Don’t judge a book by its cover. We’ve all heard it a million times, but we do it anyway, don’t we?
Coming up with a good cover design may be the most important thing you can do to market your ebooks. Your cover, after all, is your first–and often last–chance to make a good impression on book buyers, so it needs to attract readers while also giving insights into the ebook’s contents. It needs to have an invisible line that reels in buyers browsing virtual bookshelves.
I made the covers for my first ebooks myself using graphics software and photos I’d taken. You may have done the same thing with ebooks of your own.
Now, a few years down the road, I’ve discovered I have more options that are not only cost effective, but also artistic and professional. All kinds of cover services are available for indie, or independent publishers, from graphics on colored backgrounds to elaborate works of art.
So, I decided to try out an ebooks cover designer from FiveRR, the online service that’s only $5 for whatever the provider is offering. After all, I’d spent about five hours creating each of my first covers, so that amount of money seemed like an amazing deal.
I soon discovered the process these cover designers use paralleled my own. Select an image. Add text. Done. However, they have a lot more images, fonts, and design options than I have at my disposal!
The first step was to choose a designer, so I headed to FiveRR and went through gallery after gallery of cover designs looking for similar genres to my books. I didn’t find any, so started over just looking at layouts that I liked. Finally, I dived in, selected an artist and shot off my $5 through PayPal.
I was committed.
Then came the hard part, selecting the cover image.
When choosing from my own photos I had at best a hundred or so images to go through. My cover designer, Jimmy Gibbs, however, told me to select any image I wanted from the stock photo site he used, depositphotos. That meant millions of photos.
I had a lot more thinking to do.
First of all, the artist I chose only worked with one image, rather than combining a couple. While that may seem overly restrictive it did make sense.
One of the first rules for ebook covers is to remember that the buyers only view them in small sizes–much smaller than you see in a bookstore when you have a book in your hand. The cover you love at the bookstore may look too cluttered and busy when viewed on virtual bookshelves. So, if your idea is complicated you’re best to save it for your print-on-demand version and simplify for your ebook.
The challenge then, is to choose a single image.
I thought it would be easy–and with the first cover in my series it was. I checked through the photo service, searched for longhorn cattle since the main plot in the book was a cattle drive, and picked my favorite for the cover of Badlands and Outlaws.
The cover designer selected a font that enhanced the image and the genre I’d given (Western) and I was done. It sure beat those hours of work I’ d put in on my own covers.
Then, I decided to work on books two and three in the series I’d decided to call The Old West. Of course, I wanted the whole series to link together so readers would be drawn into the other books.
If I’d put more thought into the first cover, the second one would have been a lot less work! So, I spent a whole Saturday looking through stock photos not making much headway. Idea after idea flew through my head, skidded to a near-stop and then slid right on by–nothing was “right” and I couldn’t figure out why.
But why had the single longhorn jumped right into my unconscious as the right image for the book? Unfortunately the reasons were still floating around somewhere out of reach.
I looked through thousands of images filed under keywords like outlaws, cowboys, old west, horses, and more. Eventually I realized that each single image needed to represent the common theme of outlaws that I’d already decided to use in all of the titles.
So the first cover had a cow–not an outlaw, or rather, an outlaw of a different sort. The longhorn I’d picked was very much the image of an outlaw range cow staring me in the face, ready to charge.
I knew about outlaw cattle because I’d discovered that “look” firsthand shortly after my wedding some 40 plus years ago. Coming from a horse ranch to a cattle ranch I’d been overly confident that I’d be of great assistance to my hubby and his family with the ranch work.
I was wrong.
The very first time I went out to chase cows, I’d stood my ground, staring down that charging cow and waving my arms the same as I would at all but the stallions on my family’s horse ranch. Range cattle though, apparently don’t care who’s in the road and my father-in-law’s shout to get on the *** hayrack, and not to get off, made it clear cattle weren’t like horses that spent winters in barn stalls.
Okay, so the longhorn image had that defiant look of an outlaw.
I had it!
All I had to do was find two more images of outlaws of some sort that would represent the plots and themes in books two and three.
Back to the image bank. Luckily, I had found a photo of mustangs that had really appealed to me as being out-of-the-ordinary and striking. The two horses, feet braced, skidding to a stop to avoid…well…to avoid the reader, since that’s who would be looking at the cover.
And it was obvious I needed an image of a human outlaw staring the reader down for the remaining book, Kidnapped by Outlaws.
Back to the stock photo site to find an photo that would be dark and foreboding and representative of the old west. While it took some new keyword searches, when I found the photo I knew it was the right one. This time it was a gun and an evil face partly hidden by a western hat that represented a more typical image of an outlaw.
So, I submitted my cover image choices, advised the artist that they were the next books in the series, and waited. I was very satisfied with both the service and the products. Now to see how they impact sales!
Secrets to selecting cover images for ebooks
Follow the KISS rule to keep it simple, silly! E-book covers display in very small sizes on virtual book shelves, so they shouldn’t be too busy.
Identify a single theme or plot point or idea that can represent the book visually.
Select an image that’s striking or distinctive in some way, so it stands out.
When working with a series, remember that your first cover creates a pattern of some sort that should be carried ahead to other books, so titles and cover art will have to share some aspects.
Writing Web content is rewarding for many reasons. You can reach readers anywhere in the world. You can get instant feedback through comments. And you can write on any topic you want, without worrying about finding an interested editor.
Sounds easy. Right?
It can be if you’re mostly writing for yourself and not worried about whether or not anyone is reading your content.
However, I’ve found that the most fun of writing on the Web is reaching interested readers. So how to do you do that? I’ll share three of the most important things I’ve learned about writing effective Web content in the past couple of decades.
Let’s start at the end, rather than the beginning, and build to that final aha! moment.
3) Write what your readers want.
Okay, so that’s a given, whether you’re writing for business applications or for entertainment value. There’s a catch though, isn’t there?
And the catch is…ta da…drum roll…that it can be almost impossible to figure out what readers want until you’ve already got established content and can analyze it for reading patterns.
Let’s start with the basics, or the keywords that people type into a search engine, to get to your website. It stands to reason that your content needs to have those top keyword in it if you’re going to get much traffic. After all, if you write about eggs benedict and everyone wants egg omelets, you’re not going to attract many readers.
The good news is that there are lots of keyword services out there, many of which have at least a few free services and free trials. Try these:
Wordstream. http://www.wordstream.com/popular-keywords/ This site gives a lot of free keyword traffic analysis in five areas (Business keywords, consumer keywords, health and fitness keywords, finance keywords, sales and marketing keywords). They also offer a free trial of their product.
Keyword Submit Express. http://keywords.submitexpress.com/keytracker.php This is a free tool that allows you up to 15 searches daily, and gives a large number of related terms with specific traffic estimates. Their data comes from WordTracker and Keyword Discovery.
You may also find this YouTube video has some good tips!
2) Most surfers won’t really read all of what you write.
I bet you’re saying, what? Nobody’s reading these lines that I’ve spent so much time revising and revising and revising?
Think of presenting your content like serving the egg breakfasts I mentioned earlier. If the eggs benedict is lopsided and kind of runny, it’s not too appetizing. But if it’s well placed on the plate along with a bright colored garnish, like a symetrically formed red strawberry, it’s a lot more interesting.
And of course, once you’ve grabbed your reader with that great start, make sure you deliver what your headline promised. If somebody dumped a little too much salt on that eggs benedict, you’re going to push it aside no matter how tasty it looks.
Keep in mind that Jakob Nielsen’s 2008 study indicated readers really get less than 20% of what you have on the page. That’s not much, is it?
1) Remember we read differently on the Web.
We all read on monitors these days, don’t we? In fact, if you weren’t reading on some sort of screen you wouldn’t be reading this webpage.
So, how do you feel about monitors?
Love ’em or hate ’em?
I personally prefer reading on a monitor to reading print materials these days, but that could have something to do with these progressive lens glasses.
Nowadays the experts are hesitant to say that paper is a better medium for reading than a monitor. Of course, when all we had to read was paper that was what we preferred.
It was also what we functioned best reading due to all that practice. After all, before we used notebooks to write on in school, those erasable slates were how students got their ideas down and learned to write.
We don’t look around for those anymore, do we?
Research today shows that with all this practice reading electronic content, times are changing.
This neat article from over at The Digital Reader also draws from research that shows that not only these young Generation X readers, who’ve grown up as digital natives, but also those of us at the other end of the scale, can find reading from a monitor a better experience.
One of the reasons many of us find reading from a monitor easier than paper is at least in part, if not completely, due to good content creation practices. What are those? Well, lots of things ranging from making text scannable to using template designs that provide good color contrast.
There is no one thing that makes content better for reading on a monitor. Rather, it’s a new way of writing and organizing content that copywriters need to understand.