how book design affects sales

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Even a bestseller needs a competent design. It should be not only informative, but also competitive, because sometimes the reason for the purchase is a beautiful illustration. Clever art director Lilu Rami told Sostav how to draw the buyer’s attention to the book.

Good cover formula

The usual cover formula is illustration, book title and author name. Plus, of course, an annotation on the back, so that the reader knows what we are talking about. The most interesting part of the work is when you and your team figure out how to catch the eye of the buyer this time, consult with marketers, meet with the target audience, and be sure to listen to the author’s wishes, especially if he is experienced and already has a couple of bestsellers. .

The publisher’s goal is to sell the book. The designer’s goal is to interest a person.

And he only has a couple of seconds to do so, until he looks at another shelf, where the covers can be just brighter.
The book must sell itself through the cover.

Now the cover should be not only informative, but also competitive. Sometimes the reason for buying becomes simple beautiful illustration or unusual design: selective varnish, pontoons – this is a paint that allows you to print very bright and sometimes even acid colors. We used this trick when we opened the “Trendbooks Summer” series:

The reader’s desire to collect all the colors of the series, put books on the shelf and share beautiful photos on social networks was a trigger to buy. After that, people became interested in the lyrics, which made the series very successful.

Here we used the then-fashionable technique of combining background and text without drawings and photographs. If these books were out now, I would leave the same design, but add a relevant gradient and graininess, because bright colors are at the peak of popularity due to the trend of the style of the 90s.

The fame of the writer also encourages buying, so sometimes it is enough to indicate his last name on the front or add a biography with a photo on the cover, because often come to the bookstore for a specific specialist or author of fiction.

Here is an example of covers where the author’s name is larger than the title. In this case, the book is sold by the name of Anna Jane:

Examples – how and how not to design books

I will show an example of a bad, in my opinion, adaptation of the cover for the Russian market. I can understand why they decided to change the cover. Probably, the original seemed too gloomy for our market, although the book is marked 18+.

For me, the mistakes are obvious: the picture with the house seems childish, the title is lost in a small format, the illustration as a whole is not intriguing and does not cause a desire to pick up a book. Moreover, next to the competitors, the dark composition loses, while the drawing with a girl with a wolf’s jaw on her face attracts attention. It may seem to publishers that the Russian audience will not accept such a design, but it is not.

Adapted cover Original cover

I will give an example from my personal experience. The original cover seemed outdated and unobtrusive. In addition, I wanted to convey the mood of the book, the darkness and the depth of what is happening. I wanted to make it more gloomy, interesting and make readers look from all sides.

Adapted cover Original cover

Here are examples of bad covers. I don’t even know if I need comments.

Covers depending on age category

Covers and books vary greatly depending on age. I will tell you about the example of books published by Clever, how you can make a good and not very good cover for the same book.

From 0 to 3 years

The book was published in 2019 with such a cover. This is a layout of the original edition: in this form we received the files, decided not to change anything and released the book. It’s not bad, but times are changing, more and more purchases are being made online. Present it in a smaller format, and it is lost among similar books.

In 2021, when it was time for the next edition, we decided to update the layout. There are fewer characters and they are bigger, small drawings have been replaced by stars made of gold foil. The book looks more profitable both compared to the previous edition and compared to books from other publishers.

From 3 to 7 years

A striking example of a successful project, our absolute hit for many years – the book “My body is changing: Everything that teenagers want to know and what parents are embarrassed to talk about.” The original cover did not suit us in any way. It was difficult to recognize a children’s book and consider the genre.

In this form, the book has been sold for 10 years and very successfully. Later we continued the series, keeping the design.

Young adult – teen literature

Complex and unpredictable direction. Readers may not accept the cover, think that the characters in the photos are chosen incorrectly, or that the mood of the collage does not convey the mood of the text. For each of our projects released in the clever_trendbooks series, I make at least 10 design options. And even a coherent illustration will not help if we can not say the right shade: this cover seemed to the author too pink and too gentle, not the mood.

In this form, the book went to print.

Or here, for example, my favorite project last year and a lot of ideas for design. This drawing, ordered especially for the book, which depicts the author Katya Mayorova, seemed to us childish and not selling.

Old-school images were shallow due to inconsistencies.

Here we have already felt something. Everyone liked the mood, but I wanted something brighter and more provocative.

I am very pleased with the result. We managed to engage the audience, convey the character of the book and convey very necessary and important information to readers. I’m afraid that with the first version of the cover we could fail the project.

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