Author Topic: Book covers  (Read 1171 times)  

Offline PenNPaper

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Book covers
« on: December 20, 2018, 11:21:59 am »
It amazes me how many truly awful book covers there are out there. Some trad, for sure, but most are indie. Do people not have honest friends? Do they really not know better? Why are these covers deemed acceptable?

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    Offline RBC

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #1 on: December 20, 2018, 11:49:51 am »
    Because some authors don't even ask for feedback, some ask but ignore it then as they are in love with the cover. And often other authors give good feedback but because they are not educated enough about Design rules they give 'good' feedback more about the idea rather than the design level. So that's why even feedback from authors isn't always usable.

    And we designers can't sometimes comment on covers because we can get blamed for just wanting to sell our service. If you leave a critique, some will have that cynical attitude. So the problem will never disappear. Hopefully, there will be more and more good educational content coming out, that would help, but only for those open-minded.

    P.S. This comes from having run a cover critique group on Facebook with ton of members.
    « Last Edit: December 20, 2018, 11:51:26 am by RBC »

    Offline OfficialEthanJ

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #2 on: December 20, 2018, 11:57:17 am »
    It amazes me how many truly awful book covers there are out there. Some trad, for sure, but most are indie. Do people not have honest friends? Do they really not know better? Why are these covers deemed acceptable?

    (Kid voice) I made this!

    (Regular voice) I think that sums it up. As someone who does design his own book covers until I can afford to do otherwise, I'm amazed at how little forethought goes in to some covers, up to and including the eBooks that get pushed out with the default cover Sigil makes if you press the "Generate Cover" button.

    Offline Ukpeme

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #3 on: December 21, 2018, 05:21:11 am »
    I consider that creativity is essential for book designs. When a book designer creates a unique book cover, one can spot the distinctiveness.
    Ukpeme Okon

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #4 on: December 22, 2018, 07:38:37 am »
    It amazes me how many truly awful book covers there are out there. Some trad, for sure, but most are indie. Do people not have honest friends? Do they really not know better? Why are these covers deemed acceptable?

    Perhaps they didn't have the budget or the photo-editing skills. It's always a learning curve.

    It amazes me how many boringly written LookInsides I read. But I am not the determiner of whether such writing is acceptable. The reader is.

    It's the same with covers. I've seen ebooks with what appear to be average-looking covers (some of them using the Kindle cover creator templates) that have sold well. In those cases, the readers are the ones determining acceptability, obviously.


    Offline GFXJames

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #5 on: December 22, 2018, 01:34:40 pm »
    Hello everyone.

    I'm curious about the matter, as someone from the other side (well, quite represented here, as well): I'm not a writer, but an artist/graphic designer. Someone have told me that fully illustrated covers are well valued among self publishing writers. Could it be that these are appreciated mostly in certain genres only (although anything can be illustrated, and in many styles...I'm not a one-style artist, actually), or, that they are expected to be so expensive that people automatically discard the "fully painted" option? Or maybe there are a lot more graphic designers and photo editors than painters...

    I have needed to work in many fields (to eat), and could very well do with graphic design/photo retouching (indeed, I don't discard doing so with some. Much faster...), have solid training and experience there... It is indeed faster (at least in my case) than digital painting, by large. But I'd rather prefer illustrating from scratch. I don't feel like using stock photos, mostly not to deal with the licensing stuff, also as I like more painting. It seems to me from what I'm checking that the thing quite escalates in pricing when it's an illustration, and those are the right prices, but as I am beginning now in this market niche (I know how to illustrate, but need to  understand this specific market) and as for sure I wont be able to produce at the incredibly fast rate most cover artists out there, then I'm no competition to anyone, so, I'd better prefer starting very small, low pricing, small production, but each cover done with love and care...I need to build a portfolio for this. So I prefer for now "a few but good" kind of thing. And so, I too know I can't ask for much. Was thinking of 120 -150, and depending on specifics (people can ask for really complex illustrations, I know from other niches)  some at 200. Not sure if there would be a (even if tiny) market for that, here... Also I don't know if in the more crowded genres the only thing welcome is photo editing + graphic design. Could be, I have no idea, to be sincere. Very realistic painting could look pretty similar, tho....
    « Last Edit: December 23, 2018, 11:38:54 am by GFXJames »

    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #6 on: December 22, 2018, 03:07:50 pm »
    Hello everyone.

    I'm curious about the matter, as someone from the other side (well, quite represented here, as well): I'm not a writer, but an artist/graphic designer. Someone have told me that fully illustrated covers are well valued among self publishing writers. Could it be that these are appreciated mostly in certain genres only (although anything can be illustrated, and in many styles...I'm not a one-style artist, actually), or, that they are expected to be so expensive that people automatically discard the "fully painted" option? Or maybe there are a lot more graphic designers and photo editors than painters...

    I have needed to work in many fields (to eat), and could very well do with graphic design/photo retouching (indeed, I don't discard doing so with some. Much faster...), have solid training and experience there... It is indeed faster (at least in my case) than digital painting, by large. But I'd rather prefer illustrating from scratch. I don't feel like using stock photos, mostly not to deal with the licensing stuff, also as I like more painting. It seems to me from what I'm checking that the thing quite escalates in pricing when it's an illustration, and those are the right prices, but as I am beginning now in this market niche (I know how to illustrate, but need to  understand this specific market) and as for sure I wont be able to produce at the incredibly fast rate most cover artists out there, then I'm no competition to anyone, so, I'd better prefer starting very small, low pricing, small production, but each cover done with love and care...I need to build a portfolio for this (and for everything, as in past companies there were issues to extract the images and stuff (NDAs, it was frowned upon, etc), being the one in my profile quite cr4ppy. So I prefer for now "a few but good" kind of thing. And so, I too know I can't ask for much. Was thinking of 120 -150, and depending on specifics (people can ask for really complex illustrations, I know from other niches)  some at 200. Not sure if there would be a (even if tiny) market for that, here... Also I don't know if in the more crowded genres the only thing welcome is photo editing + graphic design. Could be, I have no idea, to be sincere. Very realistic painting could look pretty similar, tho....

    Hi GFXJames. Theres definitely a market for illustrated covers, mostly in the spec fix genres (fantasy and sci-fi, and also kids books of all genres). At the price youre talking, Im sure youll find plenty of people who will want to hire you.

    Speaking of which, do you have a website where I could see your style of illustration? Im a cover designer myself, but I do photo-manip rather than illustrate, and I might have need of an illustrated cover.
             

    Offline C. Gold

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #7 on: December 22, 2018, 03:25:14 pm »
    Covers are art that needs to sell the book to an audience. But if that author really likes it, they might not comprehend that others find it repulsive. Much like a lot of modern art that I can't stand that others purchase for extreme amounts of money! It can be very subjective and who are you to tell that author their taste is bad? And sometimes the eyesore draws attention and they get buys because of that.

    I give advice based on what would catch my eye as a reader. But ultimately, the author makes the final call and all we can do after that is wish them the best.

    Offline GFXJames

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #8 on: December 22, 2018, 08:06:10 pm »
    Hi GFXJames. Theres definitely a market for illustrated covers, mostly in the spec fix genres (fantasy and sci-fi, and also kids books of all genres). At the price youre talking, Im sure youll find plenty of people who will want to hire you.

    Speaking of which, do you have a website where I could see your style of illustration? Im a cover designer myself, but I do photo-manip rather than illustrate, and I might have need of an illustrated cover.

    That is really encouraging, ShayneRutherford. I was suspecting sci-fi and fantasy were going to be a good fit for the purpose (I'm not so much into kids illustration, but have dome work of that kind many years ago, for internal pages illustrations. I'm very open to genres, providing several styles, etc). About pricing: I'm in a new niche, here. I need to learn first the ropes of this market, as board game art, even more video game graphics  / concept art, are very different worlds from this, from what I am reading everywhere. Not in the actual images creation, but in the business and specifications details. I need first to gain knowledge in those details, and make a bit of portfolio of this kind. And I believe these prices are going to be fine with me for quite a while, if there's ease of getting work (which seems might be, for what I am reading). I am busy for one week more, at least. But I guess from 1st January I'll have several free spots for collab (so, yup, would like that collaboration, Shayne :) ) . My url you asked, I think I added to my profile : https://cargocollective.com/yago  (btw, James (Jaime) is the same name than santiago (mentioned name in the site), by etymology, nothing strange in that  ;))

    « Last Edit: December 23, 2018, 11:28:39 am by GFXJames »

    Offline GFXJames

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #9 on: December 22, 2018, 08:22:02 pm »
    Covers are art that needs to sell the book to an audience. But if that author really likes it, they might not comprehend that others find it repulsive. Much like a lot of modern art that I can't stand that others purchase for extreme amounts of money! It can be very subjective and who are you to tell that author their taste is bad? And sometimes the eyesore draws attention and they get buys because of that.

    I give advice based on what would catch my eye as a reader. But ultimately, the author makes the final call and all we can do after that is wish them the best.

    I'm reading everywhere that in self publishing the key is not make stuff too different from the user expected style and usual depictions. I don't judge how an image is made ( actually, I don't judge or criticize any other people's style or images, at all). All what counts is the result. Artistically or for the actual practical purpose. And the client is who decides, in any case, or that's how I roll.  Maybe I shouldn't, but I'm practical. ;)
    Anything can be an absolute piece of art, be a photo retouch,  painted illustration, a stop motion anim or 3D render. The composition principles, color balance, etc, are quite the same.

    « Last Edit: December 23, 2018, 07:14:42 am by GFXJames »

    Offline EmberKent

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #10 on: December 22, 2018, 09:45:14 pm »
    Unrelated to the discussion that's just blossomed above: I only look at book covers as a means of weeding out the stories I know I won't like. I very rarely see a cover and then become interested.

    Don't get me wrong... I enjoy a nice cover. While browsing or picking a new book to read, however, it's essentially irrelevant for attracting my attention. Instead, I look at covers and if I see something I don't like (such as a common industry trope), I move on.

    I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover. But it's usually a good bet that if the cover has scantily clad people on it clinging onto one another, I'm not going to be a fan and it's safe to skip. Or the pulp-y covers from sci-fi of old with an over-the-top comic aesthetic which features at least one fishbowl spacesuit.

    So with that in mind, I'm not bothered by middling covers. If they have a title and give a general idea of what to expect, I'm cool with it. Plainly terrible covers might suggest to me that they couldn't be bothered with the publishing process and only wanted the dopamine boost from being a "published author", but that's my bias poking through. I try not to let that influence my decision to read something.

    Offline MCoyne

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #11 on: December 23, 2018, 10:29:58 am »
    I think probably people just dont realize how offputting a badly designed or badly illustrated book cover can be, or they havent learned to critically judge visual art in the same way they would judge writing. (Personally, as an illustrator, I probably judge books by their covers way too much.)

    Offline Carol (was Dara)

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #12 on: December 23, 2018, 03:38:14 pm »
    Bad covers exist for the same reason as bad writing. When people are close to something, it's hard to see that it has problems. Feedback isn't sought, or it is sought but everyone is too polite to give it. Or those who give it aren't skilled in the area themselves, so their feedback is a mixture of confusing advice that only makes the cover look more jumbled as the creator scrambles to try and incorporate every suggestion.   




    Offline MaxDaemon

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #13 on: December 23, 2018, 09:46:20 pm »
    Bad covers exist for the same reason as bad writing. When people are close to something, it's hard to see that it has problems. Feedback isn't sought, or it is sought but everyone is too polite to give it. Or those who give it aren't skilled in the area themselves, so their feedback is a mixture of confusing advice that only makes the cover look more jumbled as the creator scrambles to try and incorporate every suggestion.

    Friends never give honest reviews. For which we're usually very grateful. However, it's not really much of a service to say with gritted teeth, "I loved it."

    Covers are much the same. I'm a brand new author, so much so that I don't even deserve the name yet. However, I've just published my first "real" book on Amazon a couple days ago. I have a work of very short stories out there as well. And yes, Virginia, I made my own covers.

    It scares me to death to ask, but please take a look at my covers and tell me if they're dreadful. I WILL keep in mind though, that when I was bowling, it seemed I'd have an "expert" come up every couple days and tell me how to be a better bowler. And often their insights were diametrically opposed to what had been said the night before ..

    It should be added that I have zero budget for paying for a cover, so just maybe some helpful suggestions as to HOW it would be improved, or at least what makes it so dreadful.





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    Offline Marston

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #14 on: December 23, 2018, 10:28:29 pm »
    Most "bad" covers are because the author couldn't afford to pay a designer for a good one and they did the best they could to create one themself. And some covers you think are bad are probably just not appealing to you but others like them.

    I'm not really understanding the point of this thread. Why does bad writing exist? Is it because people don't have honest friends to tell them that their writing sucks? Do they really not know better? No one sets out to do anything "badly". They're doing the best they can with the talent and/or budget that they have.

    Offline C. Gold

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #15 on: December 23, 2018, 10:43:25 pm »
    Friends never give honest reviews. For which we're usually very grateful. However, it's not really much of a service to say with gritted teeth, "I loved it."

    Covers are much the same. I'm a brand new author, so much so that I don't even deserve the name yet. However, I've just published my first "real" book on Amazon a couple days ago. I have a work of very short stories out there as well. And yes, Virginia, I made my own covers.

    It scares me to death to ask, but please take a look at my covers and tell me if they're dreadful. I WILL keep in mind though, that when I was bowling, it seemed I'd have an "expert" come up every couple days and tell me how to be a better bowler. And often their insights were diametrically opposed to what had been said the night before ..

    It should be added that I have zero budget for paying for a cover, so just maybe some helpful suggestions as to HOW it would be improved, or at least what makes it so dreadful.
    Your covers aren't hideous like some I've seen, and they have potential.

    Pirates book - make that ship larger and centered. The cover looks lopsided because it's all on the right side and nothing counterbalances it. I went to suggest a font change but saw the stories are kind of a mixed bag genre-wise which would make selling the genre via a single cover image rather hard. :P Also, five short stories and the book is still so short might make this a tough sell no matter how awesome the cover is. So don't get too discouraged on this one.

    Jane Bond - thumbnail shows that it's too dark and bland. It would be cool to have hieroglyphs or cave paintings etched into the rock in the background and since this is scifi, having a spaceship etched would be fun. :P It's weird having James Bond silhouette style when this is more Indiana Jones archeology. Mixed messaging here. Not sure I'd go with Jane Bond as the title when this isn't anything related to secret agent parody. I'd see this as more Arizona James (Indiana Jones.. har har.. ?)

    Research cover design on the web. There are some very good basic tutorials out there that cover the rule of thirds and how to balance your cover. Also the fonts you should use that best convey the genre. You want your entire package - cover, title, font, blurb - to all point to the same message about genre and what the story will be about. The more unified your messaging, the easier it is to sell.

    Here are some web articles I keep handy links to:
    https://www.creativindie.com/300-fool-proof-fonts-to-use-for-your-book-cover-design-an-epic-list-of-best-fonts-per-genre/
    https://www.coverdesignstudio.com/layout-rule-of-thirds-diagonal-scan-and-more/
    https://www.coverdesignstudio.com/book-covers-layout/
    https://www.canva.com/learn/visual-design-composition/

    Offline MaxDaemon

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #16 on: December 23, 2018, 10:50:16 pm »
    Most "bad" covers are because the author couldn't afford to pay a designer for a good one and they did the best they could to create one themself. And some covers you think are bad are probably just not appealing to you but others like them.

    I'm not really understanding the point of this thread. Why does bad writing exist? Is it because people don't have honest friends to tell them that their writing sucks? Do they really not know better? No one sets out to do anything "badly". They're doing the best they can with the talent and/or budget that they have.

    For me, it's not so much bad writers or bad covers as much as a complete lack of any reality check. I know someone who actually released on Amazon a book that had so many typos and grammatical errors and missing chunks of dialog that it was basically unreadable. However, her cover was beautiful. :-)

    It's like posting a car for sale on Craiglist with no pictures of the car, or a home listing with muddy unclear pictures of inside walls.

    Maybe we're talking about the difference between "poor writing" and "poor editing". They're not really the same thing. Is there a cover category for "poor editing"?

    I guess maybe that's what this thread is - talking about poor editing of the cover ..


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    Offline ShayneRutherford

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #17 on: December 24, 2018, 12:38:53 am »
    It scares me to death to ask, but please take a look at my covers and tell me if they're dreadful. I WILL keep in mind though, that when I was bowling, it seemed I'd have an "expert" come up every couple days and tell me how to be a better bowler. And often their insights were diametrically opposed to what had been said the night before ..

    It should be added that I have zero budget for paying for a cover, so just maybe some helpful suggestions as to HOW it would be improved, or at least what makes it so dreadful.

    The most important thing about a book cover is that it has to convey the genre. If it looks beautiful while doing that, great. But an author can usually get away with just serviceable as long as it's clear what genre the book is. And I'm a cover designer, so it pains me to say that, but in my experience it is the truth.

    Max, you have your novel listed in Science Fiction > First Contact and Alien Invasion, but the cover is totally saying archaeology, and the blurb kind of feels like it might be in the same category as Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. If it actually is focused on archaeology, then it should probably be listed in Action & Adventure. But if it fits in the categories you're in now, then I think the cover probably isn't such a good fit for the book.

    If the focus is more on archaeology, there are a couple of things you could do to improve on it. First, you want a cover to be eye-catching and have good contrast because you only have a couple of seconds as people scroll down the page to catch their attention. At thumbnail I can read the title, but the rest of the cover isn't clear, and so with the last name Bond that makes me think female spy. One thing that might work for you is a cave wall with a cave painting on it of little cavemen looking up at a UFO that's about to crash? They're basically just stick figures, so it probably wouldn't be too tricky to draw. I hope some of that was a little bit helpful.
             

    Offline GFXJames

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #18 on: December 24, 2018, 10:55:32 am »
    It scares me to death to ask, but please take a look at my covers and tell me if they're dreadful. I WILL keep in mind though, that when I was bowling, it seemed I'd have an "expert" come up every couple days and tell me how to be a better bowler. And often their insights were diametrically opposed to what had been said the night before ..

    It should be added that I have zero budget for paying for a cover, so just maybe some helpful suggestions as to HOW it would be improved, or at least what makes it so dreadful.

    I think I've seen way way worse cases in self made covers and/or illustrations in self published books and other fields. Still, as you asked, some advice you could use in the future ones (I'm new to the wrting field, so I don't know if you can actually improve and upload the current ones) , and I will try not to repeat a lot of what has been said and with which I agree(balance, etc):

    - It seems is an analogy of James bond, with the usual silhouette in black and actually the name and all. I don't think that's bad (maybe kind of a Tomb Raider type of character? in the sense that in late decades movies it has become more of an action "super hero")... I can't say anything about the theme ( because I don't really know about it), but in technical aspects of it only, maybe I'd use (acquire or even make a photo) a rock texture of higher resolution, as otherwise, it looks a bit blurry. Or, less of a zoom-in from a particular photo (it would be of much more importance if was going to be printed). The woman silhouette...well, seems to me the legs are a bit short. Is not impossible to be so, but a bit longer legs would seem more balanced. Unless it's all about slightly mimicking those prehistoric paintings, also in that matter of the drawing  (but her silhouette is very detailed/modern in everything else) . She also has a slight white-ish area around her which I'd get rid of (specially an intense white spot beside her hair). Not sure about her arm position, either.  Again, don't feel bad, most people don't pay attention to these things, I believe. As a last comment on the cover, maybe some gradient from dark to lighter, overlaid in multiply mode or somehow, would have helped to bring interest to the image, maybe also help in contrast for readability in the title when seen as thumbnail.

    - I like more the pirate one, although there's one thing that is bothering me quite : The ship's hull. Is a 3D mesh, but the cannons are actually a smashed flat texture, so you see them kind of strange, there, as is easily seen they are kind of like a flat thing stamped. In this case, I believe it'd be better to just over paint with some wood (or even red) tone, giving some volume to the ship, but leaving it at that. Or, if cannons are needed yes or yes, then paint over them properly so that they look like actual tridimensional cannons. Or a render with a wood texture for only the hull, if what you got is a purchased 3D object. The ship overall is a bit confusing in shapes and tones, in what is fast glance recognition. But is the main thing I see there, I like the sky and everything else (maybe the font a little too basic, but that is arguable) (apart from the composition balance mentioned by someone above. Although I've realized quite some people end up loving images that are not following certain composition rules....)

    The matter of the cannons is one of those that makes me prefer a minimalist illustration or design, where you show no flaws (even just a close shot photo of something over a clear background), than having some. As the former will definitely look more professional. I mean, when the options are reduced.

    Overall I think they are very nice for being self made instead of created by a seasoned professional in that particular field. I wouldn't worry. I am just providing some advice in case it is useful for you for the next covers and/or can improve bits of these ones. We when working at companies, receive criticism every day, even every minute (often by people who don't really know about these things, but that's another matter...) ...That never ends, no matter how much one improves... :)  . And is probably a good thing... (not always, though).

    Cheers,

    Offline Bookread

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #19 on: December 24, 2018, 12:20:41 pm »
    I think a lot of it are family and friends not wanting to hurt their feelings.
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    Offline MaxDaemon

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #20 on: December 24, 2018, 05:06:57 pm »
    Thank you so much for the well thought out comments. I had not planned on making a paperback available (I still have visions of having a thousand books sitting in boxes around the house, trying to find places to put them and pay for them) but since it seems to be so "easy" I will be doing so. That means I have to construct a full cover rather than just a front, which means both of my books will get new covers. I will put some of the suggestions you've made into play.

    I've managed to hijack this thread, and for that I apologize. However, I do think that many very good thoughts about covers were .. covered.

    The most important bits I found were really - figure out what your book is and stick with a cover for that rather than finding a way to have it fit a pattern or make it too pretty. Amazon's categories are not particularly helpful, really. For instance, while my book has an alien and an alien spaceship IN it, it's hardly a "first contact" book and I should not have categorized it as such. It's kind of a humorous science fiction archaeology book with overtones of romance and plenty of James Bond style action and adventure. How the hell do you categorize THAT?

    I believe we're told that we only put a scene with our hero brushing her teeth if there's a need to know how she brushes her teeth. I guess if we're going to put pink lace on the cover, there'd better be a reason inside for it to be there, or we should find a better use of our cover real estate...



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    Offline Jack Krenneck

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    Re: Book covers
    « Reply #21 on: December 24, 2018, 10:20:02 pm »
    It's hard to pinpoint what constitutes an awful cover.

    But a good cover should signal genre and give a vibe of professionalism that suggests the rest of the book is of the same standard. And yet...awful covers are common. Even on bestseller lists.

    For internet shoppers, anyone who buys a book has seen the thumbnail. But at thumbnail size, issues with genre and professionalism are minimized. After that, we don't really know anything at all. Once the prospective reader has clicked the thumbnail, a new page opens with a mass of information: a bigger cover, book name, author, star rating, edition, price, blurb, buy button, length etc. etc. Where does a reader's gaze go?

    Marketers like to have data before they make decisions. Data in this case would be an infrared image study mapping where hundreds of prospective buyers' gazes fell and how long they lingered there. That would show what was important to buyers/how they behaved. And you can bet Amazon has done this. It's standard research these days.

    But we don't have the data. Still, we can make deductions. One of them is that, having already seen cover, price, ratings and knowing the genre because they're on a bestseller list, also-bought or sponsored product carousel, the reader may tend to go straight for the blurb. And if that stimulates their interest, they may go back to the image to click for the look inside. Having had their interest stimulated, how long do they look at the image? It's of secondary interest now because the prospective buyer has traveled further along the purchasing funnel. Even if it's not a good cover, would that any longer be a barrier? In fact, the act of looking at it slows down what they've decided to do, which is read the preview. Mapping data might show just a quick click here.

    We don't have the data to know any of these things. But awful covers are on bestseller lists, so they sell. And authors see that, and it probably informs their decision-making on how much to spend/where to source a cover.

       

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