I like to title posts with questions. Questions can often be funny, although that’s not why I do it. The reason I do it is because there is always a 23.485% chance that upon seeing the question floating across a Twitter or Facebook feed, someone will click on it, because the question registers in their brain enough for them to think “Hmmm. Why DO we always pack 4 times the number of underpants we will need for any given trip?”
And the reason I want people to click on the article link, is because I am a shameless Blogwhore whose only raison d’être is massive political upheaval. Sorry – I meant, getting readers. Because it’s all very well having opinions and shouting about them on the internet, but there’s no point unless you’re getting shallow Likes in return, right?
Now that we’ve got that established, let me answer the question I posed in the post title:
No, your book is NOT good-looking enough for the internet.
In fact, in the great dance hall of social media, where some books are getting asked out to dance for both the fast and the slow numbers, I’m afraid your book is propping up the wall, picking at the lint balls on its drab little cardigan and making far too much headway into the punchbowl, which has been 55% proof ever since some idiot emptied 6 hip flasks into it.
Why is that, though?
Every now and then another article comes out about book covers which are similar. “LOOK AT ALL THESE BOOK COVERS WHICH ARE THE SAME!” they shriek. “PUBLISHERS ARE ALL COPYING EACH OTHER!” they shout with glee, as though the news that the idea of copying something successful is either novel (see what I did there) or ill-advised.
Occasionally, even I jump on the bandwagon, albeit in more complainy-moany-irky kind of way. Because if there’s one thing more annoying than an annoying book cover which in no way represents the story within, it’s an annoying book cover which in no way represents the story within and which is repeated over, and over, and over and over again. And let’s face it, we see an awful lot of those.
But even I don’t see the issue with copying successful book covers. Of course successful book covers should be copied. They are proof of a design which sells, in an industry where your entire worth is quite literally judged by its cover.
And one thing strikes me about the fashionable covers of today. Take a look. What do you see?
That’s right. BIG TITLES.
We are in the era of the Big Title Book Cover. These are book covers where the title is everything and the art is only trotting after it. It’s all about big letters, bold typefaces, and backgrounds which best show the text in contrast.
So why is that, do you think? And why do I keep asking questions like a teacher in a classroom full of bored 14-year-olds who are shortly about to fall into a teenage stupor which can only be relieved by the ping of an Instagram follow?
Let me answer that first question first, and the second question not at all: it’s because books are now sold on thumbnail images.
We’ve known that for a long time, but everything seems to take an even longer time to permeate the book industry, so it’s only now that the marketing is catching up with it properly.
Think about it. If you’re browsing online for a new book and you don’t know what you want, are you going to buy a book with a tiny title in cursive on a peachy-pastel seascape background with a silhouette of a 20-year-old woman? Of course not.
But how about a cartoonish drawing of a dog with an umbrella on a stylised background of psychedelic wallpaper which looks like it was designed by Delia Smith in a fever dream? Well, it might grab your attention.
But what will REALLLY grab your attention is a quirky title in massive type in primary colours on a contrasting background. And that’s precisely why they’re cropping up almost everywhere these days. Because they work.
The only place they’re not cropping up these days – at least not where I can see them – is in the world of indie publishing, which is precisely where they’re needed most. And that’s just a shame.
Traditionally published authors can get as fancy as they like with embossed covers and twirly fonts and gilt and exquisitely etched flowers all around their beauteous borders – because they know that someone somewhere is definitely going to pick up their book from a shelf at some point to hold in their hands, and possibly feel up left back and centre (without even buying it dinner).
Indie author book covers, on the other hand, may only ever exist in a thumbnail image or an Instagram post on a small screen, which is why they in particular must be arresting, even while being small.
I’ve said many times before that indie authors should be benchmarking their book covers against bestsellers in the market – not going with what they think looks nice, or pretty, or cool.
And unlike the traditional publishing process, which takes aaaaaages (a scientifically measured unit of time in publishing) an indie author can take inspiration from massive bestsellers this week, and have their own on the digital shelves by next week. (Or at least, I wouldn’t advise that kind of speed – but we can’t deny it can be done.)
Indie publishing is the one part of the book industry which can and does move quickly. So what are you waiting for? Crank up that font to 72, and get upsizing.