I don’t care what anybody else says, but people DO judge a book by its cover all the time.
The following post already takes for granted that if you’re like most authors, you have no design skills, and don’t trust yourself to make a cover anyway using KDP cover creator.
Every time I either launch a new book of my own or help a client launch theirs, we ALWAYS post a few different cover mockups on social media and ask for opinions and feedback.
There are some pros and cons to doing this.
For one, you’ll get opinions from people who simply don’t know what they’re talking about and might have subjectively poor taste in cover designs. Some people may like a design that isn’t marketable, and in other words, give you bad advice. You’ll get a variety of opinions, but not all opinions are created equal.
However, crowdsourcing the cover design for feedback should not be confused with split testing the book covers with your target market. When Tim Ferriss was testing title ideas for his first book, The Four-Hour Workweek, he ran Google ads for different titles and this research helped him determine which title his target audience responded best to.
Spoiler alert: the one he originally intended to use was NOT the one that got the most clicks when he ran his tests.
And the rest is history.
There are several reasons why you will WANT to run your mockups by your target audience, or at the very least, other people.
1. Sometimes we can be blinded by our own ideas and not realize when something does or doesn’t work.
We’ve spent a long time working on our manuscript and as such we may not recognize our own blind spots. I am fairly certain upwards of 80% of authors are NOT designers, and so an idea we have in our head when implemented might NOT work the way we think it will.
Crowdsourcing feedback for the mockups can help us learn a thing or two we wouldn’t have if we had not asked our readers (or potential readers) for feedback. Which leads to the next point,
2. Sometimes our target audience can give us ideas we had never thought of on our own.
I recently decided to have a do-over for my book Increase Your Faith after realizing that perhaps the original cover’s typography, though neat looking, was difficult to read in thumbnail size, which is how most people will come across it online.
I asked my regular designer, Jose Aljovin for help updating/recreating it, and then put his options up in a writing group we’re both in, and got ideas and suggestions from other designers and authors whose opinions, I think, substantially improved the design.
Since changing and updating the cover to the one on the right, I’ve seen more sales for this book when not running any Amazon ads than I had whenever I was running them. It still doesn’t sell AS WELL as my healing book does, but I’ve seen enough difference in sales to indicate something has helped this title get better conversions on Amazon. The only variable that’s changed in the equation is the cover, so…
3. Some of the people who might see your cover mockups could become potential readers when you launch the book.
Think of this as free advertising. People who help you out on some level, whether beta readers, proofreaders or people who gave you their thoughts regarding a cover design oftentimes feel like they played a part in your book’s launch, and can spread word of mouth for you when you finally launch. Or in other cases, buy the book when it comes out.
They say that people need to be told about or shown something an average of 9 times before they’ll make a decision to purchase. In this case, sharing rounds of mockup designs on social media can be a few of those occasions, sowing seeds of knowledge into their minds for later purchase.
Overall, I think the pros outweigh the cons and you can get valuable insight by doing some market research and seeing what people think before finding out the hard way after you published your book that your cover, in fact, sucked.
I put together a video showing a recent experience while we’re designing the cover for Jonathan Ammon’s newest book, Balaam’s God.
Covers aren’t the only thing you’ll want to test with your market or target audience. You can run title ideas by them and even content from the book itself.
Nor is social media the only way you could get feedback. You could run a poll or leave options on your blog, especially if it’s already heavily-trafficked, for people to leave a comment. I’ve also asked my email list for their thoughts and received personal email responses.
But the point is you want to find out beforehand whether the cover ideas you have in mind will really resonate with your intended audience because frankly, I don’t care what anybody says, but we DO judge a book by its cover.
First Round of Opinions about the cover for Nine Lies People Believe About Speaking in Tongues.
As you can see in the embedded Facebook post above, the designer, though talented, came up with some designs people initially did not respond favorably to and even provided some ideas and tips that were incorporated into the next round of mockups.
It should be noted this example is for my book that was traditionally published and my regular cover and branding guy, Jose Aljovin wasn’t responsible for this version of the cover like my other ones. But we still did the same split testing and market research.
Earlier I mentioned there’s a difference between asking your email list or social media followers their opinion and actually testing out your cover designs to see how they work. It’s one thing to hire a designer who is good at making book covers. It’s something else entirely to design a cover that evokes the response you want — for people to buy your book and read it.
You may get wonderful feedback that helps your designer craft an excellent-looking cover that does not scream “homemade” as many indie books’ covers do. But does your designer know how to design covers for the market? Will your designer create a cover that will do what your cover is supposed to do for your work?
There’s a lot more that could be said about crafting a professional cover and making sure it resonates, and perhaps I’ll explore that in future posts. But in the meantime, I highly encourage you to check out the video above.
My recommended cover designers
While each designer will have their own signature touch and perhaps can provide you exactly what you describe or ask them to, I also realize that this doesn’t necessarily mean you like someone’s style.
I get it.
With that in mind, I’m sure one of the following individuals ought to be able to provide you a professional and marketable cover for your book.
Jose Aljovin is my branding guy. He designed my site logo, my podcast logo, some other branding, and of course, my covers. Check out his website KingdomElement.com (in Spanish, but Jose is fluent in English).
April 2021 Update: I’ve also used 99Designs to run contests with clients of mine and get a professional quality book design. In the near-future, I’ll post my thoughts on the experience.