Are You Paying Attention to Details?

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.” ~Charles R. Swindoll

Attention to detail is important. Some people are better at details than others. Yet, Charles Swindoll nails it with this statement. If you want to have a great book, you must pay attention to the details.

I find that many independent authors don’t pay enough attention to details. Over the past few months, numerous books published by independent authors have poured into Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) office as nominations for the Christian Indie Awards were made.

What has caught my eye repeatedly, is the number of books whose back covers do not look industry standard. The front covers are generally well designed, but the design and informational elements on the back cover are lacking.

Now, I know that over half of all books are purchased online. I understand that when browsing online people do not pull a book off the shelf and look at the back cover—which, by the way, is one of the first few things a reader looks at when viewing a physical copy of a book. But, as an author, you will still have times where you are showcasing your book in person. Therefore, it is extremely important that attention to detail is given to both the front and back covers of your book.

A number of independently published books nominated for the Christian Indie Awards show up with just a few paragraphs of text on the back cover of the book along with an EAN barcode. Yes, this is acceptable, but it is a minimalist approach and does not mirror industry standard for books.

The failure of these authors to pay attention to details has resulted in their books lacking four important back cover design elements.

1. Sales Copy Designed to Attract the Eye

Simply having blocks of text on the back of a book is not good sales copy. People skim back covers instead of reading them. With no text or quotes that are designed to stand out or attract the eye, your book is less likely to sell itself.

2. Testimonial or Endorsement Quote

Books that lack testimonial or endorsements quotes on their back cover also fail to sell a reader on the book with one of the most powerful selling techniques—social proof. Social proof is simply the positive influence that is created when people find out that others are doing something or finding something worthwhile.

3. About the Author

While an “About the Author” is not necessary on the back cover of a book, it is another industry standard and helps sell a book.

4. BISAC Subject Headings

BISAC Subject Headings are put out by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). These headings are industry standard for informing industry professionals (booksellers, librarians, distributors, etc.) and readers what category your book falls into. In other words, no one needs to wonder whether your story is fiction or nonfiction. The subject headings tell them. Industry standard books tote a BISAC Subject Heading on their back covers.

If you want a great book, you must pay attention to details. You don’t want someone to walk away from your book because they couldn’t get what it is about at a glance.

If you are unsure about what details you need to pay attention to, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has help for you. Our Members have access to the on-demand seminar, Create a Professional-Looking Book, as well as a downloadable Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book that includes everything you should include on your book’s front and back cover. Remember, your attention to detail will make the difference between your book being good or great.

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Photo courtesy of marcomagrini.

Is Your Book Cover Too Cluttered?

Writers love words. They often try to convey as much information as possible in words. This is great for a story or book, but not for marketing material.

Marketing material is all about catching someone’s attention. Good marketing or advertising copy draws the viewer in creating interest and intrigue so that the viewer wants to learn more. It doesn’t answer all the questions. It simply whets the appetite.

A book cover is marketing material. Like all advertising or marketing copy, its purpose is to draw a reader in.

One BookCrash reviewer recently said the following about a book she reviewed:

“The cover is attractive as well and I’m one of those who pays attention to such things. This one is nice and clean; not all cluttered up.”

The most attractive designs whether architectural or graphic are generally uncomplicated and streamlined. Your book cover should also be clean and uncluttered.

Take a look at the following two book covers. Which one does your eye gravitate to?

Notice whether it is the simpler or the more complex design. Is it the one with more white space?

The best way to ensure that your book cover is uncluttered is to limit the amount of words you put on the cover and make ample use of white space. White space simply refers to areas of a design that are not filled in with text, images or embellishments.

Proper use of white space focuses the viewer’s eye to the key elements of your design.
Think “less is more” when designing or choosing a design for your next book cover.

Leave empty spaces and ensure that your book’s cover does not look cluttered. Uncluttered book covers are more appealing.

Consider the following four design elements to help keep your book’s cover uncluttered and engaging:

  1. Use white space to create focus.
  2. Use spacing between letters in the title.
  3. Make one aspect of your design prominent so the eye knows where to focus.
  4. The title and picture should be easily seen from a few feet away and in a thumbnail sketch.

Your book’s cover is your book’s number one marketing tool. Cleverly designed and uncomplicated book covers grab readers’ attention.

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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.

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