Home » Covers, Ebooks, Self-Publicity » Cover Design is Key

Cover Design is Key

25 February 2012

From Indie fantasy author Ty Johnston on Publetariat:

Some might argue covers are not important, that what is behind those covers is what’s truly important, but they are missing the bigger picture (quite literally, when you think about it). Even if you believe good covers are not important, you would be hard pressed to argue that a bad cover can be helpful.

. . . .

A good cover can hold a reader’s attention. Even if a reader passes on your book the first time around, a solid cover might draw them back again. A great cover can stick in a reader’s mind, and that can propel a reader to pick up your book at some future point.

Also, while there are those who might believe covers do not sell books, the truth is a good cover could be the tipping point for customers. If a reader is on the fence about whether or not to purchase your book, a good cover might just be the thing to convince them.

. . . .

First of all, you need to keep in mind you are not designing only a book cover. You are also designing an e-book cover and an icon that has the potential to be seen by millions across the Web. Remember that word “icon,” because what you want your cover to be is iconic. You want it to stand out from the crowd, to draw the attention of customers and readers.

In my opinion, simple is better. Yes, there are plenty of complicated, artistic book covers out there that look good in a bookstore, but how many of them look good on Amazon or Smashwords? How many of them are even legible on a website? Most aren’t, so simple is better.

. . . .

Also, when it comes to e-books, you don’t really need a lot of small, extraneous type on your covers. I know authors love their blurbs, but unless you have one from Stephen King, it’s really a waste to put it on an e-book cover because it won’t be seen. Any type on an e-book cover beside the author’s name and the title should serve some purpose that helps the reader make up their mind whether or not they want to read the e-book. Information I deem relevant would include a blurb by the likes of Stephen King, obviously, but also could entail whether or not the e-book is part of a series, whether it is a short story or novella, etc. Skip putting a price on the cover, because prices can change.

Link to the rest at Publetariat 

Covers, Ebooks, Self-Publicity

16 Comments to “Cover Design is Key”

  1. This is a really good point. I discovered one of my favorite books of all time bc I loved the cover and kept picking it up. Illusion by Paula Volsky…the paperback had no plot on the back like normal books, so I literally bought the book bc of the cover itself. (Realized on my 4th reading the plot was tucked inside with the blurbs…I’d have bought it the first time I saw it if I could have found the summary!)

  2. Having great fun designing my first cover – there is SO much available on cover design that I feel I’ve had an entire course just from reading comments.
    It is a cover for a short story. At this stage, it isn’t worth finding someone to do it BUT I bought David Gaughran’s story Into the Woods just because of the beautiful cover – I HAD to have it.
    I have every intention of looking into proper cover designers for the big novel, but it makes me respect the whole process more to at least go through all the steps for myself.

  3. I have to agree with this. The cover is the first thing that the reader sees. It is what draws a person to your book initially. I have tried experimenting with different covers and it really makes a huge difference. Simple is key. Also, it is important to try to make the cover an illustrated “summary” of the book, so that the viewer/reader/potential buyer gets a feel for what the book is about by looking at the cover. I can’t stress enough how important this is.

  4. That would not be my experience — on the reader end of things anyway. When I was a teenager I was introduced to science fiction via a library pal who pulled Andre Norton’s Moon Of Three Rings out of the shelves and said “you have to read this.” I don’t even remember what the cover looked like — cover art for kids’ books in the 70s was indifferent at best. Anyway, years of hiding my scifi paperbacks inside my math book so no one would see the cheesy cover showing a green-skinned, big-boobed space maiden being molested by a purple alien with tentacles for hands followed. If I hadn’t already had a desire to read what was inside those covers (and which usually turned out to feature neither green, buxom space princesses nor oversexed purple aliens) I would have stayed far, far away from the scifi sections of libraries and book stores.

    I still don’t care for most cover art, and can’t remember the last time an impressive design made me open my wallet. When I look for a book to read I usually already have an author or story type in mind or have heard/read something about the book.

    • Ha ha, in general I agree with you…a lot of fantasy/sci-fi covers are terrible, and always have been. And then you get a handful that are beautiful (Illusion was a beautiful cover), or simply so different it catches your eye (thinking here of Joe Abercrombie’s first books, the parchment-style cover designs were really unique even though they were simple). Plus once you read the book and realize the cover in no way depicts or even particularly connects to the story within, you feel…almost cheated. Like there was a giant missed opportunity for them to show you a proper picture of the story.

      Romance is just as bad in a different way. Most romance covers are interchangeable, and my aesthetic judgments of them range from indifferent to terrible, but every now and then I’ll find one that draws my eye irresistibly.

      For me an outstanding cover is going to draw me to take a closer look at a book I would otherwise pass by. The blurb still has to grab me. The first few pages still have to grab me. Cover is irrelevant when I’m dealing with an author I already know or a book someone has told me about. It’s really just good as a discovery tool for getting people who might see your book on a shelf (or, these days, in a recommendation algorithm) to take a look at THIS book and not that other one next to it.

      • The covers to Volsky’s books are better than most fantasy/scifi book covers. Actually from what I’ve seen book covers are getting better for the genre. But it’s too late for me — I was burned by those awful, early covers and now if I pick up a book I have to force myself to look at the covers. I usually head right for opening the pages after looking at the blurb on the back cover (if there is one). If the text I skim doesn’t attract me I don’t buy the book. And even really good book covers tend to not match my own idea of what the characters in a story looks like. I’m just stubborn that way.

        One more thing: I’ve found that if I like a book cover, the work within will end up not being to my taste. Many YA novels have that gothy, wispy, misty, spooky cover art that I not-so-secretly like. But I am not the target audience, to say the least, of most YA, all of which seems to have the same plot: “girl with secret psychic powers falls in love with mysterious boy in her high school, is bullied by the popular girls, and talks a lot about her goth outfits and collection of Cure songs.”

  5. The cover is so important. It is what draws me in at a book store – almost as much as the title. The title and the cover are the true hooks of a book.

    • For me it’s the cover first, the title, the blurb, and reviews (if searching online) or cover quotes (if in a bookstore.) But the cover is definitely what catches my eye first.

  6. I worked in a Waldenbooks for 5 years in the 80s. When a book is competing with several thousand other books to catch a browser’s eye, a cover matters. I saw this first hand with the Fabio craze. We had several customers who came in and requested we hold back any and all books for them with covers featuring Fabio. They didn’t care who wrote them or what they were about. Not my place to judge how a person decides what book to buy, but I can say as bookseller in the trenches, the cover meant a whole lot to a certain reader/buyer segment.

    Even with e-books, I think a cover is important in that it has to catch the browser’s eye long enough for him/her to pause and click on the thumbnail to learn more (blurb, summary, etc.)

    As someone who has had two book covers on the same book and saw a significant jump in sales when the original cover of stock art was replaced with a digitally painted work by a freelance artist, I’m a firm believer in the power of good cover design.

    • I have also seen sales go up once a weak cover is replaced with a stronger one. Of course, there’s plenty of subjectivity – but my second short story had tremendous sales. I went back to the first story and re-did the cover, trying to match the feel of the second, stronger-selling title. It immediately began to sell better. :)

    • Grace,

      I also experienced something similar with one of my books that has two covers. It does make a difference.

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