I was browsing Amazon’s selection of free books for Kindle the other day, and it occurred to me that I wasn’t looking at titles, or authors; I was looking at covers. If a cover caught my eye – had an compelling image, interesting (and visible!) fonts, and aesthetically pleasing colors – then I might spend the split second it takes to read the title or author, and might be interested enough to read the blurb. If the cover didn’t spark that interest, though, I just moved on. There are tons of free books on Amazon, after all. I don’t have time to read the blurbs on all of them. A book with a bad or boring cover? I don’t waste my time. And these are free books! Imagine how much less patience I’d have if I was looking for books to spend my money on!
This demonstrates exactly how important a book cover is. There’s a quote from a character in Pulp Fiction(paraphrased, since, like the rest of the movie, it’s gloriously profanity-laced) that a rat might taste like pumpkin pie, but he’ll never know because he’ll never put the thing in his mouth. A bad cover might contain a potential Pulitzer Prize winner, but no one is going to take the time to find out more about it, much less buy it.
Of course, the problem isn’t just bad covers, it’s also bland covers. There’s a ridiculous number of books out there (every time I walk into a book store I spend a moment just looking around in despair – I will never read all those books, and my own book is a drop in a vast ocean). Why should anybody give yours the time of day? Of course, the cover is hardly the be-all end-all of marketing. Even so, the more compelling the cover is, the more likely people are to buy the book.
So, what makes a good cover? I mentioned before that a good cover has a compelling image, interesting and visible fonts, and aesthetically pleasing colors. Almost all of the bad covers I’ve seen fail in one or more of these categories. They have a boring, confusing, or even off-putting image (a romance novel with a scantily-clad woman in an awkward pose photoshopped badly over a city skyline isn’t doing itself any favors). They have fonts that are too plain, or, conversely, ridiculously and illegibly ornate. The fonts may also be too small, or the colors might make them vanish into the background. Or the cover’s colors might be truly horrible, or clash so badly that you want to take them to court for assaulting your eyes.
But all that is what makes a bad cover. A cover can avoid those pitfalls, but still be bland. So what makes a cover that will snag readers and make them look at a blurb? That’s a little harder to know, and it relies a lot on personal taste. Looking at the covers of the free Kindle books, one of the main things that catches my eye is simplicity. A cover that has a bunch going on takes more than a second to parse, and more often than not I’m just going to skip it. A romance novel that has a bunch of people on it…no. One couple…better. A close-up of a well-muscled chest? Oh yes, let me see what that one’s about!
Try it sometime! Go to Amazon, search “free books on Kindle” and scan the covers. Which books do you decide to learn more about? Ten to one, they’ll be the ones with the covers that “pop.”
Tara Martin – exceptionally accomplished neurobiology major with a troubled past. Steven Trent – confident political science major with an irresistible attraction to Tara. Paul Stratton – history major who is able to hear spirits. Together, they make up the Society for Paranormal Researchers at their prestigious New England University. When they’re not in class or writing papers, the three friends are chasing their passion….ghosts.
When the group learns of a local retired couple trying to sell a house they claim is haunted, they decide to investigate. As the clues unfold, a familiar spirit interrupts their investigation and Tara finds her life in danger. Can her friends save her before it’s too late?
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Genre – YA paranormal, NA paranormal
Rating – PG-13
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