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…

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.

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.

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Choosing the Cover for your Self-Published Book – Follow the Crowd or Dare to be Different?

covertwitterheader.jpgAs an indie author, it’s your prerogative to do things your way, including choosing the cover design for your self-published book. While trade-published authors often dislike the covers picked by their publishers, that doesn’t mean their publishers have got it wrong. Though it may seem that all book covers in a particular genre start to look the same (take the trend for headless women on historical novels a few years ago, for example), trends are followed for good reason, and you flout them at your peril. Here I explains why it’s important to strike the right balance between pleasing yourself and conforming with common practices in your genre.

As a self-publishing author, there is one benefit which I believe gives authors a pre-conceived satisfaction, and that’s the control that they have on how their book will look in their hands at the end of the process. For many authors this is something they have dreamed of for a very long time. As a book design professional, it can sometimes be difficult to express to authors why the cover that they have visualised in their mind may not the best option.

Should You Dare to be Different?

Often the first thing a professional will hear from an author is that they want the cover to be completely different from other books on the market. Most book cover designers will tell you that this can be fatal to a book’s selling potential. This is where professional book cover designers prove their worth. They’re not just graphic designers; they should research the elements of a cover and what is working in particular areas of the market on a regular basis. The trends that are set and followed can mean the difference between your book selling or being looked over by a reader.

With this being the case, there is a fine line between being different and risking that vital connection between your book and your chosen target market.

This is because readers are naturally drawn to books that have a familiar appearance and brand to those that they have previously enjoyed.

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The Disadvantage of Difference

If your book has a very different cover, you may lose out on those sales from readers who are looking for a particular style of work. Many publishers, agents and designers insist on using the tried and tested styles of design, only testing the waters with a new trend once they know it will pick up sales. This can be frustrating for self-publishing authors who rightly feel that their work deserves to be noticed, but ironically, being different can mean your book isn’t noticed as much as it could be.

Blend In, But Don’t Camouflage

Having said this, there is also a risk that your book will blend in too much and the design may appear dull. There are, however, ways that you or your designer can make your cover stand out whilst still creating a sense of credibility through familiarity within your position in the market.

  • Take some time to look through books in your genre. What covers stand out to you and why?
  • What is selling well and gaining notice?
  • You can also look at other genres, as trends often find themselves crossing over.

Once you have accumulated some detail, use this information to cleverly better the themes and styles that have proved themselves successful. The elements to focus on can include colours, imagery, mood, typography and composition.

Get the Balance Right

Cover design is a true balancing act and something to take great care and consideration over. At the end of the day, the cover is there to perform one job, and that is to appeal and sell to your readership. Achieving this can take some thought, but there are certainly ways to make your work appeal to the genre’s regular readers, whilst standing out for the right reasons.

If you and your designer have an idea that breaks the mould, that you both feel could work then it can be worth trying to become the trendsetter, but if you don’t, there is nothing wrong with balancing familiarity and uniqueness, trusting in the market and in your readers.

 

This blog was originally posted on http://selfpublishingadvice.org/best-book-cover-design-for-self-published-books/

 

If you have any questions about cover design, feel free to comment or email me at contact@authordesignstudio.com

Cover Design – Identifying Your Target Audience

If you are a self-publishing author, cover design as a service, is something that you will all come across at some point. Unless you do it yourself, you will no doubt research the many companies that offer cover design as a service (Author Design Studio included). Having worked with many authors, I definitely get the impression that you can all become quite disheartened at not being able to create a cover to appeal to everyone. By that I mean every book has a target audience, and this is possibly the first obstacle in the cover design process to overcome.

Every book out there has a main audience that it’s going to have to appeal to. It’s nigh on impossible to create a cover that appeals to every single reader that you believe would enjoy your book. As a cover designer, we must identify the largest part of that audience to target. It gives your book a better chance of selling if you create something to appeal to a single audience, than creating a mixed design which would only create confusion.

Now, having come to that decision, it’s not always easy to find which market you want to jump into. After all, Harry Potter covered a vast market, but if you noticed, it also had many different covers to enter into each genre. If you’re having difficulty deciding, speak to your cover designer and explain the message your book is trying to convey. It may be much clearer to someone who hasn’t spent every hour of every day for the past years thinking of this book!

Once you’ve decided on your genre and target audience, your cover designer should look into the market with you, discuss what’s selling, what’s eye-catching and how you can fit in whilst still stand out. Many covers in the same genre appear very similar, and whilst this attracts readers of similar books, your cover designer will also need to consider the balance of being different in a market that’s already potentially overcrowded.

As an author, you a more than likely a reader in the same genre that you write. Pop into a book shop and see what catches your eye, make a note and talk to your designer.

Design is in itself a creative process, and can become quite personal. Your designer should take on-board your ideas, and I’m sure they’ll offer some too, but the end result should be something that both you and your readers will love!