3 Ways Your Cover Sells Your Novel

by Emilie Hendryx, @eacreativephoto

May name is Emilie and I judge books by their covers.

There. I’ve said it!

I know we’re all told not to, but I do and I’d wager you do as well. We’re told it’s what’s on the inside that matters, and in a way that’s true, but most of the time we won’t make it past a bad cover to see the inside.

I recently wrote a post on my blog titled The Truth About Book Cover Design. In it, I laid out specifics on what makes a book cover “bad” and why you shouldn’t try and design your cover yourself. In this post, I’d like to focus more specifically on why having a good book cover matters.

Before we get to that you must realize this simple concept first:

Your book cover design is essential to selling your book.

I want to stress this because some people will argue that the cover design isn’t as important as say…editing. I’d agree that editing is hugely important, but if your cover is (dare I say it?) ugly, many readers won’t venture past the cover to the content.

I know that there are loyal readers who will see past the cover, so this isn’t a blanket statement, but if you really want sales, my personal belief is that your cover is a major weapon in your selling-arsenal.

Let’s take a look at three aspects of how your cover sells your book.

1) The Looks

A stunning cover will sell a book on looks alone. This isn’t true for every reader, but I have interacted with many people online who will buy a book based solely on its cover, only to figure out what it’s about afterward. This may be shocking to some of you who are loyal “back cover copy” readers or even the poplar “first line/paragraph/chapter” judger, but it’s true. They do exist.

The Bookstagram Phenomenon
For those of you who don’t know, there is a whole community of “Bookstagrammers” on Instagram. Basically, the term “Bookstagram” means that an Instagram account is devoted exclusively to photography of books. I run such an account (@createexploreread) and a cover design is absolutely crucial in this setting. I can’t begin to recount how many times I’ve seen someone post that they love a cover and will purchase the book just because of that cover! On an aesthetic, visual platform like Instagram, having a good book cover design is crucial.

2) The Genre

How your book cover depicts the genre of your book will affect how, and to whom, it sells. I recently gave some feedback to a friend of mine on two cover options her publishing house had given her. They were both well done, professional designs and either would have looked lovely sitting on a shelf in Barnes & Noble. But there was a problem! The font the designer had chosen indicated a certain type of genre, one her book was not in.

The problem? Even having a wonderful cover isn’t enough if the image displayed tricks your reader. If I walked in to a bookstore and saw her book on a shelf, I might have passed right by it because the genre the font depicted isn’t a type of genre I prefer to read.

I may be able to more accurately describe what I don’t like about a cover based on the fact that I design them (and spend hours looking at books), but I’m sure you all have gut feelings about certain books based on their design. Why is this? Because a good designer will take into account the market for your book. They will create a cover to stand out as it fits in.

Isn’t that an oxymoron? It will stand out because it will be a unique and well-done design (hopefully!), but it also must fit within the proper genre. You don’t put dragons on the front of romance novels unless it’s a fantasy/romance. You don’t have someone in space if it’s strictly an historical novel. See what I mean?

Fun exercise: Go to your local bookstore and start to really see the covers. Visit different sections and take a look around. What types of design elements seem to be a common thread in a genre? What types of fonts are used? What colors, images, or shapes? Can you guess what genre a book is without reading the back cover copy or looking at the section title?

3) The Marketing

Your cover is part of your marketing. When done well, your book cover will attract your reader with its beauty and alert them to your genre. It will give them a taste of your novel and hopefully lure them in. Then the rest is up to you, the author, to seal the deal with your writing!

What does this mean for you, the author? That you must be able to trust your designer. If you’re hiring one yourself, make sure they understand your genre and the look you’re going for. If you’re with a traditional house, make sure your cover can “compare” on a bookshelf with other titles like it. A good designer will already be striving for these things.

Lastly, if you know your designer is good at what they do, trust their instincts!

What type of “cover judger” are you? Do you pay attention to book covers? What draws you to a cover?

If you’re interested in hearing a talk I did recently about this very subject, you can view it here.

3 Ways Your Cover Sells Your Novel by @eacreativephoto on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2emc6RG

Your book cover design is essential to selling your book. #bookcover #coverdesign @eacreativephoto on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2emc6RG

Many readers won’t venture past a bad cover to the content.~ @eacreativephoto on @NovelRocket #writing http://bit.ly/2emc6RG

Emilie Hendryx
is a freelance writer, photographer, and graphic designer living in Northern California. She’s a member of ACFW, writes Young Adult fiction, and spends more time on Instagram than she probably should. With a heart for youth and a love of genuine social media connections, she’s built a thriving community around her Instagram platform and brand: CreateExploreRead. She’s got a soft spot in her heart for animals and a love for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time, you can find her designing fun, bookish items for her Etsy and Society6 shops all while drinking too much coffee.

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