The old saying that you “can’t judge a book by its cover” could not possibly be more wrong. Next to the title, the cover is probably the most important part of the book. You can write the most fantastic prose for the interior, but if the cover is incredibly ugly, people won’t pick up or buy the book, so they’ll never find out. Some people make the argument that if you are only selling online, the cover doesn’t matter, but I disagree.
In fact, recently I bought a book online where I assumed that the cover graphic that was used on the book’s Amazon page wasn’t really the entire cover, but just a snippet. Unfortunately, what I saw on Amazon actually is the entire cover. The cheesy design completely changed my perception of the book. Because the author had obviously put zero effort into cover design, it changed how I felt about the book itself. In fact, had I seen the book “in person” I never would have bought it. It may not be fair, but it’s reality.
Consider another old saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The book cover is the first impression people have of your book, so the cover design is important. Would you hire a person who came to a job interview in shredded jeans and a t-shirt that hadn’t been washed in six weeks? Probably not. It’s the same way with a book. A great cover can “sell” a book as much as a poor cover can cause people to put it down.
For example, not too long ago, I was searching for a book on a particular topic. While scanning titles one book seemed to have just the information I needed. But I agonized over purchasing the book because the cover used the font “Comic Sans.” This font is probably the least professional choice anyone could possibly make for title text. Along with my least favorite font, the artwork was lime green with stick figures. In short, the cover is hideous. I should have known the interior layout would be dreadful too. The book is so ugly I can’t stand to read it and I’m sorry I spent the money on it.
It may sound like I’m being harsh about this subject, but it’s not just me. Clean, easy-to-read, pleasing cover design is essential because people make snap decisions based solely on the cover. I have a graphic design background, so I know the name of the font used on the ugly book cover, but people have strong reactions to design both good and bad, even if they can’t explain why.
For example, suppose you don’t plan to sell your book in book stores, but you do plan to sell it in gift stores? The first thing any distributor or shopkeeper will look at is the book’s cover. If you never plan to sell your book to anyone at all, you still might plan to use your book as a “giveaway” to clients and friends. Even then, you want the book to make a good impression with these key decision makers.
If you do not have experience in book cover design, get help. I’ve been doing graphic design work since 1988. Yet when it came to our books, I didn’t feel comfortable designing the covers. I found a somewhat inexpensive graphic designer to do them for me. The end results were only so-so. Later, I met a cover designer who creates beautiful covers for best selling books (for a lot of money). I could easily recognize the difference between my covers and hers. So I threw away my old cover art, created new designs myself, and paid the high-end designer a consultation fee to advise me for a half an hour (which was all I could afford). It was money well spent because we constantly get complimented on the covers of our books.
When you are planning your book publishing budget, be sure to include design fees. Your book’s success depends upon it.