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Judging A Book by Its Cover: The Biggest Return On Your Marketing Spend

Updated: Mar 14

Book cover examples

The cover design of your book is the single biggest investment you will make in marketing and advertising. Why? Because the cover is the first aspect of your book a reader will encounter and judge, most likely, as a thumbnail on Amazon. In the several seconds a prospective buyer spends looking at your book, does it stand out? Does it make an impression? Does it look like it belongs? Does it evoke a connection or response? Does it look professional?  It has to stand up to this kind of nano-second scrutiny if you want it to sell.


Think about it. Isn’t this part of the process that you use to select a book to read?  Your prospective readers are no different than you. 


All too often authors either try to tell the entire story of their book on the cover or they choose images that they are drawn too. Unfortunately, this misses the point. The cover exists to sell the book. The cover is not about what the author likes but rather what the target reader audience will relate to. 


Additionally, there is a big difference between selling the story and selling the experience, the promise and the benefit, of the book. The cover should create an emotional response and connection with the reader, piquing their interest or curiosity, enticing them to lean in and want more.  


A well-designed cover:

  • stands up to the direct competition and within the intended genre. 

  • grounds the book in design elements specific to the intended reader demographic.

  • creates interest and intrigue, challenging the reader to look for more.

  • sets the tone of the book, giving the reader an initial “feeling” of what is to come.

  • foreshadows the promise of the book.


Truly, cover design is a complicated graphic design process.  But where can you start?  Here are 5 steps you can use to begin your cover design or evaluate the book cover you already have: 


  1. Learn from the books that are successful and selling. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck . . . 

  • In your reader niche / demographic. 

  • From your direct competition.

  • In your genre.

  1. Take notes. What do successful and competitive book covers look like? How do they make you feel? What colors are used? What type of font? 

  2. Using your notes and what you see and feel for your book, create an initial cover design.

  3. Place your initial design next to the competition and within the genre.  What do you see? Do you fit in? Do you stand out? What do you feel? 

  4. Find a professional book designer or graphic designer to work with—collaboratively. Professional collaboration is the key.  You need to be open to professional suggestions that will elevate your initial conceptual design.




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