Why Is a Cover So Important?
People do judge a book by its cover and a great cover will sell a lot more books. In the online world, a cover can make or break a book. Your cover is the most important selling tool that you have. Quite a few self-published authors don’t understand the importance of a great cover. Your cover is your billboard that will convey your book’s excitement and uniqueness. Just like a billboard, your cover has maybe 6 seconds tops to grab the casual Amazon browser.
The book market is becoming crowded FAST – over 1,000 new books go on sale every day thanks to the recent advances of self-publishing. Your book must stand out. Period. An amateur cover will make your book look, well…, self-published. The bottom line is that you’ll sell a lot more books with a great cover.
Should You Create Your Own Cover Or Hire a Cover Artist?
Unless you are an experienced cover artist with demonstrated success, you should hire a freelance cover artist to do your cover. It will cost you at least several hundred dollars but will be one of the wisest investments you’ll ever make in your book. Cover artwork, editing, and marketing are three areas that you need to spend money. Skimping on any of these will knock the wind out of your book sales.
If you’re a writer, write. Leave cover design to a professional cover designer. There is almost no chance that an inexperienced person will create a more effective cover than a pro cover designer (or even come close, or… even do a good job at creating a cover). Cover design is definitely a job for a pro.
The few hundred dollars that a great cover costs should pay for itself with increased sales almost immediately. The money you spend designing all of your covers might be the most effective investment you can make toward your long-term success as an independent author.
Another article in this blog will discuss how to locate and work with a skilled cover designer to create a great cover.
Should You Create a Cover with One of the Cover Template Packages Available?
There a lots of packages out there that provide templates which enable anyone to create a cover in no time. However, with 1,000 new books coming out on the market every day, a template-created cover won’t give you an edge. It will make your book a “me too” book. It’s not that hard to spot a cover that was created from a template. Hire a pro cover designer if you want your book to persuade a casual Amazon browser of your book’s genre to stop and take a look. That is the crucial first step on the path to the “Buy” button. Your book will not standout in the crowded market if you create your cover with a template.
The Most Important Rules of Cover Design
- By far the most important rule in cover design is to know your audience. You need to understand your genre and who reads it. Inspect as many books in your genre as you can. What are the similarities? What differentiates cover art work of the best sellers? What about the ones that aren’t selling well? The top selling books will always be ranked higher in an Amazon search of your book’s genre.
- Don’t worry about trying to appeal to everyone. The more specifically you know your book genre’s audience, the more accurately you can target them with your cover. The more focused your cover is on your genre’s audience to the exclusion of everyone else, the more books you’ll sell. That might sound illogical but is based of one of marketing’s most powerful principles of focusing the marketing efforts on the target market.
- Know the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of your book. If you are writing nonfiction, your book needs to be solving an important problem that faces your target audience. The cover must instantly convey that your book will solve this problem. If you are selling fiction, your book must be providing a desired experience to your target market. The cover must instantly convey the experience that your target reader is seeking. Do you have an intimate understanding of the type of experience that your target audience is seeking? Can you articulate how the covers of some of the best-selling books in your genre individually convey that experience?
- The cover must make the genre clear in a second or two. If your cover’s presentation of the genre is even the slightest bit confusing to the casual Amazon browser, they’ll move on and you’ll lose a ton of sales. Clarity often trumps cleverness here.
- The cover must look professionally done. It is easy to tell if the cover was made using a template or by a person without cover design experience. An amateur cover is a sales killer.
- The cover needs to be clear and look great as a thumbnail. The title and subtitle should be clear on the Amazon thumbnail.
- A poor cover thumbnail will absolutely hammer your book’s sales. Believe it or not, the thumbnail image of your cover is more important than the full-size image. People now buy books online much more than in book stores. This creates a quantum shift in cover creation. The cover thumbnail must grab the casual Amazon buyer of your book’s genre. If your cover’s thumbnail isn’t instantly clear or does not resonate immediately with your target audience, you’re handing over book royalties that should be yours to a competing author. Tragic!
- Simplicity is generally better with covers. Clutter on the cover is major distraction to the casual Amazon browser, who needs to be able to instantly figure what’s special about the book. Simplicity also translates to a much better thumbnail.
- The cover should be eye-catching to differentiate the book from the crowd. Always remember that 1,000 new books are coming online every day.
- If you are writing any kind of a series, the cover should quickly identify the book as part of that series. Your covers create your brand. Consecutive books in your series must be instantly identifiable as part of that series.
- Your book cover should look like others in its genre, but stand out in some significant way that resonates with your target audience. It is very important that you can articulate specifically what makes your book special to your target audience. Just being different is not the key. Being different in a way that is important to your target is the key. Your title and cover need to clearly reflect this difference.
- Your title should be large and usually at the top of the cover. Keep the clarity of the thumbnail in the forefront of your thinking when creating all elements of the cover.
- The typography should match or be similar to typography of other books in the genre. Check out the typography of best-sellers in your genre. You’ll probably see a lot of similarity in typography. You might also see several distinct styles of typography that most of the best-sellers in your genre will fall into.
- The outer edges of your front cover should not be white. Your book’s front cover should be framed on all edges with color, preferably a darker color. A white edge will fade into the white background of the Amazon space holder. The viewer won’t be able to see the book’s outline and the book will not look like a book at all. Any confusion will prompt a good percentage of casual Amazon browser to simply move on to the next book.
- Always remember that the main purpose of the book’s cover is to persuade the browser to take the next step. Maybe that next step is to read the online product description or to take a look at the online book reviews. Maybe that next step is to persuade the viewer to read a sample of the book.
- The book’s title and cover thumbnail need to be traffic stoppers. The first step in the book selling process is catch your target audience’s attention. That’s your title and cover’s main job. If they are not doing their job, you’re handing hard-earned royalties over to a competing author. Amazon browsers will keep browsing until a title and cover grabs them. Make sure your title and cover have stopping power in your genre.
- The book’s spine should have only plain colors. No designs on the spine.
- Establish what the principal focus of your cover is. The principal focus of the cover should be the book’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition), which is the main benefit that a reader will get from your book. Everything on the cover should sell your book’s USP. Every element on the cover either adds to selling the book’s USP or detracts from it. Evaluate every element on the cover.
- The title by itself should convey the book’s USP. Very important. The title and cover thumbnail need to stop traffic. They will only stop traffic if they clearly sell a USP that is highly sought-after by your target audience.
- Too many elements on a cover will also distract from the USP that the cover needs to quickly convey to the casual Amazon browser. Once again, simplicity is usually best.
- Don’t use too many colors. It is a bit confusing to the casual browser because it will make the cover thumbnail overly busy. Once again, simplicity is usually better. Use just a few colors.
- Don’t take the cover too personally. Let the cover designer do his or her thing. You should of course have lots of input into the design of your cover. It is important to remember that covers (at least, good ones anyway) are not usually created by the authors. Authors often have to detach themselves personally from the cover and put on the hat of an unrelated publisher who is trying to sell the book.
- Important stuff usually belongs in the top and right side of the front cover.
- Back to the first and most important point in this list – know your genre’s audience and study lots of book covers in your genre. What makes a good cover good? What makes a mediocre cover mediocre? Get specific. You really want to understand what signals “a good read” to your genre’s audience and why. This is the number one rule of creating a great cover.
What Goes On The Front Cover?
- Brief and concise title and subtitle
- Bullet points
- Short lists (usually with bullet points)
- Very persuasive testimonials or endorsements
What Does Not Go On The Front Cover?
- A very long title
- Any visual or image that distracts from the main selling proposition of the book
- Anything related to the price
- Testimonials or endorsements that are not powerful
What Goes On The Back Cover?
- Genre category in the upper left corner. Here is a link to: http://www.bisg.org/what-we-do-0-136-bisac-subject-headings-list-major-subjects.php which list all major book subject heading and all 2800+ subcategories of books of the Book Industry Study Group.
- Sales copy. The back cover should make the browser want to take a next step and find out what’s inside.
- The sales copy should have a headline (tag line) and maybe a subheadline which need to be compelling and tell the browser why he or she needs to have this book.
- The sales copy should be short, sweet, and direct. Use bullet points if nonfiction. If fiction, present just the important details that will hook the browser.