They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but here’s why I think you should …
We’ve all heard bookworms say they don’t care about the cover as long as the story is good but in the next breath they’ll say, ‘I bought it because I liked the cover!’
Truth is, we want to read a good story first and foremost, but readers ARE attracted to cool covers. So, let’s talk about why it’s important to have a great cover for your book:
1) Visual Hook
A good book cover acts as a shop window. After staring at an interesting shop window for a bit, I soon want to go inside and I don’t even need to knock! It’s the same for book covers. Why? Because, like shop windows, you think ‘This cover is so amazing; the book must be the good’ Simple, really!
Of course, we all know a good cover doesn’t necessarily mean a great book, but a good cover helps SEDUCE readers … just like it did with Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ll admit: it had a great cover and I was drawn to it, picking off the shelf even before I’d heard the hype. Then I read the first page and put it back down! But I did pick the book up. That’s what’s important here. You need to get the book into people’s hands before they can begin to read it.
TOP TIP: Hook the reader with a lush cover. If you don’t bait the line, how can you expect to catch any fish?
2) Amateur Book Cover = Amateur Writer
If the book cover is ugly then what does that say about the writing? Well, rightly or wrongly, just as an ‘amazing cover = amazing writing’, the opposite assumption is made. People will think that, if the author didn’t care enough to make sure the cover was amazing, then they probably didn’t take the same care when writing the novel. It’s a real shame when I see a writer has worked hard on their debut, for their book cover to fall down on such an important first impression.
TOP TIP: Show you’re a professional by using the best tools at your disposal, don’t settle for ‘that’ll do’ because it won’t.
The cover sets the tone for a reader. Get it wrong and miss your target audience. Who are you aiming this book at? If you put out a teen romance with a picture of a grandma knitting in a rocking chair on the cover, you will probably miss your target audience or any audience, for that matter. Okay, that’s simplifying the matter, but believe me – it’s easy to get wrong. The cover of Harry Potter was clearly aimed at children, yet I, and many others, read it as adults. By book five Bloomsbury were putting out two covers, one for adults and one for children, with the thought that adults could now read this magical children’s series in public without feeling silly. Great idea!
Here on the left is an example of an effective cover without the huge price tag. So pretty. The name says it all and the colours and minimalist background promises sophisticated and intriguing stories.
Shameless plug: my short story, London’s Crawling, is in this book. I love the cover. It does the job for all the stories included in the charity collection. I’m grateful to Bloodhound Books for choosing such a fab cover design.
TOP TIP: Remember who your target audience is. The Dark Minds cover sets the tone perfectly; readers instantly know what kind of stories they’re going to find inside.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie, mid-range writer or a famous bestseller like King and Rowling. You MUST put out the best cover possible! No matter what, famous authors always put out the most amazing book covers. Why do they bother? They could put out a blank book – white cover with their name on the front in black courier font – their fans would still buy it, right? So why don’t they put books out like that?
Because a) their brand helps people find their books quickly and b) people expect a swanky cover from them, if the cover quality drops they might think there’s something wrong with their favourite author and perhaps the writing quality has also dropped. Plus, don’t forget – authors should be always looking to hook new readers.
TOP TIP: Don’t let the quality of your book covers drop, ever! I’ve followed many writers’ careers and found consistency to be the key to longevity.
5) Branding and Titles
Branding is important. This is not just about genre, authors can swap and change, but branding your books in line with yourself as an author is part of the magic. Irrespective of genre, Stephen King stands out on the shelf, as does Dr. Seuss. You can clearly pick out these authors in a sea of books.
Stamp your book cover with your name and style, be bold but be careful about naming your masterpiece as well as yourself. JK Rowling branded her name as well as her books. I’m still wondering whether it’s a good idea to separate my darker novels from my lighter ones. Should I use Emma Pullar for my picture books and lighter YA novels and then E Pullar for my darker YA/NA stuff? I’m still not sure, but I do know that having a name like Gertrude Picklebottom might be a plus as a pseudonym for my children’s books and fantasy novels but probably not so for my sci-fi, horror and dystopian novels, one of which has been described as “Beckett-esque in its nihilism.”
TOP TIP: Think hard about what you want to put across to readers. Self. Style. Story. Make sure your brand stands out.
You book’s cover is your shop window. An imaginative window display can mean the difference between customers walking straight by or walking onto the shop and even posting photos online of the gorgeous shop window for all their friends to see. It should be the same when presenting your books to potential readers.
PUT YOUR BEST COVER FORWARD!
Emma Pullar is a bestselling and award-winning writer of dark fiction and children's books.
She supports Bang2write, The London Screenwriters' Festival, and Into the Script.
Follow Emma on Twitter @EmmaStoryteller or Instagram @emmapullar_storyteller or fb Emma Pullar.
You also find her on Linkedin.