A few years back, after years of working and reworking a novel, I decided to publish. I had big plans for the cover. I’d use my model friend and her husband, the photographer. They lived out of state, but agreed to the plan I’d sent them—without pay! My excitement was short lived as weeks passed before I received any photos. Excuses were made and in the end, I had to come up with something on my own. At the time, I didn’t know about sites like PicMonkey or Imagur, etc. I used what I had and came up with something like this:
It’s not a terrible cover, but it lacks a certain “je ne said quois”. Long story short, I published and lets just say the readers didn’t flock to the aisles. Sure, there were other things that kept them away, but I knew the cover and title were a huge part of the reason. I tested the theory by placing the book on Wattpad.com. For those who aren’t unfamiliar, it’s a site where you post serialized (by chapter) books that others can read for free. It’s a great testing ground and an awesome platform that has launched a number of careers.
I posted my book with its original cover, to a lackluster response. I then decided to change the cover. I also changed the title to better reflect the actions that take place in the book. Here is the 2nd version:
The result? My book went from having zero reads, to over thousands in a matter of weeks. The same was true for sales (though I’ve since removed the book from publication). As reads continued to spike, I realized that we see first and ask questions later. When I go to the bookstore, I don’t read the synopsis of a book THEN look at the cover. I peruse the covers first and if the title and image are interesting, only then do I turn it over to see what it’s about. So what can you do to get readers to “pick up” your book?
CREATE A BETTER cover…and title
The title and image you use for your book can determine whether a reader purchases or ignores it. Many great self-published books have been bypassed by readers due to poor choices in cover design. So, let’s discuss how you can avoid this pitfall.
Consider your story
Obviously, the title and image you use must reflect your story in some way. It doesn’t have to be the exact storyline, but it has to be something that clues us in to what we’re going to read (be it person, place, thing, or emotion). In some cases, it might not clue us in BEFORE the read, but once we read the story, we should understand the title. If your book is title A Day at the Circus, the characters shouldn’t spend their day at a horse ranch (unless that horse ranch turns out to be a “circus” of craziness). Similarly, the cover image should connect with the overall theme of the book
If you’ve considered your story, but still can’t think of a great title, just write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t over think it or try to be clever. Just write. By the end, you’ll have a list of words that you can create different combinations with.
Hint at Genre
If you want the reader to know the type of book it is before they read the synopsis, think of words associated with its genre. Romance books often have titles that allude to some aspect of a relationship. Thrillers often have actions words. In regards to images, check out other novels within your genre. Do their covers have similar themes? Perhaps there’s a particular range of fonts and images used. Don’t merely copy them, though. Use them as a starting point to build your own cover.
Keep it simple
Word of mouth is a powerful thing. Don’t let your book title trip on the lips and be forgotten. This doesn’t mean the title has to be short. It means it should be something that flows well. For you cover, don’t try to encompass every single aspect of your novel. Beside the fact that it might result in cluttered chaos, it may also be expensive for graphic artist to create. If you’re doing it yourself, it may hard to find or even put all those images together. This is especially true for series. Finally, don’t mistake keeping it simple for keeping it “plain”. A simple cover is one that is clean, easy to read, and connects to your story.
When naming your book, use words that best describe what you’re trying to say. J. K. Rowling could have easily used the title, “Harry Potter and the Cup of Hot Stuff”. It’s an ok title, but it’s vague and leaves readers to wonder what kind of cup it is and what kind of hot stuff is in it…and if it’s a plastic cup, wouldn’t the hot stuff burn it? None of which matters to the story. It’s much more precise and descriptive to say “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”. Now readers will wonder about the significance of the goblet and what Harry will have to do to get it.
6. Know the format
Whether publishing digitally or via print, make sure you know the formatting criteria before creating your cover. Use images with a high resolution (pixel count), otherwise your cover may end up too blurry for use. The font for your title should be large and clear, but not so big that it blocks out the image (unless that’s what you’re going for).
READY TO BUILD YOUR COVER? CLICK HERE FOR A LIST OF RESOURCES TO GET YOU STARTED.