Shireen Jeejeebhoy – Why Are Book Covers So Important
I judge a book by its cover. Don’t you? I judge it for three reasons:
1. Does it catch my eye?
2. Does it visually tell me what series it’s a part of?
3. Can I discern its tiny self on a bookstore website?
Reason number one: covers need to be catchy. And they need to match the material. After all, you wouldn’t want to see lace and historical mansions with swirly letters on the cover of a thriller where the protagonist hunts down his man with his gun firmly in hand. The problem I was finding more and more with traditionally published books was that the cover (and back cover copy) had nothing to do with the story itself. As a reader, I found that annoying. It felt like I was being misled. But it isn’t surprising it happens when the marketing department can create both cover and copy without ever having read the manuscript. Indie authors don’t have that handicap.
Reason number two: series need to be held together visually. A good series cover design can do that. The Agatha Christie redesign where her name appears on the top in large, italic letters, where the illustration is simple and takes up the entire cover, where the colours are strong and fit with the age in which she wrote, is instantly identifiable and tells the reader that this is one of Christie’s books. You perceive that in a second. This is why I hate when publishers change covers mid-series. It takes longer to figure out whether the book in your hand belongs to the series you’re reading or to a new series or a stand-alone novel. The only time I would agree with a change is when it makes for an obviously stronger series design.
And so if you’re writing a series, take the time to create a template in which only the illustration and perhaps the background colour will change. Make sure you get enough feedback that you know the template will work over the years.
If you’re not writing a series but write only in one genre, you may still want to consider using the same font and title style for your books.
Reason number three: Basically, make ebook covers simple, make the letters big, make them easy to read and discern even at a tiny size. To see what I mean, check out book covers in Amazon widgets. If they look like a mish-mash of text and colours, they’re not working. If you can read the title and recognize the illustration for what it is, it’s a winner. Being able to read the author name, IMHO, is only important if the author is well known, like with a Margaret Atwood or a Peter Robinson. In that case, not only should the author name be discernible but also at the top of the cover with the title in the middle or bottom. A simple, strong ebook cover design will grab readers’ attention first.