Sunday, June 19, 2016

You CAN Sell a Book by Its Cover (Almost)

Here I quote and paraphrase indie author Rayne Hall (2015), who has written about the 20 elements she believes may hinder your book from selling or may help it sell. First, you need an effective cover:

         Most book purchases – ebooks or print – happen online. The reader browsing sites sees a dozen or more books displayed on the page. Her eye scans over them, and unless one catches her attention, she clicks ‘next’…. Your book cover has a fraction of a second to arrest the eye.
  •                       What else? For one thing symmetrical designs, where the left side is essentially the mirror image of the right side, are not as attention-getting as asymmetrical designs. Hall gives several graphic examples, and it is clear that the more complex asymmetrical designs tend to be more eye-catching.
  •             Although you are not likely to do your own cover designing, it is good to know some basic principles. For example, Hall recommends dividing the front cover region into thirds, left and right, top and bottom, a pattern similar to the # or tic-tac-toe pattern. Arrange to have the main graphic element be off-center. Align the author name to one side and book title to another. “If possible, arrange the title on one of the two horizontal lines, and an arresting part of the picture where two lines cross.”
  •              Especially for online sales, where the cover is seen as a little “thumbnail,” simplicity is preferable to complexity, as much detail will be lost anyway.             
  •            People get our attention. “A character attracts the eye more than a landscape or an object. A portrait or half-body character (from the waist up) typically gets more attention than a full-body figure.” If consistent with your genre, use a single figure or object.
  •           Because of the size reduction for online display, much text will be hard to read unless the font size is quite large. Title and author, two elements, are generally better than three or four. If you’re not famous, making your name particularly large will not likely fool most potential buyers, however.     
  •           Make sure that your cover signals the reader what genre it represents. Look at other competitor covers to get a good general idea. Beware getting stock photos or illustrations already used by other book covers, as this can confuse the reader, perhaps annoying her.    
         Covers with few colors are more effective than those with many. Strong contrasts, in color, shade, and light-and-dark attract the eye.

Ebook maven Karia (2015) joins the chorus of those who stress the importance of an attractive cover. He changed one of his and tripled his sales rate by doing so. Actually, he got an artist to do it, as he warns “Don’t Do It Yourself!” That does not keep him from having opinions about what works, however:

·      Title: large, so as to be readable when in Amazon thumbnail
·      Contrasting colors: for legibility
·      Visual simplicity: again, consider what the “thumbnail” will look like

Karia joins others who recommend as a source for book-cover designers. Have several do several, then select one. You should search for images on to indicate what you are seeking. He gives detailed advice on working with these graphic artists. “Remember that your cover is one of the most important parts of your book.”

Why, then, did I originally choose a plain cover for this book, WYBWM? The three paperback options my publisher offers that I was considering include various features, only some of which I care about. A plain cover with its big title and my name is part of the $400 package. Next more expensive, at about $700, would include a picture on the cover, and most of my writers get this one or the next more expensive at about $1000 that includes an artistic cover. Being married, I am spending not just “my” money, but “our” money, and I hate to waste it. The book may become popular, but may merely become a “thick business card.” I can handle only a limited number of new writing partners, anyway. If I make WYBWM into blog pieces or videos, the original cover won’t mean much. Finally, one would like to think, perhaps foolishly, that his book is bought for its contents not its cover. Oh, no, extinguish the ego!

Why did I finally go with the cover you see here, costing hundreds of dollars more than the simplest choice? It was too beautiful to resist. I hoped the readers would agree.


Excerpted from Write Your Book with Me,  published by Outskirts Press and available from OP as well as online booksellers like, where today (06.19.16) both the ebook and the paperback are on sale for under $1. 

My writing-coaching-editing site is


     Hall, R. (2015). Why does my book not sell? 20 simple fixes.
St Leonards, UK: Scimitar Press.

Karia, A. (2015). How to write a non-fiction Kindle ebook in 15 days, Self-Published. Amazon ebook. 

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