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Book Marketing: How the Cover of Your Self-published Book Influences Your Brand as an Indie Author

ALLi Partner Member Aimee Coveney provides a useful overview of the impact of a self-published book’s cover not only on its sales success but also on an important long-term consideration: the establishment and promotion of your brand as an indie author. What she has to say also holds true for books published by trade publishing houses. Over to Aimee…

Headshot of Aimee Coveney

Aimee Coveney, design consultant

Over the years as a cover designer, I have often spoken with authors about their brand, and on occasions I have received very quizzical looks, but it is in fact something that should be included early in your career plan as a writer.

A strong brand helps an author in the same way it helps any organisation: it gives your name recognition and helps to sell your work.

The significance of visual marketing and design is forever stronger within all industries, but with online portfolios making artists more accessible, the standard of book covers in self-publishing has hit an all-time high and subsequently increased competition for authors too.

What is an Author Brand Anyway?

The concept of an author brand is sometimes misunderstood, and it is a large topic to cover:

  • It’s not just about the genres you write in, it’s about how you represent yourself to the entire industry and create a recognisable and trusted name.
  • A brand is about how you want your audience to perceive you as a person and a professional.
  • A brand can create an umbrella for all you do, whether that’s working in different fields, or writing in different genres.
collage of book covers

Aimee Coveney’s covers for indie author Carol E Wyer demonstrate a strong brand identity across both non-fiction and fiction

Why Book Cover Branding is Important

For new readers, your book cover is more often than not the first introduction to your brand and your work as a whole.

The average customer spends eight seconds looking at the front cover of a book and fifteen on the back.

Customers buying online may spend even less time than this, so you can see why a high standard of cover is so vital.

It’s important to ensure that your book cover not only visually represents your writing and the story it envelops, but also your brand, so that new readers have an idea of what your work will be like and existing readers can recognise books as yours.

Strongly branded book covers can also have a huge, positive impact on your chance on gaining media attention or getting bookstores interested in stocking your books – not always easy for self-published authors. You must remember that the industry is inundated with books every day. Bookstore buyers may not necessarily be opposed to self-published books, but they know all too well that it’s the cover and brand that sells and if that’s weak, then stocking it wouldn’t make business sense. Unfortunately the use of unprofessional covers can harm the reputation of the self-publishing sector.

In a study of booksellers’ assessments of publisher marketing efforts, 75% of 300 surveyed said that of all the elements of the book itself, the look and design of the cover was the most important.

The cover of a book is thus prime real estate for promoting a book and your brand.

How Effective Cover Branding Helps Reach Your Previous Readers

It’s important as an author to reach previous readers, and one way this is easily achieved is through a recognisable, branded design. If an author has received a good response from their previous work, they may assume that their next book will do equally well, if not better. But what if your readers do not recognise your latest book? The right visual connection on the cover will ensure they do. That recognition factor is vital, and it is what sells books every day.

The same can be said for booksellers. If they can easily identify from your covers that you are an author whose previous books sold well, they’re more likely to stock your books again. If the cover is not strongly branded, they may not remember your earlier books’ popularity.

What About Cover Redesigns?

That’s not to say that a redesign isn’t a good idea. If your design and brand is not up to standard, a complete brand overhaul can be a great piece of PR. Also, cover designs date quickly. The big publishing houses frequently issue new covers even for books that have been selling well under the old covers, so don’t feel that you must stick with the cover under which your book was launched. Changing covers can change the fortunes of a book entirely. (For more on this topic, see the related post at the foot of this page.)

Top Tips for Your Cover Branding

Brand identity is now more important than ever for authors, but it doesn’t have to be complex to be effective. Here are the essentials:

  • a strong, unique font for your author name and book title
  • similar illustrations or image styles for each book
  • consistent layout
  • similar use of colour

Next time you are working on a cover design, remember to ask yourself and a qualified focus group how it’s representing your brand as well as the individual book.

OVER TO YOU: Do you have top tips to share from your own experience of developing your author brand? Or any tips on what not to do? We’d love to hear about them!

#Authors - why yr book covers should reflect yr author brand - top tips from @authordesigner Click To Tweet

ANOTHER GREAT POST ABOUT BOOK COVER DESIGN:

Book Design: How Changing Covers Can Transform Self-published Book Sales

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12 Responses to Book Marketing: How the Cover of Your Self-published Book Influences Your Brand as an Indie Author

  1. James April 10, 2017 at 2:34 am #

    Found some more awesome tips here which I’d love to share and disucss with anyone reading – https://kindlepreneur.com/book-cover-design/.

    In particular –

    * Any tips on finding a unique font for the author name? I guess something legible and suitable for genre but other than that I don’t know.

    *I really find the cover redesigns aspect intriguing. I guess it’s a no-brainer to redesign a bad cover, but when is it a good idea to redo a cover that’s performing acceptably?

  2. Jackie Weger September 11, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

    Aimee Coveney: You are on target…I know exactly what my book needs in a cover to capture the mood or essence of the story. I like consistency in fonts. The first words out of my mouth to a cover artist is: Title and author name must be visible in thumbnail. Next I get renditions of a title fading into background or parts of the title buried in color…and once, the artist forgot to put author name on the cover. Two weeks ago I approved a cover design, paid for it and when I got the final, there was an extra character on the cover. HUH? The designer added it because he only read the book description after I approved the design, and thought the character was a main character. NOT.

    In a way, you are preaching to the choir with your article. IMO, you might consider educating cover artists as to what an author’s branding means. Every cover artist I’ve hired wants to showcase his or her talent and NOT my book. That is wrong-headed. If a cover artist finally nails it, and I go back for another cover…it is as if I’m speaking to an alien…I pay a kill fee and move on. Because it is an uphill battle to market a book with a cover that does not capture the mood of the story. I have since learned to buy two versions of a cover if the artist gets it, so I can refresh the cover as needed.

    • Aimee Coveney September 12, 2016 at 8:57 am #

      Hello Jackie,

      I certainly sounds as if you’ve had a rollercoaster ride when it comes to designers, and that will always be the way I think. When two creative heads collide, it can be hard to ‘connect’, but I think that part of a rrelationship between author and designer is vital. I always want my authors to LOVE their covers. It may not be my vision, it may not be what I think will sell the book best, but all I can do is offer advice.

      When you find a designer who understands you and your visions, build on that relationship and work TOGETHER to create covers that you both love, and more importantly, will sell to your audience.

      Best of luck!

  3. Raymond Cook September 10, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

    Hi Aimee:

    Thank you so much for your article and advice.

    I cut and paste into a word file all of the useful advice I discover in articles to try my best to be more appealing and professional.

    I have branded all 25 of my western frontier eBooks and after this back strain I incurred last week goes away I hope to take on #26.

    Sincerely,

    Raymond

    • Aimee Coveney September 12, 2016 at 8:57 am #

      Thank you Raymond, I’m glad you found it useful!

  4. Warren Shuman September 5, 2016 at 8:49 am #

    Hi Aimee: Thanks so much for you excellent insights regarding Covers. I design the covers of my E-novels to contain a visual that represents the content and genre(s). A sort of answer to: “What’s it about?” support for the description and Blurb.

  5. Aimee Coveney September 3, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

    Hello Karen,

    Yes that’s a very good point to add on. There is a fine line between being recognisable and being overly similar in design across any genre.

    Thank you!
    Aimee

  6. Thomas J Sims September 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

    This is outstanding and very specific information we can all employee. Thanks very very much.

  7. Karen Myers September 3, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

    There are layers for branding for those of us who have multiple genres and/or series

    1) Author name — consistency across all books by author (placement, font, color). Might vary by fiction/non-fiction class, or by genre, in subtle ways (e.g., same position, different font), Your readers shop by genre or series within genre, not by author alone.

    2) Title/Sub-title/text — consistency by series (within genre) (placement, font, color)

    3) Cover illustration style — consistency by series (within genre)

    If, for example, everything you write is stand-alone Romance, then that is a de facto “series”. If everything you write is Romance but you have several series, then differentiating between the series is important, even if all it consists of is a color cue. If you have multiple genres, and esp. if you have both fiction and non-fiction classes, those need to send clear signals about their genre or class.

    In other words, you want to be recognizable as “you”, but you want the books in different genres or series to also be recognizable as belonging to that genre or series. It’s a balancing act between recognition as a trusted author brand vs reducing any possible confusion on the part of the shopper.

    If all of an author’s covers illustrate only her brand (author), the reader will assume they all belong to the same series/genre/class as the first one they ever noticed.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [Introduction to Digital Marketing] Brand Strategy - April 11, 2017

    […] to reproduce the same original cover style and brand in your future endeavors. You can check out Carol Wyer’s book covers for a great example of how consistent cover branding can really work in your […]

  2. Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 09-08-2016 | The Author Chronicles - September 8, 2016

    […] The first connection we usually make with a reader is the cover. K.S. Brooks gives us the top 5 ways to have an awful book cover, while Aimee Coveney explains how the cover of your book influences your brand as an author. […]

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