The Cover: Does It Matter?
The short answer is yes, book covers hugely influence our decision to buy or pass. In fact, a whopping eighty percent of readers and bloggers say their decision to buy a book is determined by the cover.
For best selling authors like Lee Child, Dean Koontz, Harlen Coben, David Baldacci, the cover designs are less critical. These authors have become brand names and no longer need to spend marketing dollars to gain readers.
At least, I made that assumption until I cruised though the list of 100 best selling authors at Amazon. Lee Child, David Baldacci and Dean Koontz listed, but Koontz does not appear until the last page; Baldacci and Child earlier but are not among the top thirty. Who makes the top thirty? The list updates hourly, but JK Rowling consistently holds on to first place.
Surprising but it should not be. Precisely because of writers like me, the publishing business has been turned upside down. Independents. With the rise in the independents, the always popular romance, action adventure and science fiction novels have gained traction.
I recall my very first conversation with Nancy Cleary of Wyatt–Mackenzie Publishing when she and I were trying to decide if we wanted to work together. Nancy chuckled when I stated confidently that the top authors did not need to bother with marketing budgets for their books. She assured me that it was not only the unknowns like me who must spend money marketing. But all of us.
Although that conversation feels like it happened a lifetime ago, it has only been four years. Four years in which I have happily been one of her “Imprint” authors and published six books.
Okay, now to my main point. Or more precisely, The Cover: Does it Matter?
The experts in publishing and market unanimously attest to the critical importance of good covers. “Yes, we do judge the quality of a book by it’s cover. Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords explains what constitutes a good cover:
…simplicity, a clear promise, a professional design with layers and smart use of color, readable text, and appropriate targeting: “If you strip away the words, the image needs to make a promise to the reader. It should promise, ‘this is the book you’re looking for to experience…“In addition to promising what a book will deliver, the [cover] image also promises (or fails to promise) that the author is a professional, and that the book will honor the reader’s time.”
Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer goes further. Your cover, he writes, has a job to do. Actually the cover has several jobs to do: announce it’s genre, tone and generate excitement are only three of the five things a good book cover must do.
And last, there are cover design techniques used to “manipulate” readers into buying their books. Like making the design ‘pop,’ selecting the right font and effects and making the text placement as a form of branding. Editor, publisher and writer Derek Murphy explains in mind numbing detail a number of other ‘secrets’ of the trade.
My appreciation for my partnership with Nancy is magnified while scanning all of the details involved in designing a book cover.
For the last three books, her covers have created a path through all the research I was buried in. And helped me visualize exactly what I am writing about.
Isn’t that backward? Doesn’t the cover get designed once the book is written?
Yes, traditionally the cover is one of the last tasks (aside from editing) that is.
Until I experienced the first WOWZA! at Nancy’s cover, I vastly underestimated the effect of the cover, on me and my writing.
When the manuscript for the second novel, Do You Solemnly Swear? was getting close to done, Nancy asked if I had ideas for the cover. I had none.
We were just getting to know one another and were doing the second edition for The Fragrance Shed By a Violet and it’s successor almost simultaneously. The cover she designed for Fragrance certainly ‘popped’ and was far superior to the first edition of the book.
This is what she came up with. Right out of the box.
That cover tells a story in a most provocative way. And certainly intrigues those looking for courtroom thrillers. There is a fascinating array of emotions generated by the images: Gravity, innocence, curiosity are just a few.
And then there’s I, Claudia
In a post I called, I, Claudia Goes Public, I wrote this.
The woman in the red is precisely how I see this woman. Alone, overpowered by the weight of a wisdom for which there are no words, and yet erect, undaunted, this is Claudia Procula. The confluence of ancient Greece, Rome and Israel in the background with a reddish hue of portent. Yes! Perfect, Nancy, another consummate cover!
Because Nancy created the cover for My Name is Saul before the end of January, I thought I would be completing the first draft by now. But that is far from the case.
I remain in Tarsus with young Saul, awaiting his journey to Jerusalem to study under one of the greatest Rabbis of Jewish history, Gamaliel.
Patience. There was a time that I thought I was in control
Six months ago I told Nancy with delight that she keeps outdoing herself with these covers that serve as ground for my stories. Now, after living with young Saul all these many weeks, the dramatic contrasting colors, inked sketches of Israel, Jerusalem Temple and haunting figures of a man provides metaphor and direction. This cover beautifully portrays the unique solitude of this wandering man; this impossible mix of paradox and mystery. A closeup of his face looks eastward, toward his mission.