Literary Q&A: What Do I Want on My Cover? (Series #11)

Hi everyone. I apologize for being gone last week. I had one day left to get my manuscript ready for my beta readers and just about one day’s worth of work, when I realized it was Sunday–blog day. So I made the author decision to finish going through the manuscript. I’ve already heard back from some of my readers, so that makes me very happy.

I did say that we would go over covers in the next post. So let’s dive in.

What do I want on my cover?

Many people solidly versed in cover design–and I am by no means one of them–will tell you NOT to put a scene from your book on the cover. I’m going to be very honest here and give you my best advice. This won’t be a long post because the answer is: you want your cover to look like the bestselling covers in your genre.

You may have heard that before, but what does it mean? That was something I always used to ask.

I will share the secret right here with an example. When I wrote my first book I went with an “original” cover and no one clicked on it. Oh, I launched well, and then slowly slid down Amazon’s list to rank in the seven millions. The readers weren’t NOT reading my book based on the content. They didn’t know what it was about because they weren’t clicking on it. I was convinced if they gave it a shot, they might like it.

So how did I get a “clickable” cover? I learned. I learned a lot from people on the net who know their stuff and share their knowledge. As you may know, I write in the Young Adult age group, and the fantasy, scifi, and romance genres. At that time, about five or so years ago, young adult fantasy covers had either a girl in a pretty dress or an up-close face. See the photo below. (It has changed since then, so don’t rely on that now.) So I chose a better cover, and when the style changed, I changed my covers again. I don’t rank too high in the YA fantasy general category, but you can have up to ten categories, and I rank high enough in a few of them to keep me in the ranks and selling. I am no longer in the seven millions and unknown.

So, what you do is go to Amazon and click in the left-hand menu until you find your genre. Notice the similarities of the books on the first one or two pages. Do most of them have a dark background, with a splash of color and a man’s silhouette with a building behind him? Are they mostly animated, or photos? Do they have faces on them, or symbols? Are the fonts blocky or script? Serif or not? Pay attention to the things these first fifty to one hundred books have in common.

THAT is what you want on your cover.

I hear you. I said the same things. “But I don’t want a cookie-cutter cover. I don’t want to look exactly like someone else’s cover. Besides, that’s not original. I want to be original and stand out from the crowd.”

Great. You do that. And all the bestseller-similar covers in your genre will continue getting more clicks. Why? Their covers. Here’s why, when the customer comes along and sees a cover like one of the bestsellers that they already love, something in their brain says, “Oh look! There’s another one of those books I like.” Then they click on it to read the description. That’s exactly what you want.

If they don’t love your cover, they don’t click, so they don’t read your description, and they don’t buy. It is really that simple. And smart authors keep an eye on the trends so when their comp books all change to some new design that they all have in common, you change with them. Then readers who come across your book think, “Oh, look! There’s one of those books I like.”

Once you have the right cover, your assignment is to get all the exposure you can for your book. I continue to do that by running Amazon ads. I run them for the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia Amazon markets. Right now, 83% of my sales are in the UK, but that fluctuates. I started bidding really low, like $0.09 per click, but I wasn’t getting seen, so I raised the price up to about $0.21-0.31 per click. It is worth it if you’ve added good comp books and authors as your keywords and your cover matches theirs. Then, when a reader looks for that book or author, your ad shows up on the page. That gets a lot of exposure, but you have to remember that for every 1,000 impressions you might get anywhere from 100 to 10 clicks, and you will hopefully get 1 sale per every 10 clicks. So you NEED a lot of exposure to get all those impressions (that’s when a customer sees your ad), to get the clicks you need. Then it’s up to the reader if they like your description enough to read the book.

Amazon looks for keywords in your description to know where to show your book. There’s a science to it. So, it would behoove you to have someone write you an engaging description, if yours isn’t selling. Pay for it, if you have to. It’s the difference between making sales or not.

And that’s it. Simple, but a little time consuming. I have paid upwards of $800 for one cover, and I’ve made some myself. It’s sometimes a crap shoot. I understand. I feel pretty good about my ability to choose covers now, but it’s taken five years of learning. The point is, start learning now, and you’ll get there. Most new authors have grand expectations for their book, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but many of us who are with a small publishers or indie, realize relatively quickly that without a big marketing department and/or budget, books fall down the scale.

If you take what I’ve said today to heart and give it a try, I believe you will sell more books. (Please come tell me if you do.) If you are already selling well, and are happy with your placement, great. I still suggest you keep your finger on the pulse of your genre–cover wise.

I don’t how much blogging I’ll be doing in the next couple months. I’ve got some more health issues going on. I’m looking at facial surgery possibly in March for my TM joint. It’s just one more thing. But as a spiritual person, I refuse to stop praising for every day I get–cold as they are right now. But that’s because the polar vortex has collapsed. If you don’t know about that, give it a Google. It’s interesting. I hope to be back every weekend, but please forgive me if I miss one.

Until next time, keep writing!

~jenn

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