You may have written a killer book but it needs a face that will get the attention of readers.
There are so many books available from so many marketplaces that just getting yours seen is a challenge on its own. Remember that you’re also competing for attention with radio, television and all the content that flies across social media. Essentially your book is in a gigantic popularity contest so your cover can’t just be a pretty face.
Your book cover needs to communicate the right information to help potential readers make the decision to pick it up.
Imagine the poster for a Big Mac!
If you’re looking at it while desperately hungry then the burger itself is an enticing image. You see the super low price alongside and it becomes even more appealing. By the time you see the McDonalds logo, which is synonymous with ‘fast’, you have three pieces of information that’s convincing enough to satisfy your hunger.
That’s why the design of your book cover is not only about good looks. It’s an attempt to pre-emptively answer all the potential buyer’s questions in just one glance. Think of it as a snapshot of what your book promises the reader so that the only response left is ‘I’ll take one!’
These are the marketing bits that need to be integrated into your book cover design and balanced with aesthetics.
Why? Because you’re really asking for a purchase decision. You’re asking potential readers to buy your book over the many others available so you have to justify why that’s a sound decision. There’s nothing untoward about this. It is merely being clear about what your book truly offers – which brings us to…
Your book is a product just like a Big Mac!
Its purpose is to satisfy a need. In the Big Mac’s case that need is hunger. As an author you must know what your book is offering. Whether you’re selling food or an information product, the only reason people will buy your product is because they have a need for it.
Self-help books are very clear about this. Ten-steps to making your own air-balloon! A guy desperate to fly will pick this book up because it shows him how to accomplish his objective.
Similarly, your value proposition must be articulated in your book cover so that those who have a need for it will instantly be attracted to your offering.
This is true for fiction also. Fiction employs genre as the packaging for stories but its function is firstly to entertain. That’s their value proposition and the way it’s packaged is, for instance, a romance, horror, action, etc. The genre is simply different packaging for the same value proposition.
Be clear about your value proposition on your cover!
Whatever your chosen product package is, remember there’s a truckload of good books that came before yours so readers are used to a certain quality. They will use their experiences to assess whether your book meets their standard, and this influences a buying decision.
When you look at a Big Mac advert you already know the quality of fast food. You know what to expect and product patterning is about creating certainty for the buyer.
Look at other books in the genre you’ve written. Try and discern the pattern, then ensure your book cover is patterned accordingly. This screams professional and, if you’re self-published, readers will gain a trust for your content.
Publishing companies big and small understand their typical buyer’s expectations and that intelligence should be reflected in your book cover. Communicating that information through your book cover tells the buyer that you’ve understood him. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather chance my money on someone who understands my need.
As the old adage goes: people buy from friends!
Because potential book-buyers have so much choice, you’d be wiser for addressing any objections to purchasing your book up-front.
Popular as the Big Mac is, you’ve probably heard the common objection that it’s not healthy food. McDonalds dealt with this using their ‘Ok, Google’ campaign in which people could ask specific questions about their nutrition and ingredients. Even if you didn’t Google the Big Mac while standing in the queue, the fact that they addressed the objection already lends credibility to McDonald’s fast food whether you decide it’s healthy or not.
You could also pre-empt and deal with such objections on your book cover. A strapline or sub-title is a powerful tool to do this.
A cover design needs to be a certain size so you have very little real-estate to deal with many objections. You have to get creative with how you use the information on your cover to help a reader decide your book is the one for him.
If you need more space to do this, and your book is in print format, the back-cover is the perfect place to do this. Testimonials are a good tool to address objections and one or two punchy ones could also grace your front cover if they’re short and precise enough.
‘Geez’, you must be wondering, how do I get all that into a book cover? Yes, simplicity is key. Luckily the information you need to present is as malleable as the tools we’ve discussed. But simplicity is really achieved through proper planning, specifically a marketing plan for your book.
Think of your marketing plan as a way to extend the enthusiasm you put into writing your book so that audiences can enjoy it too.
The primary function of your marketing plan is to marry your product, promotional, pricing and sales activity with the needs of your audience. This all boils down to a set of marketing messages which are made up of key words and phrases that speak to your target audience’s need.
Ideally, you’ve defined your target audience before writing your book, as is traditional in publishing. We won’t go into all the specifics of a marketing plan here but knowing your audience is critical to informing how you distil all the information contained in your book into a simple product snapshot that serves as your book cover.
So if you don’t have one already, get one!