I know I know, hate me all you want but it’s true.
Just because it’s an advertisement, however, doesn’t mean it can’t also be a work of art. I’m not claiming that you can’t love your book cover and think your blurb is the best thing ever written, but you also have to see it for what it is… you are trying to sell it.
And to sell something, you have to let people know it’s there and the visuals MUST match the book. They must.
Here are my reasons and remember this is subjective and comes from my experience working in advertising:
1. Your book is a product
Yes to us writers our book is more than a product, it is a piece of us, a little tiny bit of our lives and experiences go into each book we write, but to everyone else, our book is a product. The words, the story, the characters are the product, the cover is the advertisement for what is inside. You aren’t selling your cover art, you are selling your words.
2. It is one of many products
I assume that you plan to write more than one book, so you will need more than one cover. Each book will need a separate cover that advertises the words, the story, the characters that are inside. Each book also needs your name on it so you can build your brand up through each book you publish. Like advertisements for a certain company, each image or cover looks completely different but has your stamp on it, your logo if you will. For most of you that will just be your name.
3. You want people to buy it
As much as your creative insticts and passion for writing may protest… you are SELLING your stories. You are accepting money for your words and like all businesses everywhere, you want people to keep exchanging their money for your words. You want to make them happy, while always staying true to yourself and your business model. Happy readers are loyal readers so you DO NOT want to lie to them by falsely advertising your book, a.k.a having a crappy cover.
ED NOTE: I just want to make it clear that I’m not taking a stance on ethics, corporation or business in general (get to know me personally and I’ll tell you exactly how I feel about business), but I only wish to highlight that selling books is a business. It is. You may not agree but that doesn’t make it untrue. Exchanging money for product is business. Writing the book is a whole different story and here I am ONLY talking about selling the book.
4. It is designed to ‘sell’ a lifestyle
ALL advertisements sell you a ‘lifestyle’ or a ‘feeling’ and it is no different with books. I read books that make me feel a certain way because I like feeling that way. Advertising isn’t about just getting you to own a product it convinces you that your life will be better with that product (this is where the ethics come in and people get very fussed up, refer to above note), whether you’ll be happier, more fulfilled, skinnier, prettier, more popular, geekier, smarter, richer etc. THAT is what you want your cover to do, show me how your book is going to make me feel(cover art) and tell me how my life will be enriched by reading your book(blurb).
The cover, the blurb, then the first few paragraphs are what NEW readers see first and they will judge you on it. Remember that no one else loves your story quite like you do. You have to show them why they will eventually love it just like you do. If you’ve had a few books and have built your name recognition up then keep up the good work and keep making those readers happy. But, each book is a separate entity, even if it is part of a series, it still has work, it still has to fit and it still has to sell to new readers while your name is good enough to sell your established readership.
And I leave you with this: Advertising is just a process, it’s a verb(sometimes). A lot of people hate the word but advertising is not the problem, it’s the ethics and business practices of the PEOPLE behind the advertisement who are dictating how we feel about them. You don’t have to sell your soul, just your book…
If you want to sell, you have to advertise. If you don’t want to advertise you won’t sell… Would you buy a book that had no cover… as a reader, I wouldn’t. As a designer, I might be intrigued.