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.