Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Don’t judge a book by its cover, or should you?

Book publicist Scott Lorenz, President of the public relations and marketing firm, Westwind Communications, advises authors to get involved in the production of their books from beginning to end.

As a book publicist and book marketer, Scott Lorenz says that he cannot caution authors enough. Do not underestimate the importance of a book cover’s design. Not only do potential book buyers judge a book by its cover but so do members of the media. I have personally seen a major book reviewer for a large magazine hold a client’s book, run her fingers over the cover and say, “I’ve not heard of this author or publisher, but this book looks very nicely done, tell me more about.” Conversely, I’ve heard a reviewer quickly respond “We don’t review self-published books,” because the cover screamed cheap!

While we often hear, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” everybody—book buyers, reviewers, media and consumers alike—most certainly do judge a book by its cover.

Here are some important items to consider when making decisions on book cover design:
Use a subhead to create more description. If you have a 10-word title, you have not properly named the book in the first place.
Check with Google on the words that are most searched on your topic. To do this, type in the word that best describes your book in the search box and then see what the next most important or popular words are in that list. That ranking is very relevant marketing- wise so try to use those words in your title or subtitle.
Visit book stores and look at the covers of all types of books. What catches your eye? Look at the book face and look at the spines. Which ones are readable and why?
Will it play on Amazon? Go to Amazon.com, BN.com, Borders.com and search on competitive books in your space. Notice the book covers that catch your eye and the ones that do not. If your cover does not show up well in an Amazon thumbnail then you are going to lose sales.
Contrast. Don’t let your graphic designer get started without keeping contrast in mind. The reason black ink works so well on white paper is because it produces the best contrast possible. Yellow ink on green paper in a small font simply does not work.
How does your book look in black and white? Not every publication will be printing it in color.
Font size. Many designers are young with great eyesight. But your buyer may not be able to read the tiny font some designers insist upon using. Be practical.
The spine. Can you read it from five feet away? If not, neither can browsers in a book store.
Blurbs. Keep them relevant and short. The best highway billboards are 5-11 words because motorists are driving by at 70 m.p.h. Guess what? Consumers are driving by your book sitting on a table at the same relevant speed. The human mind cannot comprehend too many words at a glance. So give them short, sweet blurbs. If you are in love with your blurbs, than print them all in full on the last inside pages of the book.
Consider including a mention on the cover of a forward written by a famous person. “Forward by Barack Obama” or “Forward by Oprah Winfrey” or “Forward by Best Selling Author John Grisham.”
Do not overlook creating content on the back inside flaps because consumers pick up a book after looking at the spine, front cover and back and then open the book to find the price or more information.
Print your cover out on a laser printer. Don’t just review your cover on a computer screen which will make it look considerably better. Print it out actual size and make a determination using that printed version.
Pictures are worth 1000 words. Use photos and illustrations to describe what would take too long to explain.
When choosing a book design ask yourself how the cover will look on your website home page. Consistency and redundancy are important so you’ll want to use the same design elements on your website that you do on your book cover. For this reason, I suggest using the same designer for your book cover and for your website if possible.
Show your cover designs to as many people in your target group of potential readers. Get their reactions and opinions. It costs you nothing and you’ll likely find out something you did not realize before.

Bottom line: Get involved early in the entire book publishing design process and get at least three creative concepts for the front cover, back cover, and spine. Don’t let it be the last thing you do.

And finally, the most important rule in book publishing and marketing – Know Your Reader! All books have a target reader and in all genres there are varying degrees of readers. Targeting the reader who is most likely to purchase your book is critical. Authors who know the demographics of their readers are equipped to assemble the fonts and graphics best able to grab the reader’s eye and instantly convey the message that “this book is for you.” When you work with your graphic designer on the book covers and spine, your chances of success are greatly increased. If your designer does not welcome your participation, hire another designer.

To learn more about Scott, visit http://www.book-marketing-expert.com/ or send him an e-mail to: scottlorenz@westwindcos.com


  1. It's been a while Clauda!

    Book cover is a bit of a long shot, but I guess it's necessary. I have to admit most self-published books cover leave me perplex. Ray Rhamey's cover of "We, The Enemy" screamed of the "Colisée du Livre" (you're from Montreal you know that place right?).

    Yes, we shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, BUT if I don't know anything about the writer, a bad cover won't do anything for me. THe book will stay on the shelves. Great post again.

  2. Excellent points. I've tweeted it. Have a great week. :)

  3. Hi Ben,
    Thanks for stopping by. Yes, it's been a while. Sorry! It's been crazy on this end. :( Yes, thinking of book covers seem so far but it's good to learn as much as we can about the whole process of publishing your first book ;)

    Hi Michelle,
    Thanks for sharing my post on Twitter!

  4. Wow!! I can only dream of getting to this stage!! Amazing!! It's like the work doesn't stop but if you ever get to this stage then it's fun work! Thanks for handy tips!

    Take care

  5. Hi there, Old Kitty!
    You will get to this stage, we both will ;)
    I think choosing "THE" perfect cover for our books can be a fun process too.
    Have a great day and say hello to Charlie!

  6. This is great advice for the self-publisher, except that getting a forward by a famous person is stretching it a little. If I could get a Forward by Oprah I certainly wouldn't be self-publishing! Perhaps a well-known person that has some weight when it comes to the topic of your book might be more plausible. And yes, we all judge a book by its cover or the publishing houses wouldn't be paying big bucks for professional cover designers.

  7. I agree, Laura. Getting a Forward by a famous person is more difficult than the whole process of writing the book ;)
    Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Thanks for this great advice. I didn't realize that about the spine being legible from 5 feet away, but it makes a lot of sense.

    I laughed about that bit of the green/yellow cover w/ small font. I haven't seen that on a book cover, yet, but I did see a myspace page like that once!

  9. Hi Lisa,
    Thank you for joining my blog, welcome! I hope you find helpful advice here. I'll check out your blog later. ;)