In a book store and even online you have only a split second to capture the interest of a browser. The first thing they notice is the cover image. If that grabs them there’s a good chance they will take the next step. In a store that would be picking up the book and looking at the back cover. Online it might be reading the brief description. If they take that step they may or may not buy, but if they don’t they definitely won’t buy.
Self-published books have a reputation for having terrible covers. Too often the author uses artwork done by a relative who “paints a little” or “was quite good at art in school.” The result may look good to the author, just as every baby is beautiful to its parents. However, to an impartial observer the cover often says “amateur.”
There are companies that will create cover artwork for you. Unfortunately that’s no guarantee that you’ll get a good result. For instance, a company called PublishNation offers to format your book, design a cover, get you an ISBN number and list your book on Amazon, all for either £95 (in a recent ad) or £75 (price on their website). That’s about $100 to $150, a fair price for the service. However, here are some of their covers (I assume they created these for the authors):
Tip number one: Make your title easy to read. Here they've gone for the ye old typography because it matches the story. As you can see, "Wembley" is easy to read because the contrast between it and the background is strong. The "King Arthur goes" part isn't, because although there's a strong contrast in terms of color, they're both roughly the same tone. You don't really need to understand color theory to get this right, you just need to reduce the image to the size Amazon uses. If you can read it easily with a quick glance, it's fine. Otherwise, change it.
* When deciding on the color of type and background, think light vs. dark. You can have light lettering on a dark background, or dark lettering on a light background.
* Keep the background consistent in tone. On this cover part of the author's name is easy to make out because it's against a light background; however, other parts aren't because they're against darker bits of the figure's outfit.
Tip number two: Find or create an appropriate image. This isn't the worst one I've ever seen, but it doesn't quite work, either. The background doesn't suggest Wembley and King Arthur has that glassy-eyed look of characters created in Poser.
By the way, I'm not saying anything negative about these books themselves, just commenting on the cover images.
Here's the next one. Before reading my comments on it, what do you think could be improved?
Tip number 2: Pick an image that has an impact. Here the cover features two shots of airplanes and a larger image of evacuee children. (In case you couldn't make out the title of the book, it's "The Evacuee Experience.")
Here's a quick reworking:
I have used only an evacuee children photo and worked with it in Photoshop to zoom in on a smaller number of kids and heightened the contrast to make the image eaiser to read. (I had to use a different image but it was similar before I zoomed in, eliminated distracting background elements, etc.). Again, we're concerned at this point with capturing people's attention within a second or less.
I chose a typewriter font because it suggests the bureaucratic element of processing all these children.
Instead of putting the author's name under the title and subtitle I've positioned it at the bottom. I've put a grey rectangle behind it. Without that, the variable tones of the background would have made it more difficult to read.
Let's look at one more. Again, what do you think could be improved?
The title is easy to read, but in a very boring typeface. The image has little impact because there's nothing going on in it, no clear point of interest, and not a lot of relevance to the topic. The sorcerer may well live in a castle with walls like that, but so what? The title is good--I want to know why the sorcerer is repentant, what has he done? But the image doesn't build on that initial curiosity.
Tip 3: Combine the title and the image to create a dynamic effect. On this cover the big brown burgundy box that is the background of the top part is dead space. It's neat but it's boring. Here's a very quick reworking of that part to show you what I mean:
I'm not suggesting this is a great cover yet, but I think by choosing a better typeface, integrating the title rather than blocking it off, and by putting it at a slight angle, we get a more dynamic effect. Also the larger amount of black sky might suggest that whatever the sorcerer has done has led to something dark and threatening.
I hope these two authors don't mind me playing around with their covers a bit. Again, I'm not being critical of the books, just saying the current covers could be better.
When it's time to create your cover, I suggest you find a good graphic designer. You can start with a Google search for "book cover designers." Take a look at samples of their work.
If you like those, hire the designer and ask them to send you thumbnails (small sketches) of the designs they suggest for your book. Of course you can have input but if you're hiring an expert, don't second-guess them. People don't tell their doctors how to do their job, or their car mechanics, but designers will confirm that clients often act as though they, not the designer, know what's best or will suggest a color because "it's my favorite."
The bottom line: your book cover is your most important ambassador. Don't let your content down by packaging it badly.
(You'll find more helpful information on how to market your book or ebook in "Your Writing Coach," published by Nicholas Brealey and also in "Marketing for Entrepreneurs," published by Pearson. For 100 inspirational case studies of how people have marketed themselves and their products or services, get "Do Something Different," published by Virgin Business Books with an introduction by Sir Richard Branson. All are available from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)
The first of the ten crucial things to do to market your book: Marketing your book 1
The second of the ten crucial things to do to market your book: Marketing your book 2