Have you ever met someone for the first time who was so unimpressive that you walked away thinking, Wow, that was their best foot forward? I have. You’d think people would care about first impressions, especially when it counts. Well, I have news for you; your book cover is your first impression, and it really, really counts. Your book cover is a reader’s first impression of your work and will represent the quality of the interior, whether you like it or not. Unfortunately, most readers will choose to read your book based on how attractive or striking your cover looks.
Is that superficial? I don’t think so.
It’s my opinion that if an author spends little time or energy on their cover, they have likely spent too little time in other areas of the book as well, including plotting and editing. Is that always the case? No, it is not. I have seen several books come through The Kindle Book Review that have drab book covers or scream “Self-pubbed.” But then after investigating, I’ve discovered that the authors have received many great reviews. Unfortunately, the vast majority of books with poorly designed covers are not selling well. I can think of one in particular that not only has a poor book cover but is also priced at $4.99. This book has over forty excellent reviews, but guess how many books the author is selling? Not many. At the time of this writing, the book is ranked in the three-hundred-thousand range in the Kindle Store.
What a shame. I really think the author could sell more books if the cover and price were fixed.
I really hope your book is doing better than that. Your book cover will help sales or prevent them. Make it great, or pay someone to do it for you. Otherwise, you’re telling readers that your story is just as lousy as your cover, even if that isn’t the case.
Sometimes I’ll suggest to an author that they might have better luck selling their book if they invested in a professional cover. Unfortunately, the replies have been they would if they had the money or the cover has an emotional attachment or special meaning. Whatever. I published my books to sell them, not to watch them collect dust.
Here are a few suggestions that can help you improve your book cover(s) and improve your first impression:
- Keep it simple. Do not overdo it. Look at the best-selling indie book Hunter by Robert Bidinotto. This design is so simple it’s mind-boggling. There are three colors: a black-and-white image and gold font. Robert’s cover is simple and clean. Other examples of effective book covers are The List by J. A. Konrath, Run by Blake Crouch, and The Walk by Lee Goldberg. All three of these covers are simple and title-focused. There are no long subtitles, and the titles themselves are kept at a minimum of one or two words. Keep it simple, like the pros.
- Use complementary colors. The best color matches are those that are on opposite sides of the color wheel. Equally strong colors, like dark red and dark blue, tend to create a vibrating sensation with your eyes, making it difficult or unpleasant to look at. Stick with contrasting colors like white on black, white on red, yellow on blue, etc. Unless you’re a pro designer, I DO NOT recommend using the same colors in your font as in the background. Believe it or not, I’ve seen green fonts on top of trees in the cover art. Talk about amateur. Listen, if you’re not creative with covers, do whatever it takes to get a GREAT cover. Trade your editing skills or web-design skills with a cover artist or writer. Good covers sell.
- Use larger or bolder fonts that will show up in a tiny thumbnail. Not all covers need to have the look of a thriller, but you have to design your book cover according to how it’s going to look on other book pages. Unless you’re drawing readers to your book page via a direct link through your marketing efforts, you will probably sell more books by grabbing a reader’s attention from another book page. How? Do you remember the “Customers who bought this book, also bought …” section? Those books are only ¾” x ½” on my computer screen. That’s a small cover! This is why the thumbnail is a true litmus test for your cover. Shrink it down to about one inch and decide if you still like what you see. The covers I mentioned earlier all look great as thumbnails.
- Tell the truth. If your book is a drama, do not mislead your readers by creating a cover that makes it appear to be an on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller.
- Brand yourself. Do not make the title or your name small. The time for humility is past. You are a published author. You need to put your name out there and make it big. Hiding your identity by writing your name in a small font and placing it in an obscure corner will not garnish the attention you need as an author. No room for modesty here. You are not selling the title of your book; you are selling yourself. Be proud of what you’ve done.
- Create a layout and design that fits your genre and try to be consistent with the titles you publish in the future.
Here are a few of my latest cover designs ~>
The point of cover design is to draw a reader to the pages inside. It’s not about personal attachment. It’s not even about whether you like your cover or not. Cover art is about selling books.
A good ebook design is about convincing a reader to take the next step: clicking on your cover, which will lead them to your book page. If a reader clicks on your cover, they’ll give you a few more seconds to pitch your story. You won’t have much time to convince them to buy it, but at least your book cover got them there.
This post is an excerpt from my book, THE INDIE AUTHOR'S GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE. If you want more information on how you can sell more books, GET THIS BOOK!
Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.