Why do people pick up the books they do? Have you been into a bookstore recently and looked at the shelves and shelves of new books? Or searched on Amazon for your next rainy day adventure?
There are so many options out there for readers, which is fantastic and exactly how it should be, but as an writer it is daunting. Because I don’t want you to pick up any old book, I want you to pick up and buy my book. The one I’ve poured my heart and soul into for at least a year.
I want your next favorite and most memorable character to be one of mine, but that won’t happen if you don’t buy my book, so how do I get you to pick up my book and decide it is the one for you.
When I walk the isles of a bookstore or peruse the new titles tables, I pay attention to what makes me pick up a book. Is it the title, the author’s name, the cover design, or the size? All of these influence whether or not that book ends up in my hand. The cover design catches my eye first, the title comes second, the size of the book is a small factor (An 800 page book is a major commitment for a single parent who works full time). I notice the author’s name, but I’m much to forward thinking to worry about gender of the writer regardless of genre. If I have to choose between two books, the author can be the deciding factor if I have read and loved one of them before.
So cover design, that’s the big one. It’s the one that stops the reader in their tracks. A good cover grips you, pulls you in, and doesn’t let go. Even if the reader sets the book down, the image has buried its hooks in their mind stalking them up and down every other isle.
The genre of the book influences the cover design more than any other outside force. You want the cover to stand out from the ones on the shelves, but not so far out that it calls the genre into question. I’m going to use fantasy covers as an example because that’s what I read mostly. Fantasy covers depict the protagonist in either an epic battle or a solitary pose exuding power and authority with a little (or a lot) of sexual appeal thrown in.
Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin is a good example of this. His covers are simple with one object that fits within the fantasy genre.
Most fantasy books are more like the older covers of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series
But Terry Brooks has caught on and remade his covers to be different from the run of the mill fantasy cover art.
The age group of your readers also has a huge impact on your cover design. You cannot have a scantily clad woman on the front of a middle grade novel. There is a reason there is a children’s section in the bookstore.
When designing your book cover with an artist or on your own keep your genre and readers in mind, but also be true to your story and characters.