I recently listened to a Barnes & Noble One on One Author interview with Chip Kidd who is the associate art director at Knopf an imprint of Random House. In the first half of the interview he talks about a book he has written and later on he talks about cover design and advertising.
I had never heard of Chip Kidd before this interview. When seeking out author interviews I have to admit I was at first curious because he shares my surname. Upon finding out he is a well-respected cover designer my interest was piqued further.
Always having had an interest in art and design, I particularly appreciate a fine cover when I see one. The whole marketing process fascinates me and cover design is an integral part of that.
The obvious question was asked during the interview ‘does cover design sell a book?’ This is a question I was asking myself not so long ago as I published my first Ebook The Eight of Swords. The temptation was to launch into designing the cover myself. I am more than happy to browse photo libraries for hours to find the right image for my blog so why would it be any different for my book cover? As luck would have it a designer offered to do it for me. In fact he relished the opportunity and I was delighted by his enthusiasm. If I had done it myself I might well have spent a long time agonising over images and working out how to create the finished product in a professional looking manner. In truth, I doubt I would have had any more satisfaction doing it myself than letting him do it for me. Also the time I spent trying to do it could be spent writing!
The finished cover design for my Ebook was far different to anything I imagined and far exceeded my expectations. It perfectly fits with the story – dramatic and mysterious. Also it looks great as a thumbnail image, which can be quite a challenge.
Back to the question ‘does cover design sell a book?’ Well Chip’s answer pretty much came as I expected, in the negative. He believed as I do, it’s the subject matter, the blurb on the back and the reviews that sell the book. I only believe this based on how I buy books. I do like to see a stylish cover in ‘come and get me’ colours with an intriguing image and cool font design but when browsing a bookshelf or Amazon it’s the author credentials and story that sell me the book. I will check out the reviews and if they are well above average on the low stars I may well pass it by but I don’t take too much stock of them because hey, everyone is an individual and even more so when it comes to being attracted by reading material.
Having said all that, a poorly designed cover can be a real turn off. Psychologically we want to be attracted and feel that we are valued enough for someone to make an effort to draw us in. I know that if one of my favourite authors published a book with a tacky cover I would be disappointed and to be perfectly honest really quite shocked. However, being one of my favoured authors, if I liked the sound of the story I would disregard the cover.
In truth when I am browsing for books and see an author I don’t know with a cover design that looks pretty atrocious it is very off putting to say the least. If they didn’t make the effort with the cover design, how much effort did they put into the story? It’s superficial but it is hard not to make assumptions. Us humans usually judge first on appearance whether it is right or wrong.
As with my business, I am a great believer in display and making an effort for the customer. After all without the customer there would be no business and it’s the same with readers, I want them to feel they are getting something great on the outside and within, a totally finished product.
Check out Chip Kidd’s podcast at Barnes & Noble here.
And his cover designs here: