Good Cover(age)

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is an over used cliche and in the world of eBooks it is a piece of advice that most are ignoring anyway.  Your book cover might be the only chance you get to catch the attention of the browsing public as they scroll through hundreds of thumbnail images.  It is like a tiny billboard screaming for attention from a sea of other tiny, competing billboards.  Title and genre decidedly play a part in narrowing down one’s choice of a book, but don’t discount the impact that cover art plays in the sale of a book.

Design is all around us.  People tend to gravitate towards good design and shy away from poor design.  When Apple released the original iPhone in 2007, the public couldn’t get enough of the palm-sized, glass and chrome slabs, which eventually spawned an army of wannabe competitors.  Today the sleek, glass front and thin, rectangular body has grown ubiquitous among smartphones.  The design is streamlined and functional, and lets face it, looks pretty cool.

photo illustration of a shoe box phone

Original mobile phones were functional but lacked imagination. Don't let that happen to your book cover.

Now think back to when the first cellular phones came out in 1984.  They were functional and used cutting-edge technology of the time, but the shoe box sized phones were ugly and cumbersome, not to mention expensive (nearly $4,000).  They were big on engineering, size, and price but short on design.

So, which approach do you want to take advantage of when representing your work on the electronic bookshelf—the brick phone or the iPhone?  One might think that a rectangle or two of color, a nice type face, the title and author’s name all spelled correctly are all that are necessary to promote your book.  Maybe you’ve been told to keep it simple.  I mean, what more does one need on the cover, right?  Wrong. How about including something that visually piques the interest of the credit card holder? Why not give some visual clues about what lies within?

two sample book cover designs

Which one would you rather read?

You’ve poured hundreds of hours into crafting a book that you are proud of.  You’ve sent it through an editor and possibly found someone to format it for you, why then would you want to scrimp on the one aspect that provides the customer with their very first impression?  Like it or not, how the book looks on the “outside” reflects upon what one can expect to find on the “inside.”

If you have the time, skills, tools, and experience to design a quality cover, then have at it.  Who else would know better how to distill the essence of a book down to a single graphic than the one who wrote it?  However, if you don’t have clue about design, then I would encourage you to look to someone who does.  Including a well thought out and executed cover to your eBook will help you reap rewards in the virtual marketplace.


11 comments on “Good Cover(age)

  1. Four days ago, I had a conversation with my book cover artist at http://www.infinitypublishing.com on what I want on my book’s cover, so this topic is front and center on my mind as my second book goes to publication. (www.MyFirstThreeHusbands.com)
    The truth is, people do judge a book, a magazine, a newspaper… by its cover. Great article. Finding a professional to create an image that expresses the essence of the book’s message is essential to a writer’s success.

    • Jennifer– Thanks for your comment. As a graphic artist I strongly believe the cover is the second most important aspect of your book. The first is obviously the content. I hope you have a good relationship with your artist. Let me know if you want to bounce anything off of me…

      • Hi Andy,
        Infinity’s got a good book cover designer, and the services come with the book package. He listens well and has lots of experience. Thanks so much for the offer to give input on this next cover. I might run it by you for a professional opinion. It’s anyone’s guess when I’ll see the first proof. Hey, I just noticed that the sidebars on your blog (deep red) might be the same color as my book cover. It’s what I ordered anyway. We’ll see!

        • Jennifer– I’m serious about being happy on giving you feedback on cover proposals from a designer’s point of view if you are interested. Good luck with all of it! Andy

  2. I may be attracted to a book by its cover (sometimes), but I rarely decide whether to look further based just on that cover. Oddly, the “good” cover on the left would turn me off completely. The first thing it would convey to me is that it’s about selling or producing something. Then, seeing the words “a novel,” it would tell me that that it’s probably a comedy, or at least humorous or quirky. Sorry, not interested. The “plain” cover might at least lead me to inquire what the novel is about.

    But I’m not generally a typical book buyer.

  3. Catana– Thanks for your perspective. I think you summed it up with your closing line. You are “not a typical book buyer.” People do make judgements on the basis of a cover. You are right about the cover on the left trying to convey a humorous and quirky story. I feel that a good cover should give the prospective reader clues about what lies within. If you are not interested in humorous and quirky, then my cover has done its job by steering you away from something you have no intest in reading.

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  6. For myself, I tend to love unusual covers that stand out from the crowd. I like covers that make me think and challenge me. Especially in the ebook world where there are thousands upon thousands of little thumbnail images, the ones that catch my eye with a great cover – whether that be bold colours or an unusual image – are the ones that I click through to read more about. Coming from a designer sales industry, that first impression is all about the packaging…Great packaging makes the buyer pick up the product and want to know more about what is inside the packaging. A cover is a book’s packaging. I agree. Why would you skimp on this vital aspect if you have spent so much time on your product? Give it the best packaging possible. That means a cover that is irresistible.
    Great post. 🙂
    – Kim

  7. Perfectly stated, Kim. The goal of a cover is to draw the readers in. If everyone is scrolling past your book because the design does nothing to engage them, you’re not going to sell books.

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