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:
The Siren’s Call
Pretend you’ve just walked into a bookstore, except this bookstore only has one bookcase and it’s so far from where you’re standing that the covers appear to be just over one-inch tall. Just one shelf has books on it—all of them turned so the covers are facing out. Now, from where you’re standing, pick one of those books to buy:
Ludicrous, you say? Well, here—let’s replace the bookshelf with this:
Look familiar? This is Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” suggestive selling ribbon and it’s ubiquitous on that site (and other e-book sites a well). Whether you’re browsing for a police procedural or spicy erotica, the suggestive selling ribbon serves up a tempting, seductive, and near-constant barrage of suggestions to its customers at every turn.
In Part 2 and Part 3 of my series “My Date Using the Almighty Amazon Algorithm,” I explain how the suggestive selling ribbon on Amazon is transforming “discoverability” (the way readers inadvertently “stumble upon” a book) and the way authors need to think about cover design with these overarching points:
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?
I've always known it's important to have a good cover whether you're self-published or traditionally published. But I've never thought about thumbnails. Thanks for sharing the info and I look forward to learning more.ReplyDelete
It's never-ending and fascinating what bubbles to the surface when big changes take place, isn't it? Thanks, Natalie.Delete
Discoverability is becoming crucial in the current marketplace.
Such a big topic, too, Laura, I find it hard to always keep up!Delete
Linda, I love this post. And... yes, I picked the book that had the most sales. We can't judge a book by its cover. But we sure will pick it up, and half the battle is won. We must remember what it will look like small. And colors mean so much. Powerful or confusing. That's the question. Thank you! I'm going to revisit my next cover.ReplyDelete
Me, too, Karlene, so I guess we instinctively understand what's needed--we just need to let go of all the complicating things we want when it's OUR book. :) Btw, I just saw the cover reveal for Lydia Kang's book that's coming out from Dial Press at Random House in the fall. It was designed by a book cover designer the publisher chose, I'm guessing, and it's gorgeous for what we're talking about here, AND for full-sized. If you want to check it out, go here: http://www.yabookscentral.com/blog/cover-reveal-control-by-lydia-kang-giveaway-international , and scroll down to the full cover. Can't wait to see the cover for your new book!Delete
Thumbnails are more important now than ever as physical bookstores continue to decline. As a cover designer, I can honestly say that this has become a major focus for the majority of my clients.ReplyDelete
I'll bet! It has to be, along with how many other things for discoverability? SEO data embedded in the site's publishing specs? Other? Here's a question, Heather. Do you see any trend in which social media (if any) are truly significant for an author's sales?Delete
It was a revelation to consider this when it came to book covers. Great post, Linda!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Lydia. Your cover reveal last week was such a great example of what works for both a thumbnail size and larger sized cover. It's gorgeous.Delete