Marketing for Indie Authors: Covers

I have a couple of good friends who are attempting to carve their respective niches out of the ebook market, as am I.

One of these friends is Cynthia Wicklund. Cindy and I have been kicking around ideas and brainstorming for a long time now. During the last six months, most of our conversations revolve around ebooks: what's selling and why.

We're both a work in progress as ebook indie authors, but Cindy is a step ahead of me because she's already got 4 ebooks up for sale.

We agree that all the successful indie authors are correct in saying there are certain elements that lead to ebook sales success. Fortunately, all of these are within the control of the author, unlike traditional publishing in which the author had control over only 1 aspect: the writing itself.

This is my list:

1. The Cover

2. The Product Description

3. The Sample Pages

4. The Writing

The Cover: Title and Artwork

Let's talk about what is needed to create the "perfect" cover.

It's hard to separate the title from the artwork because both serve the purpose of representing what your story is all about.

Creating a title is about choosing the right words to describe your book.

Creating the image is about choosing the right images that describe your book.

By describe your work, I mean:

• show the book's genre

• show the tone or style of the book within that genre

• evoke emotion and curiosity

• compel the reader to check out the Product Description

Ignored Cover Element

One aspect of the cover that a lot of writers don't pay any attention to are the fonts used on the cover. Most writers don't choose these with care; they just use whatever Windows fonts are available to them. The right font can do as much to convey image as the right piece of art.

My friend Cindy is working on her latest book for publication. The title is Thief of Souls. Originally, she had a cover that made you immediately associate it with Meyer's Twilight books. Since it's a much darker, more sexual book, that cover wouldn't work.

We brainstormed ideas, with my daughter the artist offering advice. Cindy changed the cover. Now, it has an erotically-charged image of a man and woman with subtle flames bordering the image. Stunning.

What "made" the new cover a winner was the font she used. My daughter had told her to go to and search for fonts with specific keywords in mind. Cindy found one that makes the title now look distorted, broken, edgy. It totally made the cover.

Be Picky

Some writers spend a lot of time coming up with the perfect title, but then they pick generic art for the cover image. Freelance artists are now offering low-cost generic covers where all you have to do is insert the title and the author name. Adopting either of these practices almost guarantees that you won't have stellar sales.

It's simply not enough to have a cover that looks hot or cool or amazing (choose your own adjective). As I said above, the cover must accomplish these four:

• show the book's genre

• show the tone or style of the book within that genre

• evoke emotion and curiosity

• compel the reader to check out the Product Description

I'll continue this discussion next week. Join me then!

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Takeaway Truth

Prepare your ebook cover with care, paying close attention to all the elements. No detail is too small to ignore.


  1. Joan, have you seen the new book from Barry Eisler and JA Konrath? It was only epublished on Friday.

    When someone talks about walking away from a half-million dollar advance in order to self-publish, it gets my attention.

    It's currently free at Smashwords. It probably is old hat to someone like you, but it has lots of info that I found useful.

    Ebooks and Self-Publishing - A Dialog Between Authors Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath

  2. Good morning, Harl,

    I'm a bit bogged down this week with too many projects. Getting the tax return finished is my priority. Yuk.

    Yes, I read the Google talk with Eisler and Konrath. Pretty amazing isn't it?

    It's on Joe's blog if you want to read it again.

    Back to my accounting cave...