Covers: How Much Will They Matter In A Digital Age?

One of the items in the endless list of things to keep a soon-to-be-published author up at night is the book cover. Will it convey the right tone? Will it appeal to the right audience? What if it’s in a color I hate? Will they let me change it at all if it’s horrible? Even for self-published authors (probably especially for self-published authors) these questions can be consuming. But how much does the cover even matter in a digital age?

Jody Hedlund, author and blogger, recently posted about her newest cover and the process that went into creating it. Her publisher posted several options a few weeks ago and asked readers to vote on their favorite. In the post, Jody not only unveils the winner, but explains why it won. One of the explanations that struck me the most was “2. The larger picture would be stronger compared to the others when viewed online, where thumbnail images are so pervasive.”

Honestly, it pleased me to see that publishers are taking digital marketing and display seriously. Brick and mortar bookstores are closing down all over the place (I live in a pretty major metropolitan area and there is ONE major bookstore left within half an hour of my house) and the convenience of digital readers are converting many people–myself included. The turning point for me was my move last year where, because of space, I was forced to give away/sell/donate about half of my precious book collection. If I had digital editions of those books, I would never have had to worry about that. There’s a lot more to this discussion, but I’ll save it for later before I get myself completely off track.

When browsing through sites like Amazon, the only things you see are the cover, the title, the author, and the price. If you don’t recognize the author’s name, that’s already one of four possible draws down the drain. If the title doesn’t grab you, there goes another. All you have left are the cover and the price point. If the price is average–not low enough to make the book a WTH-impulse buy but not high enough to immediately knock it out of the running–the cover is going to be the only thing that will draw in your audience.

If you’re publishing with a major house, you probably don’t have a lot of control over the cover–or anything post-final draft, really. However, if you’re self-publishing it is the greatest disservice in the world to not spend the money on a professional, eye-catching cover. There are so many artists out there with lost of talent who are available for free-lance design work. It probably won’t even be as much money as you think it might. It doesn’t hurt to look and you’ll only be shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t. The other thing to consider is editing (I’ve passed on buying a lot of books because more than half the reviews were something along the lines of “the story was great, but there were too many errors”), but that’s a whole post in and of itself.

Bottom line: will covers be important in the digital age? YES. Maybe even more so than they are now.

2 thoughts on “Covers: How Much Will They Matter In A Digital Age?

  1. Ailsa

    I completely agree about it being worth investing in a professional cover. It's one big thing that will put me off a book – if a cover is clearly badly put together, then it makes me doubt that much more care will have been taken with the inside of the book – if the cover is a mess, why would the editing be any better? I use covers a lot as a judgement for whether to read more about a book from a non-major publisher online.

  2. Sera Phyn

    Even for major publishers I judge by the cover sometimes. If they believe in the book, they spend more time and money on the cover. It's a sign that people who know the business are really behind the story.


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