The Importance of a Cover

Eight seconds. That is all the time you have to convince a reader to check out your book. If your book’s cover does not engage the reader in these few seconds, you lose.

People do judge books by their cover. As a result, your book’s cover is:

  • A reader’s first impression of your book.
  • Your most important marketing tool.

Jellybooks, the company that provides free books to readers in exchange for the ability to track the reader’s interaction with the book. From this information, Jellybooks can tell when people read, how long they read, how far they read in a book, and how quickly they read.

The company then uses this information to give the book’s publisher feedback. A few of the questions Jellybook answers for publishers include:

  • Does the book have a high word-of-mouth potential?
  • What are the optimal cover, title, and description for a book?
  • Is the audience a narrow, loyal niche—or a broad, less-committed mass-market audience?

Jellybooks has been collecting and analyzing data on books since 2012. They have made two important discoveries regarding book covers from the data they have collected.

1. Book covers influence readers greatly in their choices.

One interesting discovery from Jellybooks is that readers are greatly influenced by a book’s cover, however, they are usually not aware of it. Jellybooks reports that, when it comes to book covers, it is not about standing out. Rather, a cover has to be appropriate for the targeted audience, fit the title, and match the description. In addition, it has to raise expectations, but not create misleading expectations. There are no hard rules as to why one cover works better than another in regards to sending the “pick me” message.

2. The probability that someone will recommend a book is heavily influenced by the cover.

Jellybooks feels that this is one of the most important findings they have made. It is important because word-of-mouth is the number one driver of book sales. As with being influenced by the cover, most people aren’t even aware that the cover also influences whether they recommend a book or not. But, since people are concerned about being judged, they are only going to recommend a book if they perceive that the book’s cover is worthy and won’t get them negatively judged by someone they recommend the book to.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a good book cover. Your book cover matters. You and your book will be judged by your cover. Make sure that the judgement is a favorable one.

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Photo courtesy of Leah Kelley.

Book Cover Design Tools to Know

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

This old cliché, while true, is not often practiced in everyday life. People do judge books by their covers. I know I do. God created us to be visual.

eyes

Think about these statistics:

  • In conversations, 55% of what is communicated is done through body language (visual), not words or tone or voice (auditory).
  • Facebook posts that have the most engagement contain photos.
  • Tweets on Twitter that receive the most retweets boast images.
  • 74% of people in the United States regularly use emoticons or emojis in their online communication.

Your book cover design is extremely important in the success of your book. Your cover is your most important marketing tool. It is what readers see first when they look at your book. Your cover can draw people in or turn them off.

For many independently published authors and small publishers, hiring a book cover designer is not in their budget. While having a professional design a book cover is one way to ensure that your book’s cover is appealing and engaging, a good book cover design can be created without a professional.

Amazon allows authors and publishers using their CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing programs to create free book covers. The good news is that if you want your ebook in more places than Kindle, or you are not using CreateSpace to produce your print book, there are other programs you can use to create free or inexpensive book covers. Two of these programs include:

  • Canva
    Canva is a free, browser-based design tool that offers templates in all sizes for social media and print media uses. They have a book cover maker that allows users to create a book cover for an ebook or a print book. With Canva’s book cover templates you have access to over 130 fonts and over one million stock images, or you can upload your own image.
  • Pressbooks
    Pressbooks is a book creation tool for ebook or print books. The service includes a cover creator for both ebook and print books. For print books, Pressbooks’ cover creation tool uses the number of pages and type of paper you want to calculate the correct spine width. All you need is a background image for the front cover. The service has fonts and background colors to choose from.

There are a few important things to keep in mind if you are creating your own book cover.

1. Make sure your title is clear and easy to read.
Your title should be able to be seen clearly across a room or in a one-inch-sized thumbnail sketch on your computer. The size, color, and font all matter.

2. Use a professional photo or illustration.
Your book’s cover helps you stand out from the competition. An engaging, colorful image is important.

3. Conform to industry standards.
Your book cover needs to look like other book covers in your genre, but still be different. In other words, if your cover looks odd or out-of-place, or lacks essential elements, it will scream self-published and readers will pass it by. Study your competition so you can create a book cover that sells.

A lot of independently published authors and small publishers use templates to design their book covers. Beware, though, that an overused template will also keep you from standing out in a crowd. If you choose to use a template, be sure to customize your book’s cover for your message and audience.

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Sell More Books with Better Descriptions

Your book’s cover is your number one marketing tool. Your book’s description is your next most important tool in hooking a reader.

selling books

A potential reader will be drawn in or turned off by your book’s cover. If the reader is drawn in, next she will read the book’s description. What she reads will either make her continue to move toward a purchase or walk away.

I recently read the following description for a book billed as a Christian romance novel:

This story is about a lukewarm born again believer satisfied with his life until he receives an unexpected message. Joshua as a teenager believes that Jesus died on the cross for his sins, and is convicted that he will be entering Heaven one day. However, he is also convinced walking in the world will have no eternal consequences. The journey through Joshua’s Christian life reveals how serious he takes his relationship with Jesus.

Since the book was billed as a romance, I was expecting a boy gets girl story. But after reading the description I was confused. Is this a romance about Jesus and a believer or is it a boy-girl romance? If I can’t figure out what a book is about by reading the description, I am not going to even consider purchasing the book.

BookBub, a service that connects readers with books, has run a number of tests to see what book description (or blurb) copy resonates the most with their subscribers. They recently shared their findings on their website.

BookBub found the following worked best in hooking readers with book descriptions:

  1. When quoting a testimonial or endorsement for the book, quote people not a publication.
  2. Speak to your audience. Say “If you love thrillers, then you will love this book”, not “An action-packed read.”
  3. If your book is a historical fiction novel, tell the reader the time-period.
  4. The number of good reviews matter. Descriptions that included a high review count fared better. So if you have a good number of reviews, say so: “…with 100 five-star Amazon reviews.”
  5. Include author awards. Even if the book you are promoting has not won an award, state any awards the author has previously won for his or her writing.
  6. Including that the book is a bestseller. It makes no difference if it is a bestseller on Amazon or the New York bestseller list.

Remember the description you use to promote your book is your second most important tool in hooking a reader. Be sure to get plenty of feedback from test readers on your book’s description. The better your description, the more readers you will reel in.

Related Posts:
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Do You Know What It Takes to Sell a Book?
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The Importance of Following Trends

Electric cars are catching on. Solar power continues to grow in popularity. Ponchos have come and gone. The number of people taking a cruise is increasing. Trends: they are everywhere.

The book industry also has trends: trends in book topics, trends in book cover design, trends in interior design and layout, and trends in marketing and book promotion.
As an author or publisher producing books, being aware of book industry trends is important. Awareness of these trends serves two purposes:

  1. It keeps your books from looking out-of-date, old-fashioned, or self-published.
  2. It helps you stay on top of the best book marketing techniques to help you generate more exposure and sales.

I watch the trends in the book publishing industry. Trends such as:

  • Using the blank pages at the end of a book to promote other books or services of the author.
  • Including the author’s Facebook page, blog, or Twitter feed in the author bio.

Whenever possible I incorporate these useful ideas into my books and encourage other authors and publishers to do so also.

available as an ebook logo

A new trend I recently have seen occurring is the addition of a little icon to the back cover of a book (near the EAN barcode) letting the reader know that the book is also available as an ebook (see graphic above). I think this is a really smart marketing move.

First of all, not every book is available as an ebook. Letting a reader know the book is available as an ebook is a nice courtesy. It can also trigger those buyers who prefer ebooks to purchase the digital version of a print book they discover by capturing the consumer right then and there. Additionally, about 60% of Goodreads users report they read in both formats. Many purchase both print and digital copies of a book they are reading, switching between the two formats depending on their location. In other words, by using an “available as an ebook” icon on a print book, publishers are reaching both print and digital readers.

If you are publishing a new book, I encourage you to let readers know that the book is available as an ebook by posting a notice on the back cover of the book. It costs you nothing and helps you reach both print and digital readers.

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Award-Winning Book Covers

Each year the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) hosts the Top Shelf Award program to recognize design excellence among its member publishers in the Christian publishing industry. The winners of this year’s award were recently announced.

bannerwinners

I think it is worthwhile to note these winning titles here for you. Your book’s cover is often your number one marketing tool. People do judge books by their covers. A good cover can draw a potential reader to your book, while a bad cover will turn readers away from your book.

Since cover design is largely art and people have a wide variety of tastes in art, rarely do you find unanimous consensus on whether a book’s cover is alluring. However, there are some standards that are extremely important in book design. Some of these include:

  • Lots of space (an uncluttered look)
  • Easy-to-read fonts
  • Ability to read the title from across a room or in a thumbnail sketch
  • The title and image together should be clever or create emotion

Personally, I don’t find many of these titles that won the Top Shelf Award very alluring. I am not drawn in by many of them. Frankly, some of them don’t even follow the industry standards for good cover images. Some have titles that are really hard to read and don’t hold up to the “thumbnail test” (see The Thumbnail Rule).

What do you think of these award-winning Christian book cover designs?

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