Why Book Covers are So Important
By AFN Clarke
Have you passed up reaching for a book because the cover didn’t enthrall you? Or had your eyes glaze over as you scanned rows of books, then suddenly been arrested by a cover that held your gaze and said “choose me”? I know it’s happened to me countless times. And therein lies the main reason why book covers are so important.
Book covers do sell books, no matter what anyone else tries to tell you. Of course other things like description and writing style are important – but a reader has to be moved to pick up the book in the first place. The impression you make in the first few seconds is the one that counts.
Readers, whether they consciously know it or not, want some sense of certainty and a feeling of anticipation from the cover of a book – information about the genre, what it’s about, and most crucially, what they might feel when they read it. The way I see it is, that as they look at a book every little piece of information gets whisked away onto the scales of justice in their brain. One side of the scale says “buy”, the other side says “no”. Like grains of sand the evidence piles up till the scales tip and the reader has overwhelming evidence to buy the book. And it all happens in the blink of an eye. No pun intended.
So what tips the scales?
- Firstly, are all the elements congruent with each other? If your title screams “thriller”, the colours are pale and romantic, and the font childlike, you’re causing confusion in your readers.
- Does the cover imply the genre of your book?
- Do the images or graphics give more information about the story, location, characters?
- What’s the emotional impact of the cover? Images, shapes and colours engender specific feelings in readers, and marketing gurus tell us that people buy more based on emotional response than logic. So is your cover dark and menacing? Warm and inviting? Is your font rounded and friendly or sharp and explosive? And if the design is still a total mystery, is it intriguing and puzzling enough to warrant further investigation?
- Is the title adding to your “buy me” pile? As authors, we agonise over each word of our story yet we often lose the plot when creating titles. Perhaps it’s why many of us aren’t good at Twitter – because we’re not used to expressing ourselves in 140 characters or less! That’s my excuse anyway. With fiction especially, avoid using words that are “downers” like torment, hardship, brutal, anguish, malevolent, lacerations, blood bath – unless very cleverly paired with other words or part of the horror genre – as they’re a turn off. There are countless stories in author forums about how sales soared after a simple change of name .. so don’t discount the power of a title – and the power of change.
“Presumably the marketing department keyed in ‘self-important, depressing, award-winning, Literary-with-a-capital-L’ and hit Return, and this is what the machine gave them. (They also added the fairly redundant subtitle, ‘A Novel’. Just in case we might have mistaken it for a comical sports book.)
Go figure! As with all rules, they are made to be broken J
AFN CLARKE is a full-time author, son of a British MI6 operative, pilot, sailor, screenwriter, father of four who’s lived all over the world, served as an officer in Britain’s elite Parachute Regiment, and recovered from the physical/emotional traumas of war. He’s insatiably curious, loves heated discussions and has a rascally sense of humour. His bestselling memoir CONTACT was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award winning BBCTV film. He now writes fiction of various genres – the Thomas Gunn thriller series (The Orange Moon Affair; The Jonas Trust Deception with more coming soon); political thrillers (An Unquiet American); human drama (Dry Tortugas); humour/satire (Dreams From The Death Age; Armageddon); and psychological horror (Collisions). All available now at the Amazon Kindle Store.
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