Can You Judge a Book by Its Cover?
You bet your New York Times Best Sellers list, you can. Authors who have made it that far are firing on all cylinders, with access to the best resources available. Their covers are like advertising billboards, inviting you to step inside their story.
What makes you buy? The humorous title? The woman on the cover? The six pack? And I don’t mean Budweiser. Does the back cover synopsis lure you inside?
With so many books now viewed on a mobile devices, a book cover has to do heavy lifting in a limited space. Think Good Reads, Amazon, and social media sites. You access them most often on a small screen first.
Well, for those of you who are published, I’m sure you’ve given great thought to all the ingredients that make up a tempting front and back novel cover. You may have done thorough research or have great resources of your own. However, there are few trade secrets that may help with the sales, ranking and searchability of your next novel. And I’m willing to dish.
A few weeks ago, I attended a special RWA local chapter meeting, where I learned from two publishing professionals insider tips to consider when crafting a book cover and title. The special event, hosted by Central Ohio Fiction Writers (COFW), invited Soul Mate Publisher and lead Editor, Debby Gilbert and New York Times Best Selling author, Eloisa James, to share industry secrets. They both know their stuff!
According to Debby, there are a few important things to keep in mind when considering your book title’s searchability. For example, be cautious about using a title if there are already novels using the same name on Amazon. She warns if your title is too similar, social media readers may have trouble finding your book. And make sure the title you choose, comes up in the book section and not the product section. Imagine a book called, The iPhone Affair and the trouble that could cause.
In addition to great cover art, you should create a title that is clever and engaging. Consider these three key points Debby shared with our COFW group.
- Use Alliteration, which is the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. Good examples of this are:
The Great Gatsby
Of Mice and Men
Pride and Prejudice
You get the idea…
- Consider using an Oxymoron, a figure of speech where contradictory terms appear in conjunction. A few titles that showcase this are:
- Make it Unique, whether it’s a play on words or to foreshadow what’s to come:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Gone with the Wind
A Scot in the Dark
I could write a lengthy magazine article about all the fantastic tips both Debby Gilbert and Eloisa James shared with our COFW group, but here’s my favorite from Eloisa, honed from writing twenty-five historical romance novels:
“Pay attention to the back cover copy of your book. You’re not done when you’ve written the book. You must then think about how your reader will make the buying decision. Readers make their buying decisions by looking first at the cover, then at the back cover copy, then at the first page. In the back cover copy, a savvy author will make use of themes or tropes such as the wallflower, heiress, or pirate.”
And finally, if the sage advice of these two literary professionals isn’t enough, according to a study commissioned by the Romance Writers of America organization, the back cover copy and the cover art of a book rank higher on influencing sales than recommendations on social media sites or endorsements from other leading authors:
Most-important factor when deciding on which romance novel to buy (ranked from most to least important):
(1) The story
(2) The author
(5) Part of a series
(6) Back cover copy
(7) Cover art
(8) Recommendations on a social media site
(9) Deal/bundle/bargain/special offer
(10) An endorsement by another leading author
Source: Romance Writers of America commissioned Nielsen to perform the creation, implementation, and analysis of the 2014 Nielsen Romance Buyer Survey.
You are judge jury and jury when selecting your next read. I’d love to hear what you think.