Every article on publishing I’ve read stresses one fact – book covers are critical to the success of a novel.
They tend to qualify this with the suggestion that the prose, plot and characters in the novel itself might also have a role to play, but the cover is key.
The cover must stand out, be clear and strong in small online formats and tell the reader in 1-2 seconds exactly what genre of book they are looking at.
I tend to agree with them – I definitely judge books by their covers – but it is a very long way from agreeing with the theory to getting it right – matching all of the criteria without ending up with something dull and/or generic is hard. This is probably why most genre fiction covers are, funnily enough, dull and generic.
I’ve just changed the cover for Best Eaten Cold following advice and having asked a big, diverse group of people which option they preferred. I liked what I had before, but we all need to be open to advice. So far, it hasn’t made any difference (certainly not positive) and I’m not holding my breath.
For my next novel, I’m going in a different direction and have commissioned an independent designer to do something bespoke (I won’t mention her name in case I don’t like the results:-)). At least it will be original.
There is no doubt that covers are important, but my gut feel is still that, if you’re publishing your own novels, it’s word of mouth that’s key. That really depends on whether people enjoy your book, but for Best Eaten Cold, that doesn’t seem to be a problem.
If everyone who read and enjoyed Best Eaten Cold recommended it to five others, my sales would mushroom.
But people are busy and many of us don’t spend much time recommending books. My next task is to figure out a good way to encourage my readers to share the love even more.