An adaptation of a post previously published on my old blog, Literary Magic, 5/1/2011.
Let’s be honest. There’s no need to be polite when writing is at stake. There are some self-published authors out there who have book covers that are as poorly executed as the old Japanese Godzilla movies. Sure, they were enthralling for their time, but in this digital age, when virtually anyone can publish a book, it’s vital to have images that are as polished as your writing.
Maybe you’ve come across a book cover or two that looked something like this? Well, maybe not exactly like this. After all, not all books can be as alluring as Jessica Lange in King Kong, but the point is that there are a lot of book covers out there slapped together pretty poorly.
Despite the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover,” the book jacket is one of the vital selling tools of a book. We all know the adage is a symbolic parable to be taken figuratively, but when applied in today’s world, more so than ever with the influx of so many self-published books, if taken literally, the adage is all wrong. The cover is most often a potential reader’s first impression of a book, and whether you consciously realize it or not, you most certainly do judge a book by its cover.
When browsing the bookshelves and tables at the bookstore haven’t you ever found your hand immediately drawn to the cover that catches your eye? This applies to online book purchases where thumbnails must capture the essence of a book as well. The colors or the image, perhaps a fancy style of text, all are designed to not only convey the theme that lies within the interior pages, but also to entice you with a design aesthetic. What greater hurdle could there be in book marketing than to get the book into the consumers’ hands, or in the case of electronics, onto their top screen? It’s the first step in the sale of the book. Next of course, you read the synopsis and maybe the first few pages. These three steps are the tripod of decision making behavior in the book buying process, and in the case of the brick and mortar store at least, none of these actions take place without the design of the book cover speaking to you first.
In Verso’s 2010 Survey of Book-Buying Behavior, 22% of all surveyed readers cited the book cover as being of primary importance to their decision to purchase and this after author reputation and personal recommendation, two factors upon which the debut author or self-published author can’t depend at launch.
That being said, a poorly designed book cover can do more harm than good. Not only will the eye and hand pass over the book, but an amateurish graphic will subconsciously infer that perhaps the interior is just as amateur. Often a perfectly good self-published writer loses out because they decided to just wing it with a book cover that Aunt Susie or a nephew drew. Even in the case of traditional publishers, the publisher rather than the author, frequently takes the upper hand when choosing art for the cover because of its integral role in the marketing process.
More and more self-published authors are catching on to the idea that in order to compete, one must hire a professional illustrator. The cost for book cover design varies and even at the lowest rates can be a challenge to a writer’s budget, but in the end, the investment is will worth it, not only for the visual impact, but the technical aspects of meeting the publisher’s file specifications.
So tell me, what books have grabbed your attention lately because of their covers? And would you buy a book if the cover was badly created?