Covers and the Indie Author

You see it all the time in books on Kindle writing and author blogs.

Pay a professional artist to design your cover or your book will never sell, or not sell many copies. More than that, browsers on sites such as Amazon won’t even bother to look any further.

I’m not convinced.

Now I love book covers especially good ones.

But what is a good one?

I’ve looked at the Kindle sales pages and, checking out the authors through their blogs, find they’ve spent a small fortune paying for cover art. Some of them are good covers too. But a lot of the covers I see wouldn’t tempt me into buying.

I have to say that some of the covers used by mainstream publishers, available in bookshops aren’t much better. Moody shots of trees in the moonlight – a common theme in the commercial world of publishing – don’t do it for me.

I’ve recently read several of the British Library Crime Classics series. This series has brought back into print detective novels of the Golden Age. The covers are stunning, really representative of the period. But, sadly, some of the novels don’t live up to the gorgeous covers. They’re probably titles that should have been left to fade away into history. Yet many readers will have succumbed to the covers rather than the contents. I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews on Amazon.

Older readers will remember how Penguin used to use a more or less standard cover for all of their titles. They all looked the same. But that didn’t stop Penguin becoming the publishing phenomenon of much of the 20th century. And Victor Gollancz used a yellow cover with uniform lettering for all his published titles.

I think what sells books is the actual quality of the text inside, particularly where fiction is concerned. You could hire some of the artistic greats to do your cover, but unless the book is any good it won’t sell. And people buy Indie books to read, the cover is soon forgotten.

Take a look at some of these books with expensive artwork. I’ve just checked out a few such authors and then clicked on the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ feature and their reviews. I’ve seen poor writing quality, bad grammar, spelling, formatting, and awful reviews.

In the old days of traditional publishing, authors wrote books. They didn’t have much to do with cover design. You got what you were given. Now, if you’re doing it yourself you have to consider cover design and possibly actually produce a cover. But I believe it is a myth to suggest you necessarily need a professional designer.

When all is said and done, the buyer on Amazon sees a rather tiny picture of your book cover. Elaborate artwork is lost on the viewer. What you need is something that stands out.

And a good sales pitch to go with it. I believe that Indie authors should think less about their covers and much more about the quality of their work and the sales pitch on the Amazon selling page.

And to prove my point, I’ve found – just through browsing – a number of authors with wonderful sales numbers, most of them having the kind of cover that – according to the Indie gurus – should be a massive turn-off.

I believe that there are five ways to up your sales on Amazon:

  1. A really well-written book, free of spelling and grammatical errors.
  2. A well-formatted book.
  3. A sales pitch that makes the reader absolutely yearn to buy your book.
  4. The proper and selective use of categories and keywords.
  5. Where fiction is concerned, think of writing a series rather than a one-off.

What concerns me is that Indie authors, who might have a very real talent, might be deterred from Indie publishing because they believe they need to spend hundreds of pounds/dollars for a cover before they can put a book out there.

My covers might not be the greatest in the world – there’s one I’m not enamoured with and am in the process of changing – but the books sell.

And sell much better than I ever expected.

So before you hire that professional designer, why not try doing it for yourself?

If it doesn’t work what have you lost?


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