A book’s cover and its Amazon cover image are often very different but guess which one is more important? Outside of brick-and-mortar book stores, a book’s cover won’t help sell at all. But who cares? Independent authors sell almost exclusively online. The Amazon cover image, on the other hand, is the second most important factor in getting a book sold online.
The book’s cover needs to be attractive when held in the hand but it’s the Amazon cover image that sells books. Well, not sell exactly. More like set the appointment for the closer. Amazon sales are closed by the book’s description, reviews, and Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. The Amazon cover image and its partner in crime, the title, need to hijack and overwhelm the curiosity of a casual Amazon browser in a split second. The Amazon cover image is lethal if it is loaded with the following three bullets:
1) Instantly legible title
First, contrary to popular belief, the book’s cover and the Amazon cover image do not have to be the same. They need to be similar not necessarily identical. Both need to have the same theme but the Amazon cover image is often most effective when it is a simplified version of the book’s cover.
How To Simplify a Book Cover Down To a Great Amazon Cover Image
Simplifying the book cover down to an effective Amazon cover image means doing the following:
1) Remove all text except the title and subtitle. Keep the subtitle only if it is brief.
2) Ensure that the title is instantly readable. It should be near the top, stand-alone, highly contrasted from its background, and large. Chose a font for the title that fits the theme and genre but remains easy-to-read when shrunk.
3) Use only one graphic. More than one graphic makes the postage-stamp-sized Amazon cover image too busy to stop a casual Amazon browser. That one graphic needs to be a grabber.
4) Ensure that each item, whether text or an image, is in its own space. Nothing should overlap.
5) Use only a few colors. The background should be only one color.
6) There should be only one focus. Anything else makes the Amazon cover image too busy.
7) Contrasts between elements and the background should be strong.
8) Your book’s genre should be instantly conveyed by the Amazon cover image.
9) The Amazon cover image should have similarities to others in its genre but must stand out in a noticeable way.
The Amazon cover image needs to have an outer edge to contrast it from the white background of its placeholder. If your Amazon cover image is white on its edges, you are allowed to outline it with a thin, black outline. An Amazon cover image that has white edges will fade into the placeholder background and not look like a book at all. Any momentary confusion generated by your Amazon cover image will prompt Amazon browsers to simply continue browsing.
Characteristics of an Ineffective Amazon Cover Image
You will lose sales if your Amazon cover has any of the following:
1) Hard-to-read title
2) Too many elements
3) Too much to read
4) A main image that doesn’t grab attention
5) No outside edge
6) Elements overlapping each other
7) Too many colors
8) Not enough contrast between elements and the background
9) More than one focus or focal point.
10) Doesn’t stand out from others in its genre
The Postage Stamp Rule
Pretend that you are creating a postage stamp. An Amazon cover image is just about the same size so this technique is very applicable. Postage stamps have only a single, striking image. The text on a postage stamp is stand-alone and easy-to-read. Nothing overlaps on a postage stamp. Postage stamps have only one background color. Postage stamps are always simple, never busy. Of course you can create a much more striking Amazon cover image than a postage stamp because of the fonts, images, and background colors that you have at your disposal. The important point is that your Amazon cover image needs the simplicity, contrast, a single focus, and legibility of a postage stamp.
View your Amazon cover image as it would be seen on Amazon by sizing it to approximately 1.5 inches in height and then save it as a jpeg at 72 ppi with 50% resolution. How’s it look?
The Billboard Rule
Imagine the you’re speeding down the highway and a billboard briefly catches your eye. What did you briefly notice? The billboard’s headline and one image if it was large enough….Anything else? Nope. But…what about all that great advertising text and artwork all over the rest of the billboard? Of course not. And why would any of that stuff be on a billboard anyway? The drivers are speeding along and the faraway billboards look tiny from the road.
You probably see where this is going. You’ll do well to create your cover image for the Amazon catalog is as you were designing a billboard to place beside a highway a ways back from the road. Place only enough on that billboard to catch your potential customers eyes as they are speeding along Amazon Highway. Just like on a highway billboard, anything beyond just a few main items will clutter, crowd, and confuse your book’s billboard on the side of Amazon Highway and your customers will just keep speeding along until a more focused billboard grabs their limited attention.
How To Know That You Have Created an Effective Amazon Cover Image
You’ve probably created an effective Amazon cover image if you are happy with your answers to the following questions:
1) How conspicuous and legible is the title?
2) Is your Amazon cover image busy or is it simple and focused?
3) If you have an image, will the image stop casual Amazon browsers in their tracks?
4) Is the overall contrast sufficient to make every element on the image stand out?
5) Is each element in its own space or is there any confusing overlap among elements in the image?
6) Does the Amazon cover image make the book’s genre instantly clear?
7) Does this Amazon cover image stand out from others in the genre?