Though things have changed a bit over the past decade, there are still indie authors who refuse to take their book covers seriously. I still see book covers that look terrible or don’t fit their genre and the sad thing is, some authors are still designing their own covers. Some do it out of necessity, while others are just plain cheap and stubborn. Ask any cover designer and they will tell you that there is a science behind what they do. There are trends to consider as well as standard formats. We all know what a typical romance novel cover looks like, but imagine if someone tried to use that same format for a mystery. It would probably get mocked. In fact, there are several websites and blogs that do just that.
Color Me A Bestseller
Consumers don’t have time or the cash to evaluate an unproven product but they do judge the packaging. In fact when it comes to color many corporations pay good money for data as to which colors to use in their product packaging. Colors are so important that they can make a product look trustworthy or shoddy.
In a study done by Joe Hallock, the least favorite color by both men and women is orange because it was said to look cheap. The most favorite color by both genders was blue, because it’s said to represent authority, truth, and tranquility. That could explain why Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr all use blue in their logos and web design. Here are the top 5 colors favored by customers:
- Blue (Authority, Integrity, Peace, Tranquility)
- Green (Freshness, Earthiness)
- Purple (Luxury, Spirituality)
- Red (Love, Passion, Danger)
- Black (Formality, Death, Rebellion)
When it comes to unexpressive colors like black, white and grey men tolerated these better than women. However when it came to tints (a mixture of colors), women preferred softer colors like pastels while men preferred brighter ones. This makes sense because the romance genre is filled with pinks, lavenders, and baby blues while the mystery genre is dominated by gray, red and black.
Faces Are Just As Important
It’s been proven by science that ads which feature attractive people sell more and that’s because beautiful faces excite a part of our brain which bypasses the parts for reason and logic. (Think low risk impulse buys.) Advertisers have known for generations that consumers can be subconsciously trained to buy something they don’t necessarily need. So if you were thinking that all those romance covers with attractive people in sexy poses is cheesy, you’re wrong, it’s classic advertising. This is why indie authors should study the books in their genre and see how they’re packaged. Usually there is a pattern and if you can crack that code, you’ll have a competitive edge.
Genre Specific Trends
Every genre has its trends and some of them have endured for decades while others like the YA girl in a fancy dress have come and gone. Here is a small list of trends in the four main genres, I only listed successful indie authors.
Romance: What is typical for the romance genre is an attractive couple embracing or kissing but there is also a lot symbolism of romance like hearts, flowers and beautiful scenery.
Authors to study: S.C. Stephens, H.M. Ward, and Jessica Hawkins.
Mystery: One thing that most mystery novels have in common are their dark backgrounds with bright forefronts or fonts. Another thing included was usually a person in action as well as weapons, and urban surroundings.
Authors to study: Mark Dawson, Chris Simms and Liliana Hart
YA: The most common theme was an attractive female looking sad or indifferent. Another popular theme was a female in a romantic pose with a male like a romance novel. The color scheme often include pastel tints like lavenders, blues and pinks.
Authors to study: Kristy Moseley, Shelly Crane, and Tarryn Fisher
Sci-Fi: The obvious thing you’ll notice about sci-fi covers are the backgrounds of outer space with spaceships. However there are covers with models in warrior poses or in space suits ready for action. The colors schemes are often dark backgrounds with bright forefront images.
Authors to study: Hugh Howey, Bella Forrest, and Michael Anderle.
Following Your Gut
A few years ago, bestselling indie author H.M. Ward, wrote a blog post discussing how her personal preferences almost tanked her book’s sales. In the post she gives an example of how her original artsy, cover for Scandalous didn’t sell much. After investigating, she realized something and that is you can’t give people what YOU want. Trends and standard formats exist for a reason, it’s what the readers are responding to. It’s been said, that people tell you what they want all the time and all you really have to do is listen. So save yourself the stress and listen when readers talk.
I hope this post helps as you go searching for a book cover, it’s in no way meant to be a list of commandments, it’s just a guide to help you figure out what’s best for your book. Many authors find cover design overwhelming and confusing, which can lead to them giving creative control to someone who doesn’t understand publishing. Remember, just because it’s pretty, doesn’t mean it’s marketable.