A picture says more than a thousand words. And we judge our books by the cover. Alright, now we have the truisms out of way and we can get into this week’s musings: how important is your book’s cover (hint: very!) – and how to go about getting a great one.
Readers judge a book by the cover
The book marketplace is incredibly crowded, whether it is paperbacks in brick&mortar stores, or e-books on Amazon. With the self-publishing and print on demand options, this number published books has increased exponentially. So how to stand out in this abundance of stories? How to get the reader to pick your book?
Read my book!
Readers have a number of ways to select a book, and a short attention span to make this decision. In order of importance and likelihood, these are:
- Word of mouth – by far the most important. When you hear from a trusted friend, you’re very likely to give it a try.
- Author newsletter / social media – this is also an important channel because you are reaching your fans directly. They’ve either signed up to your newsletter, or they follow you on Facebook or Twitter because they want to hear from you.
- Influencers – these are the people writing about books. This can be classic media like magazines or newspapers, book blogs, or Goodreads reviewers with a large following. These guys can sway their audience to try a new author.
- General reviews – from anyone on Amazon or Goodreads.
- Ads – for example on Facebook. Brings you some exposure, but it’s not a guaranteed success, and it costs.
- General browsing – people randomly stumbling across your book, for example by browsing the romance novels on Amazon.com. Of course, if you make it to the top of a category, likelihood of discovery goes up.
For all of these (except word of mouth) you need a way to display your book, to stand out from the other books around you, on blogs, on store shelves or Amazon search results and categories. And this is what your cover does for you!
Cover up to stand out
So what makes a great cover that will help your book to fame and fortune? Of course, taste is always subjective and some readers may love the cover while others loathe it. But I have found that a number of traits are common among successful books’ covers.
- Be unique, but not too unique. Your cover should stand out, but you should also research what sells in your genre. If you’re writing erotic romance, then having sparsely clad bodies on the cover will be a good idea. A good cover designer will help you that it won’t look tacky!
- Clear, well-legible writing. Readers should be able to decipher the title and the author, even if you’re going for artsy fonts.
- Make sure your cover works in black and white and shades of gray. Most Kindle readers will see the cover sans color. The title should be readable, and it should still look great!
DIY? Rather not
The headline already answers its own question: unless you are a professional graphic designer, don’t create your own covers. And even if you are one, there’s a lot of special knowledge needed for cover designs: what works in your genre, what specs you need for various platforms of e-publishing and print, and how to handle the rights to stock photos used in your cover.
To point out just how much a cover improves when someone works on it that knows what they’re doing, I’ll show you an old cover of mine (self-designed *cough*), and next to it the gorgeous work by my favorite cover designer, Natasha Snow. They’re both for my novella “DJ Dangerfield“. I don’t think I have to point out the professionally designed cover 😉
So I strongly suggest finding yourself a go-to cover designer. Natasha helps me so much with finding the right visual language to express the core message of my book, appeal to readers and keep a consistent look for a complete series. Not to mention other art such as print covers and ad posters. Check out below the poster for “fels” (German translation of “rock”) that was put up in Berlin!
The cover as part of the marketing effort
Book marketing is a topic that I will devote more musings to in the future (and a topic where I’m learning new things every single day), but for sure the cover is a key part of it. It will be shown in all your communication leading up to the release, for example on NetGalley or in your newsletter.
A “cover reveal” event can create some nice early buzz for your book, and is often combined with a blog tour.
Also, creating a new cover for an already released book can create some new attention and rekindle sales. You should consider that especially when releasing a new or updated edition of your book.
Writing tip of the week
One of my favorite writers, C.S. Pacat (of “Captive Prince” trilogy fame) has a whole series on Writing Techniques. With this link, you’ll get to the master post which then let’s you dive further into individual topics, ranging from how to write characters to creating tension. Very well written and insightful, I hope there’ll be more in the future!
Fiction read of the week
Naturally, it makes sense for my read of the week to be C.S. Pacat’s “Captive Prince” books.
I love this trilogy. I am absolutely, insanely WOWed by this author and how she can manipulate a tale with such tension and conflict. Book one had me wrapped around her little finger, and book two had me bowing down to her as queen of plot and pacing.
I highly recommend, though be aware, this delves into many dark themes.
Bits & pieces
I would like to use this space to again thank Natasha for all she’s done for my book covers – you’re the best! Just check out my latest, Leo Loves Aries – isn’t it beautiful 😉
This was the last Sunday Musings for 2016 – I wish you all Happy Holidays and a great start to the new year! I’ve got a lot of great topics lined up, so I hope I can welcome you back in 2017!
Books and resources mentioned in this bulletin:
- Natasha Snow Designs
- Writing Techniques essays, by C.S. Pacat
- “DJ Dangerfield“
- “Leo Loves Aries“
- “Captive Prince“, by C.S. Pacat
- Out now: “Leo Loves Aries” – a sweet, slow burn, M/M romance with HEA. This New Adult, college, GFY, friends-to-lovers novel can be read as a standalone.
- You can get a free e-book by signing up for my newsletter
- Disclaimer: All links to books in this article are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost for you if you purchase the books via these links!
Session 8 – Writing towards scenes vs. word count
Session 10 – Self-editing tactics