Cover me Irresistible

Cover me irresistible

First Impressions Count

In life everything we see makes an impression on us. Both the really good and the really bad stick in our memories. We also make impressions on others. But there is only one first time, there is only one first impression. It is true that if your first impression was not that good, you may have a chance to make a better second impression but the first impression is the one that will also stay in the memory bank.

You wouldn’t go on a first date looking “regular”. You wouldn’t go on an interview looking “average”. You take the time to look your best for “first impressions” in your daily life. You take the time to look your best for “professional first impressions” in your daily life. But often you want to go a step further and look better than all of your competition. You want to look the best in a crowd. You want to stand out from a crowd.

What is the first thing you see when you browse a book store, traditional or online? What makes you stop in front of one book rather than look at the one beside it? What attracts your attention enough for you to pick up the book and read the back blurb? What is your first impression of a book controlled by?

Cover me Irresistible – You had me at first sight

Time and time again I pick up books because of their arresting covers. I might never have heard of the book or the author but if the cover wows me, nine times out of ten I will buy the book. The cover is a book’s greatest first sales tool. It is the packaging of the writer’s project. It is the silver platter that your work is presented on. It can make or break your sales. It can win you new fans and lose you potential readers. Covers are what people buy when you are a new author or an unknown talent. Bookstores will decide on the shelf placing of your book by your cover. Readers will want to know more about your book and pick it up off the shelf if your cover arrests their attention.

Traditional publishing companies pay departments of art and sales people thousands of dollars to make a cover as irresistible as possible in order to make your book a bestseller. Books covers count towards sales. eye-catching covers can make an unknown book a bestseller and bad covers can make well written books difficult to sell.

In Indie publishing – both small press, self-publishing and e-books – covers can make or break a book. Poorly designed covers can make a book look boring, uninteresting, unprofessional and uninviting: all of these points are negatives in selling the product = the book.

So what makes you love a cover? What makes a cover stand out from hundreds or even thousands of similar covers in the same genre? What makes a cover stand out from a crowd of covers?

If there were a golden rule of thumb I am sure many writers would make millions and follow it to the letter. But choosing books is a subjective industry. It is based on personal opinion and personal preference. A cover that i would love might not appeal as much to Jill and a cover that Jill loves might not appeal as much to Joe. There is no “perfect cover” but there are a few key points that the best selling books use for their cover art and cover designs.

  • Colour – Bright colours or dark/bold colours
  • Colour Palette – Not too many colours on one cover and using colours that complement each other
  • Cover Art – Suitable to the genre and must give some sort of “visual blurb” of the story
  • Cover Art – Simple without confusing someone, so pick one main image instead of a complicated and crowded image with so much going on that it is difficult to figure out what you need to focus on
  • Cover Art & White/Black Space – Well spaced design and placement
  • Title – Easily read type font, bold and standing out on the page, should also match the cover art
  • Author’s Name – This should also be easily visible and not disappear into the cover art (Remember, you want the reader to know who wrote the book)

These are some of the top selling covers over the last few years. Let us see if they match all the above points.

Goodreads Best 100 Book Covers 2011

Goodreads Best 100 Book Covers 2010

These are some of my favourite covers that had me enticed…

Stieg Larsen – The Millenium Trilogy
Alice Sebold’s “Lovely Bones”
Andrew Smith “the Marbury Lens”

So tell me which are your favourite covers that have made you pick the book from a hundred others?

Why? What attracts you? What makes a cover irresistible? 

19 thoughts on “Cover me Irresistible

  1. Great post Kim, totally agree about having a stunning cover. It’s not a guarantee the book will be good, but conversely, if it’s a shitty cover, chances are it won’t even get a second glance.


  2. I so wish that I didn’t judge books by their covers. Sadly, I still do. It may be the greatest story ever, but if that cover is bad, my hand will pull back from the bookshelf, or perhaps never even reach out for it. First, it has to catch my eye.
    Great covers and very good post, Kim.


    1. A good cover will catch your eye, a good story – on opening the covers – will catch your heart. Isn’t that the Golden Grail that every writer aspires to…
      Glad you enjoyed the post James, Had fun writing it but then cover art is a guilty pleasure of mine. 🙂

  3. Covers aren’t just good – they’re a bloody well critical part of the process. Nothing like tooling around the great re-used legions of stock image covers on amazon and the like to see how not to do it…

    Great post, with a sound list of qualities people really *should* – and I really emphasize that point! – be considering with their cover art pursuits. Just as many covers have been ruined by the fact of being “too busy” (too much going on) as lack of coherence or color…so many aspects seem simple to outside viewers, but it really is a tricky process to get just right. Lot of work between both the artist and the writer. The selection of covers you laid out though consists of writers and artists that obviously got it right, though.

    And hey, thanks for the link-back!

    1. It was my pleasure, you have to love Zemanta for giving great links 🙂
      Covers are completely critical to the process of publishing, marketing and selling a book.

  4. Good post, Kim! I think that you have pretty much nailed it in terms of cover balance. Yes, it does need to have that striking appearance.

    I remember cruising through a bookstore in Singapore years ago, and I picked up Twilight. This was long before Twilight was ever really known to the big wide world, or was even considered for a motion picture. But I picked up this book, and thought it was cheap enough, and I bought it. Based on the cover. The cover to Twilight is not even that striking… but it was different enough for me to give it a shot.

    So on that note… we should also keep relative consistency between our covers – much like Lee Child does, Stephanie Meyer, Tasmina Perry, Patti Larson, (wink) etc etc. If we write thrillers or horrors – keep it in sync. That way the reader will pick up books targeted to their taste.

    1. Twilight is an example of highly recognizable covers. I remember the first time I saw a Twilight book was while flying. So many people has copies of these black books with some red on them. I had to find out more because the cover was, as you said, so unusual.
      Definitely agree with consistency with covers. A cover is part of an author’s branding as much as the genre they write in. It needs to be consistent with the genre as well as be consistent across series if you are writing a series. For me, the best series covers are Stieg Larsen’s. Totally consistent, unusual and enticing to the genre, the style of writing and the series as a whole. His cover artist nailed it in one. Now if we could just find out that name of that cover artist 🙂

  5. Totally agree! The cover is your first impression- and from discussions with teens I’ve come to realised that sometimes kids will buy a book just because they LOVE the cover…. aaah the power of a talented cover artist!

    1. KidLit and YA are all about awesome covers. To me a great cover is a piece of art just like a painting on a wall or a sculpture in your home. You have the rare ability of a “market” in your teens right under your nose. Use them, use them and use them some more. 🙂

  6. Awesome post, Kim. Covers are so important. First impressions do count. Like Patti said, I think it’s important to use a professional when designing a cover. I like covers that are quite striking without too much going on. Close up shots of faces always draw me in. I also like the background to play some sort of a role – not busy or anything, but definitely providing depth. “Die For Me” is a good example of this. I also love the new covers that St Martins Press have designed for Amanda Hocking’s trilogy. I think they are gorgeous.

    1. Have not seen the covers for Amanda Hocking’s trilogy…will have to check them out.
      Faces are great on a cover. Perhaps it is because we identify and emotionalise (yes I know it is not a word but I am using it WordPress) that story then.
      First impressions definitely weigh in for me especially with books.

  7. Yes, indeed. Such a tricky concept to try and figure out what is going to be visually appealing to others. Sizing is interesting as well. My designer wanted to make my name quite large (similar to the JT Ellison cover), even though I haven’t yet gained the notoriety of the “big name” authors. His idea was to promote me as much as the book. I dunno. Still not sold 100% (and still debating sizing it down a little). So many things to consider.

    And funny you mention it now. Yesterday I just started creating a cover for a short story I’m considering releasing and having serious internal conflict over it.

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    1. Paul, it is such a subjective industry we work in, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to capture everyone’s interest. I love the JT Ellison cover and I would definitely buy a book of your’s with Paul Dail in large text 🙂
      Ooh I love creating new covers – one of guilty procrastinating time-sucks, I confess. Shout out if you want an opinion. I would be happy to weigh in on your cover dilemma.

    1. Hi Susan 🙂
      Glad you enjoyed it, It was difficult to narrow down so m,any favourite covers but these ones are definitely my top favourites. There is just something about a gorgeous cover that says “Read me” like Alice had “eat me” or “drink me”.

  8. I definitely agree, Kim–covers are so important! Our first natural sense is sight–it’s what attracts us to our mate, our favorite clothes, the furniture we buy… (for those of us blessed with it, that is). That’s why I use a professional designer. No skimping.

    1. Seeing is believing…. or … I’ll buy it when I see it.
      Yes we humans are such visual creatures but to look at beautiful things/people gives one a jolt of joy, doesn’t it?
      Definitely agree – we owe our stories the best covers. 🙂

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