Book Covers: Nobody Will Tell You Your Baby Is Ugly

Don’t ask your friends on Facebook to critique your book cover.

Don't ask your friends to choose your book coverIt may be tempting to post several book cover sketches from your designer and ask friends to select their favorite. But, when it comes to selecting your book cover you should only consider the opinions of your ideal readers for the book.

Just like they will never tell you your baby is ugly, your friends will also not tell you if your cover is bad. Unless your friends are the exact ideal readers you have targeted for your book, their opinion is not relevant. What’s worse, their kindness might actually be detrimental to your book sales.

How do you decide on a great book cover?

  1. Know who your ideal reader is. Do some online research for your genre – detective fiction, or example and also for more general demographics, like millennials. Try to find demographic studies to back up your assumptions. Pew Research has some great information for general demographics. I’ve found several studies conducted by blogs and trade publications on the readers of specific genres. Start with Publishers Weekly and other trade publications to see what’s happening in your genre.
  2. Hire a designer with experience designing covers. A general designer might not know some of the tricks of the trade, such as what to include on the back cover. An experienced book designer will also know what elements should be included in specific genres and have great ideas on what kind of artwork would be most effective in attracting your ideal readers. Not sure how to write a description of your book for the back cover? Check out my post, A Great Book Description Is Critical For Your Book Marketing Plan.
  3. Pay attention to books similar to yours. What elements do they use in their covers? Colors, typefaces? Endorsements? How do they get your attention on that all-important back cover?
  4. If you must show your cover to friends, seek out friends who read your genre or are interested in your topic. Don’t ask them if they like your cover — of course they’ll say yes! Instead, ask them which of your sample covers would catch their eye in a bookstore — and why.
  5. If you already have a published book with a bad cover, don’t dispair! It’s not too late to go back and do the reader research and have a new cover done. Yes, there’s an expense in redoing the cover. But, what is the cost of having a book that isn’t selling?

2 Responses

  • Excellent point! I think it’s ok to ask people you know who are potential buyers of your book, but be specific in your questions. Don’t ask, “Do you like it?” Instead ask “If you saw this book in a bookstore would you pick it up and look at it? If so, why?”

  • Mary,
    Excellent, well-thought out advice. People make the mistake of thinking that if something is likeable, it will sell. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. The chihuahua dog ad for Taco Bell was incredibly popular and sold nothing. The Charmin ad was hated and sold a lot. At the end of the day, whether or not my friends like the book cover is totally irrelevant.

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