How to know if your book’s cover needs a redesign

How to Know Your Book’s Cover Needs a Redesign

by Diana Urban

Potential readers need to be intrigued by a bookÔÇÖs cover to click through and check it out. Our testing has shown that a cover alone can account for a 30% difference in clicks on a BookBub Featured Deal, and other sources have reported similar results. So if your cover design isnÔÇÖt up to snuff, your book sales will suffer.

But how can you know which of the covers in your backlist need to be redesigned? And how will you know if a new version of the cover will perform better?

 Step #1: Assess Your Current Cover

First, assess your existing cover design to ensure it meets basic quality standards. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • ┬áDoes the cover include trends and tropes that perform well in your genre?
  • Is the typeface professional? Outdated fonts like Comic Sans should be avoided.
  • Is the title visible and legible when viewing a thumbnail of the cover?
  • If a blurb is included, is the text legible or does it make the cover look cluttered?
  • Does the cover look professionally designed or amateurish?

Of course, a self-analysis and gut check can only get you so far. Determining whether a cover design needs a reboot is a big decision, and you might be too emotionally attached to your design to make the right call. Because of this, you should gather evidence from the marketplace and ask your target audience for their feedback.

Step #2: Look for Feedback from the Marketplace

 Here are a few signs your cover needs a redesign based on data, trends, and feedback from the marketplace.

  1.  Sales have slowed significantly (or never picked up)

Sales (or lack thereof) will be one of the biggest barometers for the effectiveness of a cover design. It can be difficult to know if a bookÔÇÖs low sales are entirely due to a poor cover design, since there are so many factors at play. But if book sales have dipped after the new release buzz has died down, or if sales never took off to begin with, the cover may not be appealing enough to capture peopleÔÇÖs attention on its own.

A bookÔÇÖs cover is the first thing potential readers see when browsing an Amazon search results page, skimming their Facebook feed, or reading their daily BookBub email. If the cover is not catching readersÔÇÖ attention, they wonÔÇÖt click through to read the bookÔÇÖs description no matter how targeted or well-planned your advertising campaigns are.

If youÔÇÖre still unsure how great an impact cover design can have on book sales, here are some interesting examples and case studies of authors who successfully boosted book sales via a cover redesign when their initial sales figures were low.

  • ┬á5 Case Studies of Book Cover Redesigns
  • The Gardener of Baghdad by Ahmad Ardalan
  • Secrets, Scandalous, and Stripped by H.M. Ward
  • Desecration and Pentecost by J.F. Penn

2. The cover deviates significantly from successful books in your genre

Like everything else in publishing, cover design is incredibly subjective, and best practices differ by genre. Elements like the image, typeface, featured characters, and colors all impact the emotional reaction potential readers might have, and the right packaging depends on genre readersÔÇÖ preferences.

To know if a bookÔÇÖs design deviates from whatÔÇÖs working in your your genre, study the kinds of covers trending for similar books. Here are some tips on how to know whatÔÇÖs trending:

  • ┬áReview the books on each retailerÔÇÖs top lists for your sub-genre. For example, on Amazon you can see which books are most popular in your specific sub-genre.
  • Review the covers of bestselling books. Browse the recent New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists, and take a close look at the books in your genre.
  • Browse the titles BookBub features in your genre to see whatÔÇÖs working well in your niche.

If your book cover is drastically different from books in your genre that are selling well and popular with readers, you might want to consider a redesign. 

  1. Your book wasnÔÇÖt selected for a BookBub Featured Deal

Cover design is only one of the factors our editors use to select Featured Deals from the hundreds of submissions we receive each week, but if youÔÇÖre repeatedly not selected for a Featured Deal, it might be a barometer for the quality of your cover design within your genre. Our editors will pass on a book if the cover isnÔÇÖt going to appeal to readers of that category.

A great cover design is something that will boost your chances of success with BookBub, with readers visiting your product page on retailer websites, or with customers who come across your book in their local bookstore.

Note that while your cover can influence our editorsÔÇÖ decision, itÔÇÖs just one of the many things they take into consideration, so redesigning your cover wouldnÔÇÖt guarantee selection upon your next submission.┬á

Step #3: Run tests with your audience and potential readers

Make sure to get some objective feedback on your cover design. If your audience canÔÇÖt quickly understand what your book is about, itÔÇÖs another sign that your cover needs a revamp. Using a tool like UsabilityHub would give your contacts and fans an anonymous way to provide feedback. You can either:

Option #1: Run a five-second test. Show a cover to users for five seconds. Afterward, have them try to describe what they think the book is about. If peopleÔÇÖs first impressions are way off, the cover might need a redesign.

Option #2: Run a question test. Show users a cover for an unlimited amount of time, during which theyÔÇÖll answer your specific questions. Here are a few examples of questions you could ask:

  • What do you think this book is about?
  • What is the genre of this book?
  • What is the tone of this book?
  • Does this book look professionally designed?
  • Is the text on this cover easy to read?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how likely would you be to pick up this book in a bookstore?

If you only want to show your test to your own testers, specify that you want zero responses from UsabilityHub. YouÔÇÖll be able to invite as many testers as you like for free. After getting feedback, you might learn your cover needs a redesign, but youÔÇÖll come away with valuable insights from the responses you collect.

 Final check: Test your new design against the original

Once you have another cover design ready to go, use data to ensure the new version will resonate better with your audience by testing two variations against each other: the original design and your new design. This should alleviate any lingering hesitation to swap out the design. There are different methods for testing your design:

Option #1: Run a qualitative test. Poll your audience to find out which of the two covers they like better. This is a subjective approach because respondents see both variations. You can use tools like PickFu to purchase a la cart polls for $20, or Playbuzz to run polls on your own website for free.

Option #2: Run a quantitative test. A/B test your design with your audience. Results are based on raw data (e.g., the number of clicks) and performance results, and viewers do not see the alternative design. You can use your email service provider to run A/B test emails and see which cover has the highest click-through rate, or you can use ad platforms like Facebook to A/B test your cover design. With Facebook, you can include an image in your ad and get results for as little as $30.

Ideally youÔÇÖll use both polling and A/B testing to make a well-informed decision. You can read more about testing your cover designs here.

Have you recently redesigned your bookÔÇÖs cover? What were your results after the redesign?

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