Don’t Look Now, But Your Book is Being Judged By Its Cover. And that includes both the front and back.
There’s an analogy I heard not too long ago that really stuck with me, and it went something like this: Think of your book cover as an introduction. It’s the first thing readers will see when they meet your book, so this is the first impression you’ll give them of your story. Then think of your back cover blurb or book description as the handshake. If it’s weak, clammy, and given with what appears to be insincerity or a lack of confidence, your potential reader may decide to move on to the next book at the party, leaving yours sitting alone in a corner.
SO, HOW’S YOUR BOOK LOOKING FROM THE FRONT?
Now, I’m not going to get into the front cover nearly as much as it deserves here as I am in no way a book cover artist, and I do not claim to know everything there is to know about creating an awesome book cover. However, I would like to give you just a few general tips that I believe any book cover artist would agree with.
1. Don’t be a Faker. Know your genre and your target audience.
Your cover should reflect the genre of your book. Is it funny? Romantic? A mystery? Horror? Is it light, dark, or somewhere in between? Your front cover should convey the tone of what’s inside. So, don’t lead your reader on.
If they think the book is going to be humorous because that’s the vibe given by the front cover, and then they devote time and money to read it and discover the story is anything but funny, you’ve just invited that reader to post a bad review, and discouraged them from recommending your book to others.
2. Don’t be a Flirt. Less is more.
A crowded or busy front cover typically draws less attention by giving the potential reader too much to focus on. Limit your colors, font styles, and your text. Again, remember less is more. Title, author, subtitle if you have one, and series title if that applies. And make sure your title can easily be read.
This also goes for the picture or image you choose for the front cover. Your potential reader should not be playing Where’s Waldo when they glance at your book cover while perusing the shelves. They shouldn’t have to squint and squirm to figure out “what is that?” Give them one eye-catching pop that pulls their gaze right back to your book and entices them to give it that second look. Also, keep in mind how your front cover will look in thumbnail size online.
3. Don’t Be Out of Fashion. Check out what other books in your genre are wearing.
Browse the bookshelves and, more specifically, those written by authors in your same genre, preferably best-selling, well-known authors. If these are traditionally published books, you’ll know right off that their covers were created by professional cover artists, along with marketers employed by the publishing houses, so you can bet they know and understand the current market. And “current” is key. Don’t go by books published twenty years ago, or even ten. Look at what’s hot today because what’s fashionable in book cover design changes about as quickly as what you’ll see on this year’s red carpet compared to the year before.
HOW’S YOUR BOOK’S REAR VIEW?
The consensus among those in various writing groups where I have been and still am a member is that writing a book blurb is more difficult than writing the book itself. But don’t let that scare you.
While your cover is the first thing readers will see (what attracts their attention), it is then up to the book’s blurb or description (which appears online) to hook the reader by convincing them this book is their next “must-read.”
So, how do you accomplish that in under 200 words?
We’ve all heard the old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but the fact is, that’s exactly what readers do a majority of the time. Not 100% percent of the time, I admit, as I’m one who doesn’t even glance at the book blurb or description when buying a book. Ever! And if it’s an author I know and love, all I need to see is that author’s name on the cover. I imagine I’m not altogether unique in this, although certainly among a small minority.
My quirks aside, as I mentioned above, when wandering through the aisles of a library or bookstore (whether online or brick and mortar), it’s the front cover that first attracts a reader’s attention, and second, the book blurb or book description.
Now, I imagine there are no well-known published authors reading this article right now, but writers who would like to be in that category. And that’s why I’ve chosen this subject. To give you a few pointers, a tip or two to help you on your way.
Like your cover, be sure the tone of your blurb matches the tone of your book. Again, is it humorous? A romance? A thriller? A good general rule of thumb is to write from the voice of the main character or narrator.
You’ll SUCCEED with your blurb if you can convince readers to take a chance on your book. Test your blurb by sharing it with readers of your genre and see what they think. And be sure to listen to what they have to say. Or, you could FLOP by failing to engage your target audience. So, give your potential readers some of that personality they’ll find among your pages.
Also, be sure to proofread, proofread, proofread! A book blurb that contains editing errors is a sure sign the story inside is edited just as poorly, if not worse, and the impression you’ll be sending out is that if you can’t publish half a page without errors, then, well…
So, what goes into or makes a successful book blurb?
1. Introduce your main character(s), but don’t fall into the trap of giving the reader the character’s backstory. Entice rather than summarize by letting the reader know what your main character is dealing with now.
2. Set the stage for your primary conflict. Again, don’t think backstory or about all the side plots, twists, turns, and challenges your character(s) will face along the way, but only the main conflict. And keep in mind, if there is no conflict, there is no story.
3. Establish the stakes. What does your character face as a consequence if everything fails? Is it a life without their one true love? Is it a matter of life or death, world domination or world destruction? What’s the risk?
4. Show the reader why this book is for them by using keywords within the blurb. But beware: don’t pack your blurb with keywords either. Two or three is typically plenty. And incorporate those keywords wisely.
5. It is an added benefit and most desirable if you can also give your book a tag line. A hook. This should appear at the top of your book blurb or book description. Think opening statement, gripping, engaging, and snappy.
Overall, your goal should be to appeal to your potential reader’s emotions, which takes us back to the tone of the book. Is the story happy, sad, funny, scary? No false advertising, no padded bras, or padded anything else. Show your potential reader just what they’ll discover underneath the covers if they take your book home.
And please, whatever you do, try not to use cliches or cheesy lines. Also, please don’t take the blurb of a popular book that you feel is similar and copy it, but rather use it as a template to show you what works.
My last bit of advice is this. Don’t give the whole story away. Otherwise, why bother reading it? Have you ever watched a movie trailer, then seen the movie, and discovered all the best parts were in the trailer? Well, I have, and if you have too, I imagine like me, you left the theater thinking, why did I just spend all that money and time when the trailer said it all?
So, remember, entice and hook, but don’t give it all away in just 200 words or less.