19 June 2023 at 12:00:00 am
Book Cover as an Effective Marketing Tool
There is an age old idiom that goes, ‘Don’t judge a book by its Cover’. It means Don’t judge anything merely by its appearance. In most cases today, it is true for covers of books that I have picked up barring a few. Which only goes to say how poorly book covers are designed.
When an established author announces the release of his book, it is easy to sell. The author has fans, lovers of his literature, PR agents and many more invested in his success. But that’s not true for a new author whom the market doesn’t know.
Generally, (and there may well be exceptions to the rule) new authors do not possess deep pockets nor the acquired nuances and skills to market their books. They compete against a multitude of new and established Indian and international authors. Unless they are renowned, selling a book is pretty tough.
If you take a platform or e-marketplace like Amazon, the customer is there to check out a lot. He can give you a maximum of five seconds for your product unless…it catches the eye…and fires his imagination. An author’s lead time therefore is five seconds. That’s it. In that time, it is up to him or her to capture the attention of the customer. There is no one-on-one, face-time or talk-time. Just 5 seconds to visually appeal to the reader.
It is in this perspective that an author should evaluate the cover for his book. And for God’s sake, forget about someone not judging the book by its cover. It doesn’t apply to the modern market where the cover is the first pitch for a sale.
The concept of the book shop is failing in India. Not because people have stopped reading but because of e-marketplaces and the steep hike in real estate prices. A classic example of that is Reliance Time-Out (Part of the erstwhile Anil Ambani group). I loved the place, my wife and I used to browse books there for hours, what with the coffee shop and great nooks to settle down with a book. We were one of those shocked couples who kind of reduced the frequency of going to a mall after they closed Reliance Time-Out. This is true of many book chains that have closed down or downsized their presence.
Where does that leave a first-time or lesser known authors? Also, bookstores, to monetise their space, demand money for front line/ prime display of books in various forms and shapes. It’s cool, I think it is a great business idea but that doesn’t help the authors. The costs are pretty steep. In the normal course of things publishers put up two to three books per store for each author they print, which the store will retain for a week and then return if not sold. How will they be sold if they are in the back of the store in a half-hidden aisle. Readers will browse, I can vouch for that and even then, the first thing that attracts them is the cover of the book, especially if they don't know the author.
With physical stores inaccessible or too far apart and with their entire prime display space occupied by best selling authors and purchased space, the only place left is the e-marketplace, platforms like Amazon and Flipkart. At least, books are displayed by genre there. One can pull it up and when the customer does that, it’s the power of the cover that holds the attention. Believe me, names, stories and blurbs come later. The customer will first stop for the cover and that is how it becomes relevant to judge a book by the cover. I’ve come across people in the industry saying it really doesn’t matter what the cover looks like. I don’t agree with that. The covers of every one of my books depict the story. It should carry an impact. If the cover doesn’t come out right, your cover designer will say stuff like, ‘it’s ok, the audience will not judge the book by the cover’, etc and so forth. That is hogwash on many levels. For the reader to read the book he must buy it. To buy it, he must get attracted to it. He has given you five seconds to convince him and all you have is your book cover. So then, go for it! Make it the best you can.
Vadhan is a lawyer, executive director in one of the big fours and author with five published books and many manuscripts, some completed and some commenced. His latest book, Song of the Trinity: The Rise of Kali is out. Get your copies in Amazon, Flipkart or in any major bookstore across the country.