ALLi Partner member Simon Avery, book designer at idobookcovers.com, explains the most important principles of cover design for books to be sold online.
The rise of online book retailers such as Amazon have changed the rules of book cover design. And authors who realise this stand to do much better in their sales.
I'm always surprised to see how many books' covers are not optimised for online sales – which means authors who do so can grab a huge advantage. A cover designed with Amazon in mind can put you firmly above the competition, including books by trade publishers.
Why Design Matters More Online
Research shows that a book's cover is even more important to online customers than those browsing in a bricks-and-mortar bookshop. This is because time-pressed internet book shoppers often buy on the strength of the cover, title, and one-line description alone. With the right cover, these buying habits will work in your favour.
If you’re looking to sell elsewhere than online, I wish you luck. But the fact of the matter is that Amazon is the single largest outlet for print books on the planet. Crack their format, and your sales can go through the roof, overnight.
Make no mistake about it, there is a formula, besides writing a good book. And the good news for self-published authors is: not all trade publishers get it. Yet. They’re still designing books for the shrinking market of bookshops. My advice to indie authors is to embrace the expanding world of online, and make the most of your advantages in it.
For debut authors, the right cover and marketing can increase your online sales far more than backing by a trade publisher ever could.
Design for Print vs Design for Online
So how to exploit this growing market? The first rule of online publishing success is this: never underestimate the power of the thumbnail. It’s how readers buy books online, so your cover should be designed to look great at thumbnail size.
Designing solely for print means lost sales. A beautifully detailed cover which draws bookshop readers won’t look the same online. Not only will tactile design elements like foiling and embossing be lost, but design that looks incredible at 9” x 6” will be crunched and squashed down to a measly few centimetres.
To add insult to injury, if you buy into the option of Amazon's sampling facility, it will add a ‘look inside’ banner, which further squishes the cover, and draws the eye away from the design. For many books that look wonderful in print, you can’t even read the title online, let alone the all-important ‘bestselling’ text, which has been proven to make readers buy.
Case Study: J S Taylor's Romance Novels
Established romance author JS Taylor was achieving good sales with her Spotlight Series. Following online feedback, however, she was concerned her plain cover choices weren’t working as hard as they could.
The brief was to revamp the design, and increase sales, with the new cover range to be available in under a week. As well as providing a complete redesign of the cover, I added a clear ‘bestseller’ tag which showed up in thumbnail. Before uploading her new cover, JS’s books sold around 400 books a day. In the UK, her sales were not large enough to put her books in the charts. After uploading the new covers, JS saw a dramatic sales increase. Overnight, her non-existent UK sales grew to 200 a day, and her book ranked in the romance chart. In the US, the effect was even more pronounced. Her 400 a day sales more than doubled, to between 800 and 1000 daily. Her chart position climbed to number 5 and 6 in adult romance.
“The effect of the new covers was just incredible,” she reports. “They doubled my sales almost overnight, and hugely increased my chart prominence. After only a month, I’d made 10,000 extra sales of my $3 books, and I owe it all to the Simon Avery's new cover design.”
So make sure you enjoy the advantages of book cover designs optimised for online sales. Commission a designer who understands Amazon, and your books will stand out better in the thumbnail line up.
This is the first in an occasional series of posts about aspects of book design for self-published authors, to include interior design considerations and developing a partnership between writer and designer.