One way is your cover. Your cover is the first thing readers will see, and it will have an impact on whether they want to open the book. In fact, it is absolutely key to discoverability, especially for debut authors.
Here's a crucial fact about cover design that is different now than it used to be: as a result of the power of e-books and their marketing to shape the industry, the most likely first look that many, many readers will get of your book cover will be a thumbnail version, online, on one of the major book sites. (Even if you publish traditionally, you're going to sell your book online as well, right?) And effective thumbnail cover design is different than design for a larger cover.
But why thumbnail? Aren't those book covers on barnesandnoble.com and amazon bigger than a thumbnail? Yes, if they are for the featured book. But your new book, unless it's a breakout or a blockbuster, is not likely to be seen by potential readers as a featured book.
Instead, your book cover is likely to be seen for the first time by readers as one of a string of books that the reader "might also like" if they're looking at a particular featured book. The books in this "you might also like" string are, as you know, pictured thumbnail size under the featured book. (While this might sound unsatisfactory to some, it is actually a huge plus—one to be coveted—to get your book listed this way so that new readers can discover you by associating you with an author or book they know they're interested in.)
At the Digital Book World site Elle Lothlorien did an outstanding post on this topic. It's a bit on the long side but I think it's an essential read for anyone who wants to publish. (It's also very readable and entertaining.) Here's part of it, which shows what I was trying to tell, above:
There were a couple of things in the full article that surprised me, maybe because I haven't kept up on the latest research and thinking in book cover design for a little while:
- The title of the book and the author's name are not important in the thumbnail cover—they don't need to be readable or take up any extra precious space. Why? Because, once again, this is not a featured book, it is one of a string of "you might also like" books, and the reader will be looking first for the concept of the book, not who wrote it or what it's called. If they're intrigued by the cover, they'll click on the thumbnail design to get more information. (If you are an author with a well-established large readership, it obviously is important that your name be readable, though.)
- The concept of the book should be represented as simply, clearly, and largely as possible in the given space. This, actually, is something I think we all understand pretty well, but the ability to create a visual cue that accomplishes these requirements in the thumbnail size comes with its own requirements. Again, Lothlorien not only explains this, but shows great examples.
I know some of you out there have delved deep into these ideas and put them into practice. What can you share with us that keeps us thinking about how to make our covers not only beautiful, but effective?