Do readers judge a book by its cover?

There’s a lot of research evidence out there to support the notion that more than 75% of book sales are earned by the quality of their covers. It’s easy to understand that a strong title and graphics will grab a buyer’s attention – and in a marketplace with more than a zillion titles floating around, an author needs all the edge he or she can get.

Let’s face it, there are some real turkeys out there and no matter what lies between the covers it’s unlikely these books will ever get more than the briefest of glances before a potential reader’s eye roams quickly to the next in line.

So how do authors give themselves a fighting chance of getting noticed? It’s simple – get a cover that makes people pause when they scan the bookshelves or run through the endless pages of listings on the Amazon website.

A knock-‘em-dead summary of the book’s content is, of course, just as important as a strong cover – but that’s a subject for another day.

Let’s look at what makes a good cover. Everyone will have their own choices but most readers I’ve spoken to tell me their preferences run something like this:

1.         A great title (in as few words as possible);
2.         An evocative image that creates a sense of what the book is about;
3.         Overall professional design (not a cut-and-paste job).

So where do authors turn to for those killer designs? The choice of designers floating around the Internet is mind-boggling, but so too in many cases are their fees! For new indie authors looking to make an impact they are simply outside their budget with the result that many, regrettably, have to turn to self-creations or seek the help of friends with a bit of Photoshop knowledge.

Too often this results in amateurish, poor quality work that will undermine all other efforts to promote their work.

Example of a cover that really works

The good news is that there are some really great professional choices available to authors. Prices ranging from $20 to $300 are available, with the higher prices charged only where more than one ‘stock image’ is required – these things have to be bought and ring-fenced for just the one title, hence the growing cost if you look to add too much to your shopping cart.So, if you keep it simple you can grab a bargain and yet still have a professional, quality design to put you ahead of your competitors. In many cases you’ll find designers with low-cost pre-made covers for ebooks and paperbacks – they just add your title and author name.

I feel so strongly about the issue that I want to help develop a resource for authors where they can access tried and trusted designer sites. And I want to enlist the help of readers to help inform the choices that are made.

And here’s another great example

Are you willing to share information on good quality, affordable designers that you’ve used? Why not pass on a recommendation that will help narrow down the endless searches and queries that all new authors have to go through?

I’ll kick the ball off by throwing out some designers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. You can check them out by clicking on the links below:

Book Graphics
Paul Guzman

Can you tell us what book covers have recently caught your attention? What do you look for in a cover? Do you agree that authors need to pay more attention to their covers? Your feedback will help authors get a better ‘feel’ for what’s popular with their audience.

I intend to run future blog competitions in which readers can win Amazon book vouchers and new authors will earn a free cover design service. So help me with some feedback so I can ‘design’ the right competition that will help push this campaign along.

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11 Responses to Do readers judge a book by its cover?

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  2. Donna at DLC Designs says:

    I believe its cover can make or break a book. Let’s put our heads together and make your next book jump off the shelves. Check out my online portfolio at Contact me through my contact page on this site when you are ready:)

  3. Liz Stewart (L.K. STEWART) says:

    I’m in the process of publishing my first ebook, “Land Grab,” which will be out in a couple of weeks. I had Brion Sausser from Book Creatives do my cover and website. He is professional, experienced, timely, affordable and a dynamite cover designer. Visit his website to see his fine work:
    I couldn’t be more pleased with both my cover and author’s website.

  4. Kat McLaughlin says:

    Hi, Joe!

    When I wear my reader’s hat, looking for books (and I have a research library full of books from mysteries to textbooks), I’m usually drawn to clean covers. I’ve no affinity for the busy look. I like the title, author, and a single quote by a well-known author endorsing the book. I prefer just a few colors as less is more. Your Lee Child’s “The Affair” example is perfect, reflecting what I love in a book. The illustration comports to the title, giving it a subtext all its own, telling a bit of the story, but just a bit, and just enough to pull me in. I flip the cover, read the back of the book blurb, and if that grabs me, consider it sold.

    • Joe McCoubrey says:

      Kat, a wonderful post – thanks for sharing. I can see we share the same thoughts about covers.

  5. Ian Graham says:

    Hey Joe,

    Posted this on your Facebook but thought I would add it here as well. I just recently used Carl Graves at to design a cover. Turned out great.

    ~ Ian

    • Joe McCoubrey says:

      Ian – Carl Graves has been added to my list. I’ll keep reviewing this over the next few weeks.

  6. Ruby Barnes says:

    Hey Joe.
    I’ve been down the covers road and am on my third cover version for my crime fiction Peril. The cover for that one, The New Author and my upcoming The Crucible Part 1 were all designed by
    Jane’s process is to get your synopsis, blurb and a selection of same genre covers that please you (e.g. from Amazon top 100 in your genre) plus any general ideas you already have in your head. She waves her magic wand and hey presto, lovely proofs to choose from. I would highly recommend her for indie authors and price is reasonable too.

    • Joe McCoubrey says:

      Ruby, many thanks for the feedback. I’ll add Jane’s link to my list and will publish this in a few weeks as an update for authors looking for designers.

  7. Kevin Taggart says:

    Never judge a book by its movie!

  8. review says:

    Why users still make use of to read news papers when in this technological globe all is available on web?

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