Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Importance of Book Covers

I want to start this post off with a small reality check: I'm pretty much a nobody.

When I say that, it's in reference to my being an author. Yes, I've been published in national magazines, newspapers, trade journals, and the like. But I don't have any books published and this first offering, Stop Bringing Them to Church is probably going to ruffle some feathers for the people that read it. In the very least it's going to challenge them to take a closer look at the Bible and what it actually says. However, that is currently en route to publication.

I had to think about the reason why I was writing this blog and what I wanted to accomplish with it. I like helping people (the reason why I'm writing my book) but like I said, I'm a nobody so why would people listen to me in the area of book publishing? Well, they really don't have to. However, I've decided that's not going to deter me from trying to help others as I research and educate myself in this Wild West of publishing.I view it as a journey of what I'm learning in the process of writing a book from start to finish, giving real time experiences during the process. Of course, I'll be plowing my wares here for those who are interested in what I'm writing. As a matter of fact, I'll talk a little about the aforementioned book in an upcoming post.

Much of what you'll find here is self-explanatory and should be common sense (the operative word being "should"). I'll be referencing many good blogs and sites that provide sage information and tips from seasoned vets and as well as others in the industry.

That being said, today I want to turn our attention to the importance of book covers, especially in self-publishing.

How important is the book cover for the book you want to write? Very important. Extremely important. In short, it can potentially make or break the success of a book.

In the world of book publishing, the cover is what will draw people to a book. It's a representation of how seriously an author takes their work at a glance. It's the author showing up for an interview to the reader. Did they come dressed professionally and appropriately for the job or did they slap on a pair of oily jeans and a T-shirt? The book cover conveys this and it happens quickly. Though it's not hard and fast data, I tend to agree that reader's spend an average of about 5 to 8 seconds looking at the front cover of a book...if it's good. That's seconds folks. If it's a bad cover, try 1 to 3 seconds and they don't even consider buying. Ouch.

Patrick Janson Smith, literary agent and a former publishing director at Transworld, was quoted saying:

I can't think of a jacket that has transformed the fortunes of a book, but I have seen books absolutely die on the back of a jacket.

This seems to mirror the results of a Random House Zogby International poll completed in 2008. One promising stat is that 77% are buying their books online and 43% of those people buy it there most often. This is really good news for the self-publisher because it allows them to compete head to head with other authors they would never have gotten a chance to in a retail chain who only has limited shelf space.

But the kicker was that over 52% surveyed admitted that they are influenced in their buying by the cover art.


Now, what supersedes this is the subject matter they are looking for. No one is going to buy a book simply on cover art. However, it will influence their buying decision once they find the particular subject matter they are looking for.

Apparently, not even endorsements by Oprah is enough to overcome bad cover art .

Take a look at Robert Gregory Browne's cover on the left (no, I'm not endorsing the book. Just using his book cover as an example). This is a good cover for a thriller writer. The thing about it is that he's set himself up as being recognizable with three covers which are similar creating a brand for his series.

But the front cover is not all you have to be concerned with. The back cover is important as well. Readers spend more time looking at the back cover once the front cover has caught their attention. It can be anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds. However, before they'll do that, they have to be drawn in by the front cover.

This topic is so intriguing to me and so important that I'm going to break it up into separate parts. Today was simply a primer and a wake up call to the importance of book covers to the success of a book. It shouldn't be taken lightly and a good amount of deliberation should go into it because of the impact it can have on the success of a book.


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