A Cover Is Worth A Thousand Sales

You’ve written your masterpiece. It’s a shining example of literature, a dance of phrases and metaphors. Your readers will cheer and sob, rage and giggle, and at the end they will close the book with a sigh of regret that the story is over.

If they ever read it.

How can you get readers to pick up your book?

There are obviously many factors that go into successfully marketing a book, and many camps of thought. Pricing is a huge variable, targeting your audience is essential, and using things like social media to your advantage can make all the difference. Whether you hire a marketer, pay a publishing house to do it, or try your hand at it yourself, you need to do something to get readers to pick up your book out of the millions that are sold every year.

One thing that many authors overlook, is the “first impression” their book makes. Let’s use our own experience as an example. You are browsing the online store for books, no particular idea about what you want. What do you look at? Do you read the first few pages of every book they list? Do you scroll through descriptions or teaser paragraphs?

I’m willing to bet the first thing you look at is the cover of the book. I can picture them spread across your screen, a parade of tiny images. One catches your eye and you glance at the title of the book. So far, so good. Looks interesting. You click on it and read the description. The cover is the worm dangling in front of you. The title is the little bobbing that makes it look even more appealing. You bite, and the description sets the hook.

Case in point:

That book cover is very important. When I first released my book Hylsbrith Falls I had a cover that looked like the blue of a waterfall at close range. It was easy, it was made in photoshop and didn’t cost me anything. After all, it was the story that was the real value there, right? I only sold a handful of them.

A few years later I decided to have the cover professionally done. It was a hard-learned lesson about artist-author relationships, but eventually I partnered with a lovely artist that valued my work as much as I valued hers. I had only sold a few books before, but I invested $300 in a beautiful personalized cover that I loved. In the next months I sold over 600 copies of the book.

The nature of the Consumer.

Today’s society is very much an “on demand” mentality. You want everything at your fingertips, provided to you in the easiest, simplest way possible. You want to gloss over everything until something catches your interest. Your time is too valuable to spend it any other way. Why wade through things you don’t care for, when you can scroll right to what you want?

You have to catch the eye of your audience. You have to make them think: “That’s interesting… I wonder what it’s about?” Most of the time a stock cover image won’t do this. You can try to make a title that’s snappy enough to pull them in, but that’s like fishing without a worm on the hook.

Do right by your book.

Most new authors are self-published, writing part-time while they work to make the bills. Getting a good book cover done can cost a lot of money, especially with no promise of sales to make up for it. It’s a risk. It’s an investment.

It can mean the difference between a handful of sales, and hundreds of sales.

So think about your book. Think about your audience. Ask yourself if you’d look twice at your book when you scrolled past it in the bookstore. If the answer is no, then maybe it’s time to invest more than just blood, sweat, and tears in your work. Maybe it’s time to bring a cover artist on board.

The road once taken.

Now for the reality of working with a cover artist. They’re just as much of an artist as you are. Your book is your baby, you slaved away at it and pulled it from your mind, carefully pruned it into a masterpiece. The cover artist feels the same about their work. That has to be acknowledged.

It is very important to get all the cards on the table right from the beginning. Make it clear what is expected of both parties, and who owns what at the end of it all. Most cover artists have worked through this process before, and have an idea of the way they like to do things. Sometimes they have options for you, with corresponding price variations on what you get from the deal. Owning full and exclusive rights to the work will cost you. Coming to an agreement somewhere in the middle, where the artist retains copyright with limited use, can be cheaper.

Do your homework. Ask artists for examples of their work or for testimonials from previous clients. Make damn sure they’re a reliable and honest professional. There’s nothing worse than partnering with an artist that’s willing to swap work, then getting screwed when they don’t follow through with their end of the deal. No contract, no cover, no way to do anything about it.

Use a contract, even if it’s an emailed agreement written out and replied to. Make sure it outlines everything from the price, to the delivery date, to the copyrights. No surprises. A true professional won’t be offended if you ask for a contract, because it will show that you value their rights as well as your own.

Remember that their time is valuable. They are creating something unique for you, and you will pay for that. But in the end, it’s worth it.

Happy writing!