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5 Tips For Designing A Sales Friendly Book Cover

In June, HarperCollins announced that To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee’s highly anticipated follow-up, Go Set A Watchman, had set a pre-sale record. In that same press release, chief executive Robert Thomson noted that the book “won’t need a huge amount of marketing.” With To Kill A Mockingbird being one of the most read books of all time, you might agree with Mr. Thomson. After all, “Why waste money on something that will sell itself?”

While this mindset may be true for authors who are a household name, publishers still put a large amount of resources into publicity. In an overcrowded marketplace, no book will just “sell itself.” When a purchase decision is made, something about that book – plot, characters, setting, time period – stands out and forms an emotional connection with the consumer. With Go Set A Watchman, we believe the most important emotional connection is formed through the book’s cover.

It is thanks to Go Set A Watchman’s stunning cover that, after the briefest of glances, even irregular readers can associate the book with To Kill A Mockingbird. This fact, along with the popularity of Harper Lee, certainly contributed to the record breaking pre-order sales.

So, how did the designer do it? Nobody can know for sure, but we think they had the following 5 tips in mind:

1) Less Is More – A book cover should be simple and represent the overall theme or conflict within the book. One element should dominate and take charge to provide a hint of the atmosphere of the book. For example, in Go Set A Watchman, the cover is dominated by the famous tree, now a little older and with fewer leaves.

2) Engage Your Reader On An Emotional Level – The image used needs to give readers a sense of excitement and something to which they can relate. Is Scout returning home? Is the tree, now with a few golden leaves, a suggestion of her age? Is someone’s return “out of the blue”? Just from a quick glance at the cover, dozens of questions come to mind and a reader becomes emotionally invested.

3) Use Strong Typography – The font  used for the title and author’s name should be easily read, particularly at thumbnail size. With this in mind, the typography used can easily make or break a book. Go Set A Watchman’s type borrows directly from that of To Kill A Mockingbird, with Harper Lee’s name now front and centre.

4) Be Consistent Within A Series – If you are writing a series, use similar thematic elements, typography, or structure to provide consistency, recognizability, and branding. While not a series, the publisher clearly communicated that it wanted Go Set A Watchman’s cover to have a strong link to that of To Kill A Mockingbird.

5) Use A Qualifier – Why should consumers buy your book? What makes you a good author? Typically, this question is answered by referencing an older, bestselling book by the same author or by adding award seals to the cover. For Go Set A Watchman’s cover, the all-important qualifier is “Author of To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Next week, when you finally get your hands on Go Set A Watchman, first take a few minutes to consider the cover. Much like our book cover designs for author Jaime Lee Mann’s “Legend of Rhyme” series, the designer intended for you to establish an emotional connection. How it manifests is up to you.

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