Whilst at the Kingston Publishing Conference I was particularly interested and inspired by a talk from Andrew Therkelsen. He is a qualitative researcher who addressed the questions of book design, cover choice and creating that author brand, which is something important to self-publishers who want to make a go of it commercially. Here are a few of the main points from his talk.
His first point was to illustrate the importance of the cover in conveying enough information to the customer to help them make a choice. Essentially it is like the packaging of the product.
You can immediately tell which one is more appealing – it is the one that gets across much more than the fact that there is bran, in flakes.
Andrew also alerted the audience to the fact that a customer spends an average of 7 seconds looking at a book cover (perhaps that figure is less on the web?) and then if they are interested, about 14 seconds looking at the back. Authors really need to think about the functional and emotional offerings of their book – can they convey in their cover what the reader will get from the book and how that will make them feel?
One of the problems with self-published covers is that this question is often left out and it becomes more of a question of ‘What pictures do I, the author, like?’ Authors often don’t think from the perspective of their customers, but it’s a really important exercise.
As we have mentioned many times on CompletelyNovel it is also worth looking at the competitive landscape to see what devices other ‘brands’ are using to communicate the message to the audience. This can make sure that your book is on a level playing field. So, if it’s a thriller or crime fiction, then some distressed text will immediately communicate that message to readers.
It’s vital that the blurb for the book also conveys the right kind of message- – what is going to hook the reader?
Another message which came up in the conference was the importance of looking at your subject matter and thinking objectively “Is this interesting?” and “If not, how can I make it so?” Whilst the majority of books will not suit everyone’s tastes, at least it is worth considering that a subject that you find fascinating may not be immediately attractive to others, but you may be able to find a format that does make it appealing.