Why is Cover Design So Important?

Yes, Customers Judge A Book By Its Cover

If you think customers don’t judge a book by its cover, think again. Just go to a bricks and mortar store and meander around watching people browse the bookshelves. These customers are judging the books they are seeing without reading a single word on the inside of the book. First impressions matter—a lot—and a book’s cover is its first impression. In fact, the cover is the primary marketing tool in a publisher’s arsenal. So nailing the cover design is essential to getting customers to judge the book favorably.

Designing Book Covers Is Serious Business

Diana Urban of BookBub recounts a case where an author went from selling only a few copies to over 1,000 per day by changing the cover on her book. That’s serious business. A poorly conceived and badly designed cover can kill sales even before the book is released, because it will be the image displayed on bookstore websites along with the book description. An ugly or blurry image, illegible font, bad color choices, poorly conceived design scheme, etc., give a bad first impression. The single goal of the cover is to grab the customer’s attention. If it gets the person to do something more than put the book back on the shelf, that’s a victory. Cover design can be as cheap as $100 or run into the low five figures. Publishers shouldn’t equate paying a ton of money for cover design with the expectation of high sales. Beyond the cover design is the information relayed on the jacket, in the book description, and other factors that lead to customers buying books. However, the more attractive and communicative the cover, the better the chances of customers picking up the book, which increases potential sales.

Get All The Input You Can

Some authors micromanage cover design and others seem almost like they could care less. As the frontline marketing piece for the book, it would seem pretty important for the author to give input to the publisher and designer. How does the author imagine the book looking face-out in a bookstore? Beyond the author, it’s good to get actual customer input. Again, Diana Urban gives practical suggestions on how to solicit real and reliable customer input before you go to press, by doing qualitative or quantitative research. Get input from the sales force, who will use the cover to present the title to booksellers. Ask the marketing and publicity team for their creative and practical suggestions. A problem that would be obvious to one person, another person may never even think about.

Further, the design process isn’t about pleasing the author, or the publisher, but about pleasing customers. After all, they will be the ones buying the book. Get input on the big picture factors such as concept and feel, as well as the nitty-gritty aspects of text and graphics—trim size, typeface, colors, image, space, light vs. dark, balance, placement of icons or award seals, and so forth. Have the designer create 4 or 5 samples with a range of looks, not all the same with minor variations. Based on the input you receive from whomever you test the samples with, modify the best design to hit the bulls-eye. Then run that final cover by key stakeholders, both in-house and in the marketplace. Never forget that selling books is the ultimate goal of publishing the book in the first place. Cover design is so important because customers get their first impression of your book from its cover. A good impression translates into a sale; a bad impression results in no sale, plus the possibility of discouraging future sales.

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