Book Covers Make Your First Impression
How often have you been browsing online or wandering the aisles of a bookstore when something caught your eye? Maybe it was a wizard in a back alley with a glowing staff, or a redhead with a machine gun facing off against a werewolf, but whatever the image was it arrested your attention and stopped you cold. It made you look at the book, and at least half the time (an arbitrary number I'm basing on absolutely nothing) it made you pick up the book to find out what the hell it was about. Maybe you bought the book, and maybe you didn't buy the book, but either way you noticed it. That's a good book cover's job; getting browsers to stop long enough for the author's words to suck them in. If your book cover doesn't do that, then you have a serious problem. That serious problem, of course, is that you'll have a hard time selling books.
Traditionally the publisher takes care of the book cover. It has a vested interest in selling a lot of copies, and as such takes the marketing aspect of book covers quite seriously. For indie publishers, self-published authors, and those who work on the bottom of the food chain though, a poorly made cover is often a dead giveaway. If your cover turns heads though, it doesn't matter who published you; your metaphorical foot is in the door.
What Makes a Good Book Cover?
There's a lot of debate over what a "good" book cover does or doesn't look like. Art is subjective, and it's impossible to guarantee how someone will or won't react to a given book cover. There are certain elements that make a book cover good from a marketing perspective, though.
|That got your attention, didn't it?|
That's sort of the reaction you're looking for.
What Makes a Bad Book Cover?
|Let's take this one step at a time...|
Let's start with the color scheme. The photograph is a gray scale that has both light and dark, which makes it difficult to focus on the foreground. Neither the title of the book nor the author name pop out, which is confusing to the eye since they bleed into the background. The rainbow logo at the top is more eye-catching than anything else, and the two figures have nothing to do with the novella because the cover is one that the company used for a number of projects. All the artist had to do was change the title and author name, and the new cover was ready to go. This cover gives the reader no idea what the book is about, and in this case rather mis-represents the story. The novella is a dark, steampunk erotica that deals with a wife attempting to understand the bizarre changes her husband is going through after being the subject of an experimental medical procedure. What in the cover gives the reader that impression?
Nothing. The correct answer is nothing.
What Your Book Cover Needs to Do
|Aside from just being goddamn awesome.|
Humans are visual creatures, and it's ironic that in order to sell a book it requires a cover that arrests the wandering attention long enough to make someone pick the book up and take a closer look. As consumers we also tend to associate sleek, engaging covers with professionalism. We know consciously that a terrible story might have a really pretty cover, but it's not something we think about. On the other hand we might admit that a poorly made cover might have an amazing story underneath it, but we rarely check to make sure. Much like people, we often associate a pretty face with a story we really want to be told.