5-STAR Fantasy / Sci-Fi

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bad Cover = Bad Sales (Why you need Professional Cover Art)

Cover Design by JH Illustration
While writing your novel, you are a creator. A wordsmith. An artist. But, as soon as that novel’s finished, you’re about to take the next step in publishing business. Yes, you’re becoming not just an author, but an entrepreneur. You are creating a product that has to contend with literally thousands of other products.

Can you, as author, afford for your product – your work of art – to be any less than visible or desirable? No.

What is one of the key selling points of any product? The packaging.

What is a book’s packaging? The cover.

So, what’s the purpose of a cover? Many writers will say: “To get customers to pick up the book, or click on the download button.” 

This is true. BUT, if the customer is to pick up or click and read the book’s summary, and realize that the cover and story have nothing to do with one another, then back goes book to shelf, or, the next eBook is clicked on. You lose a sale.

Cover Design by JH Illustration
Yes, the cover must entice the customer. But the full purpose of a book’s cover is to:
1. Get the customer to notice the book;
2. Pick up or click on the book;
3. Buy the book;
4. Read the book;
5. Talk about the book;
6. Repeat for next customer.

If your name is “Stephen King”, then that book can have a blank cover with his name, and it will sell. But until you reach such status, your name is not yet known, so your book’s title and cover art alone carries the day.

So where do you start?
You start by pretending you’re telling someone why they should buy your book. Point out the book’s strengths, its genre, its core, what it’s about and what makes it tick. These elements are your unique selling points, and should be conveyed through your title and cover art. And the ultimate purpose is to precipitate an emotional response from your customer. And the outcome? A sale. This is exactly why a professional designer is needed.

Starting to re-realize the importance of your book’s cover? You should. Because it’s not just about a pretty cover anymore, is it?

Cover Design by JH Illustration
A good cover will reinforce the customer’s initial attraction. We also do this by adding blurbs – which will tell the customer; “Yes, you have made a good choice, and this blurb rewards your decision, as the book is THAT good.” Every detail on a cover must be thought out and planned. Even the placement of the title and writer’s name is extremely important. Again, this is exactly why a professional designer is needed.

Look at your current book’s cover. And if you don’t yet have one, then think about book packages that work for you. Are all the elements of the cover presenting accurately, attractively and powerfully the appeal of the book?

So, in designing your product’s package, or, framing your work of art, realize the importance of your book’s cover. You must not just want a pretty cover – your book deserves a professionally designed package that will represent you, your story and product congruently.

- Jeanine Henning -

About the Cover Artist of the examples shown and Author of this Article: Jeanine Henning

Cover Design by JH Illustration
Jeanine’s extensive professional background includes 15 years experience in illustration, children’s book illustration and publication, cover design and writing, console game design, comic book publishing and editing.

She has worked with editors, artists and writers on many continents over the span of her career, adding to her diversity and flexibility as artist and designer. Jeanine still works closely with traditional publishers on cover and book art.

Recently Jeanine published her 1st Kindle book on Amazon – Nhakira “Chosen” – 4 more books are soon to follow. And many more after that!

For more information on Jeanine’s background and testimonials, visit her site at: www.jeaninehenning.com

And YES, you can get an exclusively designed cover by an industry professional for your book:

JH Illustration & Cover Design
• Why use JH? Because she has 15 years successful experience in the creative and publishing industries. She can assist you in answering all the points above to formulate your ‘package design’, and work with you in creating the perfect cover art.
• JH Illustration is capable of creating unique book covers for all genres at an excellent price and fast turnover.
• JH understands the fluctuating market of what’s-hot-what’s-not with current trends, and will make sure your book’s cover is up to date and ready to compete.
• JH approaches each cover with a very personal touch, and makes sure the ‘essence’ of the book bursts out on the cover at the customer!
Click here to visit JH Illustration website now to learn more and find lots of sample covers.

Click here to learn more


Jennings said...

I totally agree. I am shocked by some of the indie covers "revealed" (ie on Twitter and FB). I never say bad things, but I certainly can't say good things. I realize people are on a budget, but come on - this is a business. The writing may be free, and you may be able to format yourself, but what good does that do you if you won't invest in a cover that will entice people to buy (or even look at) your book? We may wish that people didn't "judge a book by its cover" (or a wine, or even ourselves) but they do. Accept it and work with it. The goal is to sell books, right? That's no different than trying to sell cakes or cars or shoes - beautiful sells.

Anonymous said...

Luckily my daytime job is as a graphic artist. I was able to do my own book layout, cover, marketing pieces and trailers. I look at some Indie covers and shudder. If you are going to do your own cover, then browse a book store, see which books you pick up. Get an idea of what is visually appealing. Notice balance, color and fonts. You can improve your cover tremendously by doing some research.

Karen Arnprester

Julia Gabriel said...

My day job is as a copywriter and I work with graphic designers every day so I KNOW I will never be able to design a book cover as well as an experienced designer can. I don't have their training. Hiring a good, experienced designer to do your cover is worth every penny!

Kathryn Flatt said...

I have published 5 novels with a small publisher and I have provided my own cover art for each one. Since I have two (soon three) series going, there is also a requirement that the covers share some thematic elements, keeping a consistency within the series. This is even trickier than creating a cover for a stand alone book. How to do something fresh that stays in the theme? I've had some good comments on my covers, and I find I like doing them. I have also seen/read some books where not only does the cover convey nothing of the story, but the title doesn't either!

Doug Hoffman said...

This last week, I wrapped up a deal through 99designs. I spent a few hundred dollars, but I got an amazing cover, far better than what I have seen for most indie ebooks. You pay for what you get. (The cover is up at my blog -- second story down, as of today.)

Aidana WillowRaven said...

As a cover artist and designer, myself, I find the need to reinforce what you are saying at least once a week. It amazes my how many books out there have horrific covers. Not because the author or publisher doesn't seem to recognize bad cover art, but because they don't seem to care. It's no different than a poorly edited book. It can only lead to a book's failure.

Aidana WillowRaven

Bernadette Walsh said...

My recent interview of cover artist Valerie Tibbs where we discuss trends in romance ebokk covers might be of interest http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bernadettewalsh/2013/02/09/nice-girls-reading-naughty-books-valerie-tibbs

Sandy said...

I am a book review with the website The Reading Cafe and some of the indie covers are terrible. In fact, I saw a watermark in one-obviously using something found in google.

Although they say ....'never judge a book by its cover'...in reality, the first thing that grabs our attention IS the cover, unless we are looking for a specific author or series.

Lyle S Tanner said...

This is why I'm hiring an artist. I've seen so much terrible cover art from indie books out there that I'm really not sure how they manage to sell anything. Sure, you don't judge a book on the cover, but that isn't an excuse to just throw something together in five minutes and call it a job well done.

Unknown said...

Can anyone give examples of these so called 'bad covers'? I'm really curious. I see good stuff and bad stuff, and some ugly covers that sell like crazy. Perhaps there's a blogpost around where someone took the time to show some covers and explain why they're bad?

graywave said...

I can't help thinking that some actual evidence would help decide what the value of a good cover really is. Has there been a single scientific study done on this subject? One? Anybody?

I suspect not. Until there is some evidence either way, this kind of piece is just opinion - and the opinion of someone with a vested interest. I'm not saying good covers don't sell books, just that I don't know either way because no-one has done an actual study of this.

It seems to me that (as MH Vesseur suggests) people are managing to sell books with really awful covers. Hell, people sell books with really awful *writing* - look at 50 Shades of Grey! - so it's not a simple matter of "quality". I would love to see some solid research that helps explain what is going on.

Charmaine Clancy said...

The biggest problem I see is poor font type/colour choice. I do find a lot of people offering cover design online are offering poor quality designs. You really must shop around.

Richard Sutton said...

I'm a self-published author, but first, I was an advertising and communications designer for upwards of thirty years. Writers seem to have issues with seeing a book cover as product packaging. They often see a cover as a way to "dress-up" their book, but as a result, though they may actually pay for illustration, the result is not effective as a book cover. A book is a product, and its packaging is its cover. The motivational and market targeting utilized by manufacturers of consumer products destined for either the shelf or online marketing use these concepts. So should self-published writers.

Brenda said...

What writers need to understand is that the first thing a reader sees is the cover. If the cover doesn't appeal to them they will move on and not even bother to read what the book is about.

I'm sure a lot of great stories have been passed over due to horribly designed book covers.

Brenda said...

The bad ones that sell like crazy, are they new authors or authors that already have a following?

It would be interesting to know.


Rebecca York said...

I am a published author who has recently branched out into indie publishing. I agree that the cover is important for selling the book. I often see covers (including some of the JH covers) where you can't read either the name of the author or the title on a thumbnail -sized cover. The first thing you need to do is make sure people can read the words on the cover. Look at the top-selling covers in the genre you write in and see what seems to work. I have copied the basic cover design of my Berkley books for my indie books. I wonder if I've shot myself in the foot w/ this because the Berkley format has a guy staring at the viewer. I like the design, but I'm having trouble finding enough great- looking guys. I'm beginning to understand why a lot of cover designs feature only a guy's chest, not his face!

Anonymous said...

Now that is the right answer. Agatha Christie had some dreadful covers, but people bought her books anyway: for the stories. 50 Shades has an intriguing cover, but I've read the reviews and I'm not spending my money.

Dana Lynn Smith, the Savvy Book Marketer said...

I agree that covers are very important in attracting buyers. Indie authors face huge competition from traditionally published books as well as other self-published books. Potential book buyers are busy and faced with many choices and they often make split second decisions (based on cover and title) whether to learn more about the book or move on. A book cover is product packaging and it needs to give a good first impression. Amateurish covers give the impression that authors don't know what they are doing, and some people will assume that the content of the book is badly written and/or edited.

Steve Wilson said...

Yes, please let us know. A vague, subjective analysis of "good" or "bad" is not helpful. I am a generally "glass is half-full" kind of guy, and I rarely see a cover that makes me truly cringe. Do you know of any side-by-side examples? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Go check out lousybookcovers.com for excellent examples. It's very snarky, but a good check for "what not to do".

Unknown said...

Thanks for the link to lousybookcovers.com. My night is just beginning.

Kaye Draper said...

I agree that the cover is very important, the money is likely well spent, etc. However, I think it is wrong to assume bad indie covers are because authors "don't care," or don't understand this. For me it's a matter of not having several hundred dollars (or more) to shell out, plain and simple. Yes it's critical, but $$$ doesn't grow on trees. I'm sure we would all rush out and purchase professional cover design if we could. Just something to consider when making assumptions.

Michael Vain said...

I am an indie author, as well as an artist with both a fine and graphic arts background, and what I would consider a 'bad book cover' is something that looks like someone photoshopped some stock images together, or the same old poses and themes and fonts used over and over again, some by 'paid cover designers', who obviously did not read the work for which they've been hired. (Romance novels are particularly guilty of this) To that end, with very few exceptions, I hand paint all my covers, and then use PS in post-production. At the very least, it'll be original, and not something any random graphics student could throw together.

Unknown said...

The most common giveaway for amateur designers is bad text. Anyone can get a hold of a beautiful illustration or photo, but it takes skill to know how to set the text.

Unknown said...

Tough to balance the need for a professional cover with the desire to save on costs. I'm still teetering on this issue!

Anonymous said...

Totally agree. I'm an indie author and have to do things cheaply, but come on. MS Paint is NOT going to sell books!! If you get the right picture, you can spend $2.50-$10 and get something pretty decent. Less is more!

Terri Nixon said...

I've just been working with JH on the cover of my first indie-published book, The Dust of Ancients. I couldn't be more delighted. The thing is, I'm really on the bones of my arse money-wise, and had to make the choice between paying out on editing, or paying out on cover design.

I chose cover design because, with enough hard work and dedication, a decent writer CAN self-edit,provided they have the patience to a) leave it for several months, or up to a couple of years between first and second/subsequent drafts, and b) go over it, and over it, and over it until they're pretty much sick of the sight of it.
I believe I've done a good job of this, but I couldn't create a half-decent cover for all the tea in China, so I provided the photograph, and JH did the rest and it's an absolute belter. Well worth the quids, and I've just ordered the proof copy so here's hoping I'll be able to release it as planned next weekend!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

It's hard to quantify what a good cover is, because everyone has their own taste. Sometimes covers that have been heralded by others as masterfully done come across looking tacky or campy to me. But maybe that's just me.

Richard Sutton said...

It's all about the target market. A book cover is consumer product packaging. Smart publishers and authors know that and make sure that the images and typography they use, connect in the best way for their target reader. Although adding a shirtless cut n' buff hunky guy or the equivalent vixen to a cover depicting the ruins of Babylon might actually sell more books... IN any case, it has to be tested and tested again even after the "Do you like this " phase is over, in order to be most effective.

Derek Murphy (creativindie) said...

It's a sensitive topic: yes the book cover design is crucial. While there are different tastes, and it's nice to be unique, there are also covers that will sell. Indie authors want more control, don't want to spend hundreds of dollars, but making a cover themselves in a familiar program is unlikely to be good enough. I've been working on a bunch of DIY book cover templates in MS Word to solve this problem, if anybody's interested, there's the link:


Derek Murphy (creativindie) said...

As another example, I wrote a post called "how to make an ugly book cover." http://www.bookcovers.creativindie.com/how-to-make-an-ugly-book-cover-a-guide-for-the-visually-impaired/

Derek Murphy (creativindie) said...

Mark Coker (of Smashwords) has put out some case studies on this, showing how a simple cover makeover - from bad to better - drastically improved sales. Ugly covers can sell, sure, but face an incredibly uphill battle in the beginning, and nice covers sell quick - which means if it's a bad book, you'll get lousy reviews fast.

Lucie Le Blanc said...

M.H. You don't have to search very far. The covers featured in this article are bad ebook covers. Great book covers, but for ebooks they don't work. They are too crowded, the title fonts are too messy. The designer forgot that what we see first is an inch-sized thumbnail. Yes, he or she has talent, but really needs to adapt to the ebook reality.

Unknown said...

That's really harsh of you. Look in the mirror first.

Taurean Watkins said...

Kaye, I so get where you're coming from, I couldn't bring myself to read this article for so long because I knew many people would be feeling the opposite of what you and I do about this.

There's a BIG difference between "I can't" and "I won't!" in the vein of book covers, ebook or print, that's a issue of respect. Not necessarily authorial arrogance.

Anonymous said...

NEVER judge a book by its cover

Cryselle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alton said...

I found Derek Murphy's 'Book Cover Design Secrets' very helpful. He moves past vague notions of 'good' and 'bad' so you can look at your designs functionally. How do cover elements, working together, convey necessary information to potential buyers? How do inexpert cover elements confuse buyers or send the wrong messages? Recommended.

Unknown said...

Well... I personaly have read hundreds of books in my life and some of the covers were not very appealing tome. BUT that is my opinion! What matters to me more is the book description. The website that has been posted lousybookcovers.com can be sued by the autors. This is what I consider defamation of charracter. Anyway... What you think is a "bad" bookcover, some may really like. "bad" and "good" are words of opinion.

Anonymous said...

There's always a lot of talk about the importance of professional book covers, but never about how terrible a lot of them actually are. I've seen plenty of "good" covers that would never stand out on a bookshelf of any genre. I've seen others that cost someone hundreds of dollars, which I could've drawn myself in Microsoft Paint (the cover for "Before the Ripcord Broke" by Charlie Close is a great example -- I'd rather draw the damn thing myself than pay for that kind of craftsmanship). I could make a sprawling gallery of all the pro book covers I've seen that I couldn't describe from memory to save my life. Isn't it more important for the cover to stand out than for it to be as airbrushed as possible? Especially considering the thumbnail issue mentioned above?

And some of the commenters above have a point: it's not author arrogance, it's the inability to pay 2 months' wages for a professional book cover design.

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