Exceptional Book Covers

When it comes to selling books, book covers matter even for ebooks. Your book cover design is one of the most important marketing tools used to sell your book. Investing in a well-designed book cover is worth it. Some experts estimate that 80% of all books are sold based on their book cover design. Although I think that this figure is a little high, I do know that a poor book cover will deter sales.

Every year, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) hosts the ECPA / dp Book Cover Award. To nominate a title for this award, a publisher must be a member of ECPA. Three books are chosen each year.

For 2011, the following book covers were chosen as having exemplary designs. They are:

  • Six Way to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl, Author: Dannah Gresh, Publisher: Harvest House
  • Folks, This Ain’t Normal, Author: Joel Salatin, Publisher: Faithwords
  • Produced by Faith, Author: DeVon Franklin, Publisher: Howard Books

Book cover design matters. Studying winning book cover designs can help you know how to pick a good book cover for your next title.

Look at these award-winning book covers and their various design elements. The ECPA / dp Book Cover Award winners are chosen based on how the book cover design elements match the characteristics of their intended audience. Knowing your audience and what appeals to them is important in designing a good book cover that will drive sales.

If you are looking for an affordable book cover design for your next book, check out 99Designs. This service allows you to get many cover ideas from many different designers. First you set a price for your cover design ranging from $195 up. Then, you describe your book cover design requirements to the group of designers on 99Designs. Next, you sit back while dozens of professional designers submit concepts for your review. Last, you pick one you like and pay for the cover design you want to keep.

Book cover design does matter. After all, tasteful, visually appealing, and professionally designed book covers will drive both traditional print books and e-book sales.Bookmark and Share

What Makes a Good Book Cover?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Such is also true, I believe, for book covers. Where one person will be drawn to a book cover due to its image and design structure, another will find the design a turn-off.

A book’s cover is one of the book’s most important marketing tools. The cover is displayed wherever a book is listed. Publishers should put great thought and effort into obtaining the best cover design they can find for their books.

Finding the right cover design for your new book is always difficult. Yes, there are some guidelines that all book covers should follow. For example, the title should be able to be easily read from at least 6 feet away and preferably from across a standard room. Cover art should follow what is popular. If fiction book covers are using painted art, then so should yours. If they are using photos, then so should yours. Otherwise, your book will look out-of-date or out-of-sync.

However, there are many other elements of a cover design. Just go to a local bookstore – or online bookstore – and browse the covers. They vary greatly.

One way to get a good feel for what makes a good book cover is to look at books that have won awards for their cover design.

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) recently announced the winners of their 2010 Book Cover Award, sponsored by ECPA and Dickinson Press. This award recognizes the industry’s outstanding and most effective book covers that best connect the book design to their intended consumer.

The award was given for three books.

Domesticated Jesus by Harry L. Kraus, Jr. and published by P&R Publishing was one winner. The book’s cover strengths included atypical imagery, edgy design, copy that challenges, and an image that evokes curiosity.

52 Things Kids Need from a Dad by Jay K. Payleitner and published by Harvest House Publishers was another winner. This book’s cover strength was cited as a strong appeal in image and copy toward cultivating strong family relationships.

Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller and published by Thomas Nelson also won. This book’s cover strengths included bold images, color and design, entertaining, and the cover copy emphasizing new.

I hope viewing these cover design winners inspires you in the design of your next book’s cover.

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It’s All in the Definition

Bowker recently announced that they were starting a manuscript submission service at BowkerManuscriptSubmissions.com.

This Internet-based service allows authors to upload manuscripts for a fee in the hopes that publishing houses will read their manuscript and decide to offer them a contract. For just $99 anyone desiring to have his manuscript published can upload it to the Bowker Manuscript Submissions website.

Bowker decided to open this new website after they saw how “highly successful” the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s (ECPA) similar website, ChristianManuscriptSubmissions.com, has been. ECPA has managed Christian Manuscript Submissions for 10 years. This site charges $98 to upload a Christian manuscript for Christian publisher members of ECPA to consider.

Here is my question: Just what defines “highly successful?” By “highly successful,” do they mean that ECPA has made a good amount of money over the past 10 years from the many aspiring authors who uploaded their manuscripts to the Christian Manuscript Submissions website?

Or, by “highly successful” do they mean that publishers have discovered a large number of new authors generating best-selling titles?

Might I suggest that Bowker means the former? After all, Bowker is a for-profit enterprise that is constantly looking for new streams of revenue to boost their bottom line. Bowker and ECPA make their money through the uploading of manuscripts to their websites, not from the publishers deciding to publish manuscripts featured on their sites.

In Bowker’s press release about their new service, they only mention one author, Susan Meissner, who was discovered by Harvest House Publishers via the Christian Manuscript Submissions website. Of course, they fail to mention that it was back in 2003 that Susan’s manuscript was discovered.

The Christian Manuscript Submissions website shows book covers for nine books published from their website and lists eight testimonials from authors. Five of the eight author testimonials come from authors whose book covers are also featured (in other words they appear twice). Therefore, Christian Manuscript Submissions actually only lists 12 books published from manuscripts on their website. At least one of the author testimonials dates back to 2002 and two of the authors books were published through subsidy presses (where the author paid to have the book published).

Now, I am open to the idea that Christian Manuscript Submissions has actually had more than 12 manuscripts from their website turned into books in the past 10 years. However, even twenty manuscripts in 10 years does not scream “highly success” unless you are defining success by the number of manuscripts uploaded since that is where you make your money.

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Christian Book-Buying Behavior

Each year, the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) puts out a Consumer Demographics & Buying Behaviors Report on Christian book shoppers. The report costs $599 for non-ECPA members, pricing it out of the majority of small publishers’ budgets.

Being a small publisher, in addition to the Director of Christian Small Publishers Association, I find the price too steep. So, I make sure that I read the press release that ECPA sends out about their report each year. This release usually contains a few interesting and important statistics about Christian book-buying.

Here are a few of the nuggets from this year’s press release for the 2009 report:

Christian fiction (19%) nearly rivaling Bible purchases (23%) among Christians was among the key findings from the report.

Christian fiction continues to grow. This finding indicates that Christians are looking for clean wholesome books for pleasure reading. Historically, small and self-publishers have been told that fiction is the hardest sell. I think this data indicates that is changing.

Households with combined incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 purchased the most Christian nonfiction and fiction books.

Solid middle-class families purchase the most books. This data is not new, but shows that Christians mirror the general population when it comes to income and book-buying behavior. Targeting middle-class Christians is a good strategy when selling books.

Active Christians, described as evangelicals having high belief and high church involvement, in the 18- to 29-year-old demographic purchased a smaller share of books compared with all book buyers in that age range.

This finding, although it did not surprise me, depressed me. While I have talked before about the decline of book reading in the younger generations, this finding indicates that Christian young adults are reading even less than the general young adult population when they should be reading more.

A year ago, I posted the following quote on this blog:

Reading Christians are growing Christians. When Christians cease to read, they cease to grow. ~John Wesley

I fear that our Christian witness in the United States is being weakened by our lack of spiritual contemplation and knowledge. I pray that younger Christians will begin to read and grow so that the message of Christ may go forth in power and change lives.

It may be that we just need some creative marketing methods that speak to this age-group to reach these younger Christians. Do you have any good ideas for marketing to this generation?

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