- Keep the book clean. (Dust Jacket, duh!)
- Make your book a best-seller. (Sell a gazillion copies.)
- Attract attention. (Pick me up! Pick me, pick meeee!)
- Help you find a book on your shelf. (Identify.)
The job of a book cover—and this is Commercial Art training and 19 years in retail advertising sharing with you—the job of a book cover is to make a potential purchaser pick up the book. (Studies show that touch is an important part of a sale. Customers who pick up an item are much more likely to buy it. (“Odds are if you touch it, you’ll probably buy it”) Farm & Dairy Auction Guide, March 26, 2009.) (What, you think I make these things up?) Book covers are how your book gets noticed.
But does the cover of an e-book still matter? After all, many e-book readers say they couldn’t tell you what a given cover looks like—once they buy the book, they never see its cover again. Yes! All the marketing, sales-inducing features of traditional publishing still apply, thus:
- Cover (Cover Image) gets your attention in a crowded marketplace.
- Back Cover Copy (Product Description) tells you what sort of book you’re looking at. Romance. Science Fiction. Self Help. Vampire Mystery.
- Inside Cover Copy/Random Read (Look Inside) informs your decision on whether or not to purchase. Do I like the writer’s style, or does the obvious lack of well-drawn, engaging characters drive me nuts? Does the first chapter draw me in? Hook me? What about the second chapter? Is there a 40-page list of characters to wade through before I get to the story?
The best cover in the universe will not make your book a best-seller. The cover is a marketing tool. Myself, if I know the book or the author, an e-book cover only matters a little to me. Who sees it once they’ve bought and read that book? But a physical cover…that matters enormously. It’s a crucial part of the book’s identity, the author’s branding. Many covers are rightly classics, with award-winning art good enough to hang on the wall. Those transcend mere marketing.
A great cover might sell your book. A 5-star review might sell your book. But reviews and ratings only influence me up to a point. The only way I’ll know if a book is for me is to read some of it. When I skip the “Look Inside” feature on an unknown book or author, I risk disappointment. No one’s fault if I don’t look. Not the fault of the reviews, either. Only I know what I like—or what drives me crazy in a book.
It all starts with the cover. That eye-candy image, that siren song in pixels. If I notice it, take a closer look, spiral in—that cover has done its job, whether I buy the book or not!