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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Are You Meeting Readers’ Expectations?

He woke me at 2:30 in the early morning hours. My teenage son said he had a stomachache and felt nauseous. After about a half-hour, we decided he had the signs of appendicitis and rushed him to the emergency room.

Four hours and one ambulance ride later, the boy was being checked into the Children’s hospital. During admission, the nurse asked him if he would like a visit by the chaplain. Scared and nervous about his upcoming appendectomy, my son said yes.

Anesthesia, surgery, recovery, and finally checkout to go home followed. On the drive home, my son remarked that he was disappointed that the chaplain never came to pray for him.

Simply by asking the child if he would like a chaplain visit, the nurse set up the expectation in my son that a chaplain would come pray for him. She didn’t state, “If available, would you like a chaplain to visit you.” She simply asked if my son if he wanted a visit.

You, too, set up expectations in your readers. You may not even be aware of the expectations you construct. Your book’s title, the cover art, your back-cover copy, and even endorsements create expectations in the reader.

A couple years ago, a member author of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) placed his book in CSPA’s books for bloggers review program, BookCrash. The book received mediocre reviews. Most of the reviews commented that the book was not quite what the reviewer expected.

The author was unhappy about this. He told me that the 100-word description that BookCrash allowed was not enough to convey to the reader what the book was about. He stated that if he had been allowed to write a longer description, reviewers would not have had a wrong expectation about the book.

I listened to his opinion. However, I believe the real problem was the title of the book. The title of this particular book set up a wrong expectation. Upon reading the title, I believed the book would provide a certain message. However, when I carefully read the description the author had written, it did not match the expectation the title raised for me.

Authors, choose your book’s title and cover art carefully. These are the first two things a reader considers when checking your book out. Both the title and cover art set up powerful expectations of what to expect from your book. Be sure that yours reflect the actual contents of your book.

Test your title and your cover art with friends and fans. Ask them what type of book they expect from the cover art and what expectation the title of your book raises in them. Make sure the title and cover art for your next book only raise expectations that you will meet.

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Photo courtesy of CongerDesign.

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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The Thumbnail Rule

I have a dear friend who is an artist and owns an art gallery. For years, she has provided art instruction to artists seeking to improve their skills. Here is what she tells her students:

I always tell my artists that composition is king. If pieces don’t hold together and look good in a thumbnail size, where you can see the composition at a glance, the art won’t work in person or up close.

Consider: The cover of your book is a work of art. It too must hold up to the rule of looking good in thumbnail size.

YG3 Cover

For years, I have told authors that the title printed on the cover of their book needs to be easily read from across the room. Now, with more and more books being purchased online, it is also important that your book cover also look good in a thumbnail size.

I have found that most books whose titles can easily be read from across the room generally also look good in the thumbnail size.

I recently went round and round on this issue with the cover designer for the third edition of my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace (releasing next month). She was not sending me designs where the title was easily read from a distance or in a thumbnail sketch.

Now, I know that the title of this book is long, and thus the task before the designer was not an easy one. I told her that not every word needed to stand out since the title was so long. I just need the important words to stand out.

Finally, after going back and forth a number of times, and beginning to think we were never going to get there, I finally have a design that is legible from a distance and in a thumbnail size.

I urge you to follow this simple rule of thumb for your next book cover. Make sure the title is legible from across a room and also in a thumbnail size.

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