Today’s world allows you to catch consumer attention in under 8 seconds. What can you do in that short window to wow someone enough to stop and read the back cover or even thumb through your labor of love? This gives you the top spot in the buy category.

Things to Consider

We’ve all heard the adage, you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I have purchased several books simply because the cover grabbed my attention. Some element of the cover struck a chord in my emotional structure, and I was captivated enough to buy it. Identifying the element that connects is illusive, at least for me. It varies by genre, knowledge of the author, and the placement in the store, physical or virtual.

Readers gravitate to authors they know and enjoy because of consistency. For the romance reader it could be the sexy guy with the slow smile of mischief, or an attractive couple wrapped in a kiss with a promise of passion. Each genre has things that work, but beware they are not static. What worked for your mother or father and their emotional connection will likely not work today. When a reader follows a specific author, they usually made the leap to connect to how the author writes, causing them to possibly ignore the cover. With voracious readers the next book by their favorite may be months away. For newer authors the attraction to a cover and subsequent purchase is the goal for building raving fans.

When working the cover design for the first book in the series, The Enigma Factor, there were all these grandiose ideas of putting characters, a picture of the enigma machine, WWII symbols, computers, and technology symbols on the cover of the book. On reflection it would have been a hodgepodge of elements represented inside the story. Would the various elements capture enough heartstrings of those who saw it to draw them to buy? A resounding no as it wasn’t focused.

Who can help?

Some authors know illustrators, others have friends and family that lend a hand or way too many suggestions. Something was not working in our process. Thankfully, in speaking to some graphic designers focused on books, as well as seriously looked at books with leading sales in related genres. The guidance, which was validated by looking at the competition, was to simplify and focus on a single main element.

During a recent conversation with an author who had his book published by a minor publishing house, we heard the frustration. He was angry about the graphic and several other elements but had no control over redoing the cover or contributing to the content. The middle ground of working with a professional graphic designer and adding your input works well for many. Get a professional engaged to help you navigate, but don’t forget to do your own research.

When looking at covers, you will undoubtedly notice, the more well know the author the larger their name. The graphic and title are a center focal point and when you turn the book over, the photo of the author may again capture a purchase on the cover. You basically have scant seconds to capture a potential buyer with the cover but in the next 6 seconds the sale will be secured if the tag lines and summary is compelling.

The rights to pictures and graphics are a main consideration. As an author you expect your intellectual property rights to be honored, so do graphic artists, photographers, and even musicians. In case you are not aware, there are many free or minimum cost graphics available and readily searchable on the Internet. Finally, once you have a couple of covers under consideration, leverage your fans to vote on the designs. Readers are buying your stories, not you and likely not your family.

Author to Author

You as the author have to be delighted with the wrapper on the product you worked so hard to create. It needs  to provide a window to the interior through the pictures or symbols on the outside. There is also the bit of marketing words on the back as the ultimate avenue to snag the reader. That may

take some help as well in getting the buzz words of your genre and with the current search engines employed on line. Of course, the right key words in your tagline and synopsis become search engine magnets for buyers. Craft your metadata carefully, but the cover comes first.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, but for an unknown author, it can make the difference in earning raving readers.


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