMYK before sending them to the printer, the printer must convert them to CMYK before printing. It's no big deal for them to make the conversion, but depending on the colors you are printing, you may notice that the printed piece comes back looking duller than you expected if you only saw proofs on your screen. 

The following two color spectrums help you to see which colors are hardest for CMYK to achieve. The duller quality of CMYK is instantly noticeable. 

 Color spectrum shown in RGB

Color spectrum shown in RGB

 Color spectrum shown in CMYK

Color spectrum shown in CMYK

Whether you're picking a color for a book cover or a logo, it's good to consider whether that color will be achievable both in RGB and CMYK. If not, you might want to consider adjusting the ebook color a bit to make it easier to match in print. Or, you'll just have to get used to the slight difference in color between your ebook cover and your printed book cover.

Should my photo be on the front cover of my book?

This week a client of mine who is self-publishing a cookbook wrote to me with this question: "Should my photo be on the front cover of my book? Everybody says yes....[but I am not sure.]"

When I replied to her, in essence I told her two things:

  1. Having your face on your book's front cover is atypical in your genre. Looking at other cookbooks in the clean eating or vegan genre, I knew that it is not standard practice to have the creator's photo on the front. 
  2. Sometimes having an atypical cover can make your cover win, but often it can make it lose. The decision to make an atypical cover needs to be a decision made for a deliberate marketing reason.

I went on to explain that the choice depends a lot on her businesses' branding. For example, if her business is very much about her face, her personality, her look, etc. then it might work well to put her face on the cover to further cement that idea that she is the one creating the recipes. However, if she doesn't show photos of herself a lot in her marketing, and focuses more on photos of her culinary creations, it would probably be better to do the same in her cookbook cover design...unless she's gearing up for a big change in her marketing methods.

 Photo by Dan Gould

Photo by Dan Gould

After having written to her with my thoughts, I found two other answers to similar questions online, which I thought were worth sharing here. 

This insight is from Hobie Hobart:

Is it ever a good idea to put your picture on a book cover? 
This is contingent on many factors so the initial answer is, it depends. It IS a good idea, and nearly mandatory, to use your picture on the front cover if you are a Barack Obama, an Oprah, or a renowned superstar. Many authors think that putting their picture on the front cover will make them famous. This is not necessarily so. Unless you are well known in the media, bookstore buyers will not accept your book which pictures you on the front cover. However, if you are selling exclusively to a tight niche where you are well known, or your intention is to start branding yourself to a specific market, your photo on the front cover or the spine can be an advantage.

This is how Michele DeFilippo answered this question:

Should I put my own photo on my book cover? 
It depends. If YOU are the product, then your picture can absolutely be used on the front cover (think Dr. Phil or Suze Orman). If your book is non-fiction, you are a well-known expert in your field, and buyers would recognize your face, then your picture can be used on the back cover, along with a bio. Otherwise, your picture and bio belong in the back matter of the book.

Ultimately the answer is, "It depends!" But often the answer is, "No." Think carefully about your market and your branding before deciding to put your photo on your book cover.

 

How can I catch more errors in my print design documents?

This week I received a nice marketing email, and I followed a link in the email to a blog post. I didn't read the whole blog post, but this I did get out of it: the writer had written "check" where it should have said "cheek" — and that was my main takeaway. Probably not the takeaway that the author was intending. 

We've all been in those situations where a typo slips by us. When you are preparing files for print, catching typos and mistakes is even more essential than when preparing text for online media, where content can be corrected with just a few clicks. (I wrote back to the company who had sent me the marketing email, and within half an hour the typo was corrected.)

I won't claim to produce completely error-free print files, but here are a few tricks I've learned to get as close to perfect as possible.

 Photo by  Jonas Jacobsson

Edit text in software that has automatic spelling and grammar check (and make sure it is turned on). 

If you're typing or writing more than just a few words, make sure to start in a program or browser that provides basic spelling and grammar check. This sounds obvious, but it's easy to start typing in a software that's not flagging any errors. This is your first and easiest error safety net.

In higher-end design software, the option to automatically underline misspellings or grammar mistakes is not necessarily activated. In Adobe InDesign this has to be turned on under Main Menu > Preferences > Spelling. Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop are not text editing programs, but some people use them that way. They do not provide the option to automatically flag misspelled words; you actually have to manually run a spellcheck (Edit > Check Spelling).

The best option is to always start your typing in a program or software that provides spelling and grammar check, especially if you are not a native speaker of the language in which you work.

Get your computer to read your text to you.

Another helpful tool for catching mistakes in your text is getting your computer to read the text to you. If the author of the blog post I mentioned in my opening text had listened to her article, she definitely would have heard the difference between "check" and "cheek", but it was not a mistake a spell check could have picked up. I have used the free version of the software Natural Reader for this, but usually I just highlight the text on my Mac, right click, and select Speech > Start Speaking. I did it for this blog post, as well, and definitely caught some of those tricky typos.

Proofread a printed version of your document. 

I've heard that we notice 25% more errors when we proofread printed documents than when we proofread on screen, and I believe it. Printing out your document also helps you notice formatting issues — like a font that is too small, or text that is printing too close to an edge that will trim. When I lay out books for my clients, I often encourage them to print out the full proof and read it over in print, no matter how many times they've already read the manuscript over on screen. (And when you're done with that printed proof, please, recycle the paper.)

Ask at least one "uninvolved" person to proofread.

When deadlines are tight, it can be tempting to overlook this step. But any document can benefit from being looked over by another set of eyes. Sometimes you need to outsource the proofreading to a professional. Or just ask someone else who is a bit less involved in the project to read it over with fresh eyes. Last year, at the last minute a team member who had not been very involved in an important project was asked to help with the final proofread. He noticed that the text on the spine of our book was running in the wrong direction — an important detail that four or five of us who were more involved in the project had missed. 

Order a printed proof from your printer. 

While small or low-cost projects might not necessitate ordering a printed proof, for any print project with large amounts of text or that costs a lot of money, it's good to build enough time and money into the project to order a printed proof (in addition to the now-standard PDF proof). The printed proof can help you to recognize technical, visual or formatting issues that would never have come to your attention in a PDF, as well as any proofreading errors. For example, on a recent $10,000+ print project, I was so glad when the printed proof showed us that there would be a score line on the cover that would go directly through the company's logo. This gave us the chance to adjust the position of the logo — it was the only change we made after seeing the printed proof, but a change that made a big difference in the quality of the final product. 


No one's perfect! But the closer you can get your printed piece to perfection, the happier both you and your team or client will be! I hope these tips give you a few new ideas for catching errors in your writing and designing for print, before it goes to press!