Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Here’s the good news for authors: Nowadays every book cover is face out…online.
Now the bad news: Every book cover is face out.
Most of us readers used to discover books in bookstores. I can recall skimming the spines on the shelves to locate clients’ books. I would rearrange that shelf to put every client’s book face out. I figured well-known authors’ books would be sought out even if their covers weren’t staring at you, but newer authors needed all the help they could get. (I also assumed the store’s staff would undo my rearranging at some point.)
That was an easy way to make sure my clients’ books stood out in at least every store I visited.
But today, it’s much tougher to get your book noticed, as every book’s cover, rather than spine, greets you when you buy online. The problem, of course, is that you have to be searching in just the right way for you to even see a cover that beckons you to look more closely at the book.
So what does it take to make your book cover stand out?
That means the cover has to look great as a physical book and as a postage stamp–what I call “Amazon size.” When your book’s cover design is first unveiled to you (they are sent via email), play around with the sizing. Look at it in a size that allows you to take in the whole cover, as if it were face out in a bookstore.
- Can you readily make out what the image is?
- How readable is the title, subtitle, and author byline?
- If an endorsement or review quote is on the cover, how easy is that to read?
Obviously not every word on the cover can be gigantic, but sometimes font choices, how bold the letters are, and the colors used can affect how readily a potential buyer can grasp the cover’s details.
Preview what the cover will look like by reducing it to Amazon size. Ask yourself the same questions as you did for the larger version.
If your answers raise concerns, bring them up to your agent (or to the individual who sent you the email if you’re sans agent). If you have an agent, don’t rush to proclaim how gobsmacked you are with your cover. Discuss the design with your agent first; he or she has an experienced eye and should weigh in on the design as well. If you tell the publisher you love the cover without waiting for your agent’s input, it’s hard for the publisher to pay attention to the agent, who might well have some valid points about ways to improve the cover.
Sometimes the cover works beautifully in print but that design doesn’t translate well into the digital version. For example, if the design has a textured background, it might not work digitally but appears like smears rather than texture. In those cases. publishers might decide to have two slightly altered versions–one for print and one for online.
Quotes from a significant endorser or a phrase from a fabulous review will appear on the cover of the print version, but they wouldn’t be visible digitally. Quotes or a “burst” that announces the book has won has award, must be handled differently online. Ask the marketing staff at your publishing house to have that cover quote start out the book’s online description. Having that quote in bold or a larger font and separated from the rest of the description will help to convey its importance.
A book’s cover should have a simple image.
Having an illustration with lots of details on the cover used to be a great way to get someone to pick up a book to take a closer look. But when a cover has to work Amazon size, it’s much better to have a simple image on the cover.
I’ve picked some covers from a recent Amazon best-seller list for you to consider how successfully they work, and I’ve strung them along the side of this post. I think you’ll immediately see what I mean about why one cover works and another doesn’t.
Randomly pull two books off your shelf and critique the covers. How well do they do in the “face out” test?
What 3 elements make a book cover stand out? Click to tweet.
Good and bad news: Every book’s cover is face out online. Click to tweet.