Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Titles and Covers Reminder

I was at a Barnes & Noble a few days ago - browsing around is one of my favorite hobbies - and I was reminded once again of two of the most important elements of selling a book:  the title and the cover.  Yes, word of mouth is the most important elements of building a solid reputation to new readers, but that usually comes from those who already have a copy of your masterpiece.  To get a complete stranger to even pick up your work requires more.

The title was the first thing that drew my notice.  There were loads of generic books with ho-hum titles, and I skipped over those without so much as a second glance.  However, those titles whose names were just a little unusual without being too crazy won the right for me to look at the cover.

The cover was the second cut line.  Some books were nothing more than a title on a bland grey or red background.  Once I saw that, right back on the shelf it went.  After all, if the author doesn't have enough creativity to have a good cover, what should I expect from the writing?  Other covers were generic pictures of people fighting or a detective with a magnifying glass or some other clichéd garbage.  Those also went back on the shelf because it made me feel like the book would be boring or clichéd.

I realize how completely shallow this makes me sound.  However, I feel like I'm fairly typical of the average reader.  Yes, I can, and have, browsed more thoroughly, but by acting like 90-ish% of the casual buying public, I can get a sense of what it's looking for.  It reinforces how important the perfect title and suitable cover are.  You can write the best book in the world, but if folks can't get past the name or the display, it won't matter.

Writers need to spend time on the title. Bounce it off friends, family, and complete strangers.  Ask them what the title makes them feel.  Does it arouse interest?  A yawn?  A snort?  What?

The cover, although daunting, is one of the many benefits of the age of the independent writer.  Who better than the author to know what the public should see to draw them in?  Since you should know your book better than some faceless editor or artist, you get to decide the right approach.  If you're a traditional and first time published writer relying on a publishing company...well...best of luck.

Spend the time you need.  To get a sense, browse local bookstores and see what entices you.  Think of it as research, and research helps you gain market share.  It's not necessarily sexy, but it will give you a leg up that some arteest who thinks that writing alone will work doesn't understand.

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