Your Book’s Cover Needs to Be More Targeted Than You Think

This morning I read a fantastic article about book cover design. You can (and should) read the whole article over at Digital Book World but here’s the gist of it:

Jellybooks does analytics testing for book publishers where readers can choose ARCs to read in exchange for allowing Jellybooks to track their reading data. So Jellybooks can track how many readers chose a book, and how far into the book they read.

The article describes a case where many readers began a book based on it’s exciting spy novel cover, then over 60% of them stopped reading during the first few chapters. It was actually a nonfiction spy book, not a novel. So while the fantastic, exciting, cover got a lot of clicks, it subtly misrepresented the books contents. The readers hadn’t been looking for nonfiction and they stopped reading.

I found this really fascinating, because on the surface the cover design made a lot of sense. It was a book about the CIA, so the spy cover suited the topic. And the publisher probably thought that branding in a way closer to fiction covers would attract an audience who loved spy stories and might be really interested in the topic of their book. And the cover worked. It attracted a lot of readers, and presumably they were readers who loved stories about spies.

But they didn’t want nonfiction, and they didn’t finish the book. They didn’t buy the next book. They didn’t became fans of the author.

So how do we measure the success of a book cover? Is it enough that it looks nice and entices people to buy the book? Not if you’re playing the long game. Not if you want to build a career as an author.

The better your cover conveys exactly what sort of book it represents, the better your completion rates will be.

Please note that this doesn’t mean that your cover should contain all sorts of details about the story. The reader doesn’t need to look at the cover and be able to guess the entire plot line. They just want to know how this story will make them feel. Is it the kind of book they are in the mood for. And the closer you can get to showing them that with the cover, the more satisfied they will be with the book.

So it pays to really nail down your genre and subgenre (and sub sub genre). Get to know who your readers are and what they love in a book cover. Use your cover to show them what makes your story unique, but also what makes it like the other stories they love.

Write a great story, hire a great cover designer. But make sure that your is more than just pretty and clickable. It also needs to be as targeted to the right readers.

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