George Elliot first wrote the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” in 1860. It probably made a lot of sense then, and writers across the globe have said that it’s really the words that matter. It’s true that good books will often sell themselves after they get some attention, but the problem is that you can’t sell many copies if you don’t initially get attention. People do judge a book by its cover, and there’s a good reason why they do it. In short, make sure your cover is stellar. You’re not helping yourself if you use an amateur design.
Why the Judging
Why do people judge books by their covers? Are they really that important? Before answering that question, you first have to consider just how many books there are. It doesn’t matter what genre or topic you’re in. There are thousands, if not millions, of books in the same category. This is especially true if you’re filling vague spots like “literary.” It would be impossible for someone to go through every book, and it’s even harder with devices like Kindle.
People have to judge via covers. The human brain has a limited amount of attention, and it only cares about getting the barest amount of information to make a decision. Someone doesn’t want to go through thousands of listings and descriptions to find your book (or any other good book). They want to find something worth reading as soon as possible.
In fact, most users (either on Kindle or in a bookstore) will scan the covers before even considering a book. They might bypass the cover if they know the author, but even then your cover is important. Anything that doesn’t suit their interests or looks amateurish will be skipped over.
This is why covers are so essential. A cover gives someone a snapshot of your book in less than a second. There are no words (some covers have words, but very few), which means that the brain can quickly process the information. The best covers will encapsulate the meaning and tone of the book, infuse the writer’s style and use an enticing image all in one.
Covers Vs Description
Most authors pour themselves into their descriptions. They will write as eloquently as possible in order to get people interested in their books. Yes, descriptions are incredibly important, and they often lead to a buying decision. At the same time, many people won’t even read your description if the cover isn’t good.
Your description is your sales letter. It tells people what’s in your book, what they can expect and it gives you a chance to build some drama and anticipation. It’s an essential part of selling a book, and never forget just how important it is. However, the cover is what makes people actually look at your description. It’s the thing that gives them a reason to feel interested in your book, but you’ll only make a sale if the description keeps that interest going.
Consider this a one-two punch. The first punch is the cover, which makes them read the description and really give your book a chance. The description is the second punch, which “knocks” them into submission, making them fork over their money.
Do I Need a Professional?
Getting a professional designer is advised if you have the money, and if you aren’t very good at designing. While there are many great programs that allow amateurs to create amazing graphics and covers (like Photoshop and GIMP), it’s still advised that you use a professional. Aside from knowing how to expertly use a graphic design program, a good designer will have impeccable design sense and he or she will know what sells. A cover that can sell is worth its weight in gold.
If you want the best from your designer, then show him or her some covers that you like. You can also give the designer a rough sketch or design to show him or her what you’re interested in. Since the cover is supposed to reflect your book, it would also be a good idea to tell the designer what your book is about. Some designers might also ask to read parts of your book, or they might ask if there is any striking imagery that they can play with.
Try finding a designer that has experience or specializes in book covers. Most will advertise this skill, but you should also ask the designer about this before putting down any money.
People buy and read books because they love the author’s writing, but words alone won’t sell your book. You need a professional cover to ensure that people give your book a chance. If you aren’t willing to put some time or money into the cover, then expect your book to flop. You might get lucky, but it’s best to avoid luck and rely on proven marketing strategies.