A BLArticle® Miniseries
“You Can Judge A Book By Its Cover”
We grew up hearing, over and over again, the following statement: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” In the new, multi-visual, internet driven, see-it-buy-it world we live in, I believe this could not be further from the truth. The fact is, when it comes to selling books, people do judge a book by its cover and its title, just as they can judge a business by its website design. The human eye doesn’t land on an object for long, and that means that object has to be an interesting one.
Most publishers believe that what’s on the cover of a book is a one-sided issue. As I have been told more than once: “Leave the cover to us. We know more about these things than authors.” I wouldn’t doubt that this statement is half true, but who would know better about the intent of the book than the author?
I’ve never understood why it was such a one-sided issue. Imagine hiring a consultant who was such a subject matter expert, they declared: “We know so much, we find no value in hearing what you have to say… even if this is your business.”
One of the many reasons I signed with my current publisher, Barrett-Koehler, was their policy towards what’s on the cover of their books. They don’t just want to give lip service to an author about his or her concept for the cover of the book, so they follow a process, and they put that process in the contract.
First, they assemble a team that consists of your editor, marketing personnel, graphic artists and more, to spend well over an hour asking questions and listening to the author. Mind you, most of these questions have nothing to do with your idea for the cover of the book. They genuinely want to understand the book. Refreshing.
How often do you approach a problem without the necessary personnel in place, or without asking the right questions, and wind up with a solution that was based on tunnel vision?
The cover design begins with the first draft, and not just one first draft. The initial cover designs for How to Change Minds were submitted in over a dozen design concepts. You would think that certainly one of the first twelve would have been adequate, but in fact. I didn’t really like any of them. The cover design team didn’t seem in the least bit upset, because they truly wanted to get it right.
How often do you fall in love with one or two ideas, and lose your ability to truly expand your thinking before contracting it?
To insure everyone was satisfied, there was another part of the process that was rather unique. Barrett-Koehler places a stipulation in its contract that if the author isn’t happy with the cover, the design team continues to meet until the author is happy. If the author remains unhappy, the contract is null and void. In my case, we met again, and we brainstormed again, and this time, the designs that were submitted were much more to my liking.
How often do you forget that the goal is not to just finish the assignment, but rather to get it right?
Once the title and book cover were finalized, multiple things happened: Foreign rights were sold to multiple countries, Barnes & Noble (and other major bookstores) began to place large pre-orders, the book was sold as an audio book to yet another vendor, and more. But based on what? I’d love to tell you it was based on my fine writing skills, but no vendor had even seen the manuscript yet. They had a title, and they had a cover, and they were interested. The fact is, they were judging the book by its cover.
It’s no coincidence that since this experience with the book cover, I redesigned almost every book cover in my business life including part of my website, the BLArticle® site, my Facebook Fan Page, my YouTube page, and my Amazon Author’s page. People do judge a book by its cover, and this is clearly evident by the ramifications that the cover design has already had on the initial sales of the book.
What final question does this present to all of us? Understanding people do judge a book by its cover, we need to ask ourselves this:
What book cover, in your business or personal life, can you look to redesign?