Thursday, March 14, 2013

Does a cover really sell a book?

Hello, all!  Jaycee DeLorenzo, here.  Aside from being an indie author, I also have my own cover design business, Sweet 'N Spicy Designs, and because of such, I was asked to present about cover design at Tucson's annual event, The Tucson Festival of Books.  

I was so excited to attend and planned to recap some of the highlights of the festival…and then, well, you know what they say about best laid plans.  My daughter came down with the roseola virus, my son had a fever, and my hubby was feeling under the weather, as well.  So, I had to miss most of the festival.  I was only there for about two hours.  An hour and a half of that was spent doing my own presentation, along with Jim Azevedo, marketing manager from Smashwords. So, because I didn’t get to stay and my only real highlight of the festival outside of the panel was meeting Lynn Rush (very cool!), I’ll share some of the highlights of my presentation, because it's information that every indie author should be aware of: 

“Does a cover really sell a book?” 

In short...

Packaging is Everything!

For the unknown author, which many of us indie authors are, the cover is the single most critical marketing tool you have. Make it a good one!

Cover design is both an art and a science, and it’s market-tested.

Make an Impression!You have approximately 3-8 seconds for your front cover to make an impression.  

Your cover should:

  • Grab the reader’s imagination and make a promise ( it should tell them you’re going to either entertain, teach, inspire, or motivate them).
  • Make the reader want to find out more.
  • Reflect the quality and professionalism of your overall work.

Visually Engage Your Reader!

Your title, font and imagery should make the reader want to take notice.  

Imagery can be beautiful, bizarre, funny, scary...whatever you want, as long as it correctly sets the tone of your book and elicits an emotional response.

  • Know your category and genre.
  • Study books that have been successful in your genre.
  • Get unbiased feedback from others.  This does not include your mom or best friend.

Know Your Audience!
Does your cover match your audience’s expectations?

Look at other covers in your genre and take note of design aspects they have in common (font, imagery, colors, etc.)

Utilize these elements because they’ve been market-tested and proven effective.

Make a Promise!
Everything about your cover should indicate what the reader should expect from the book.

Once you’ve made a promise, KEEP IT! Readers do not react well to a promise that has been broken.

Quality Matters!
Writers are professionals.  Everything about their cover should reflect professional quality.

If your outside packaging unprofessional, readers will assume the same of your book (poor story, poor editing, etc.)

You need to make the reader feel confident that your book is worth their time and money.

The Market is…

...Glutted with books.

Find a way to make your book stand out and simultaneously fit in.

If you can’t design your own cover, hire a professional. It is a worthwhile and critical investment.

Make readers want to buy and read your book!

In the end, you have to ask yourself:

  • Does design support the story you’ve written?
  • Is your design going to engage your audience?
  • Does it elicit an emotional response? Can it make a reader feel a connection?
  • Does your cover make the right promise to your readers?
  • Will your audience be able to identify with the cover?
  • Does it promise quality and professionalism?
  • Will it fit in (and stand out) with other covers in your genre?
  • Have you received positive, unbiased feedback on it?
  • What does your gut instinct say?

If it’s not working, try-try again! In the digital age, you have the freedom to change your cover until it works.

Until next time!  



  1. I know I judge a book by its cover. I've been very pleased with the covers my publisher designed for my books. All three represent a scene in the story.

    1. And all three of them look great, too! Thanks for stopping by, Alex. :D

  2. I judge covers too. I didn't know you were in the cover business! I'll have to keep that in mind. :)

  3. I also judge book covers. I tend towards books with more traditional cover art instead of the current trend of models, fancy ballgowns, missing heads, almost-kisses, etc. A good color scheme adds to the overall cover, and as a typography geek, a well-chosen font is most essential. A fancy script font would look weird on a contemporary romance, just as a basic, generic sans-serif font would seem odd and cold on a high fantasy epic.

    1. I tend to like the new trends, but I agree that a really good type is essential. :D

  4. I'm sorry your family has been unwell, and you missed a lot of the festival, Jaycee. I hope everyone is on the mend now.

    Excellent advice about cover design, and I'll surely follow it if I go indie. :D