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How To Use Your Book Cover To Sell More Books

Your book cover design is an essential part of your book marketing strategy. Today author and graphic designer AD Starrling discusses how to make the most of the cover design you've worked so hard to get right.

sell with book coverCover attracts, copy sells.

I can’t recall where exactly I first read this eye-opening line but I now live by this motto as both a writer and a designer.

When it comes to selling books, there is no doubt that an eye-catching cover that fits your main genre and targets your ideal reader is an important element to get right.

There are dozens of articles out there by some very big names in our industry about how changing covers changed their sales figures and in some cases, their entire careers.

Our very own Joanna Penn has written a couple of features here and here, and there is this sobering example by H.M. Ward which I always quote as an example of very effective redesign and rebranding.

I also strongly recommend checking out this podcast interview with Stuart Bache on book covers.

So, now that you’ve got a great book cover, what can you do with it besides putting it out there in the world when you launch your book? It turns out you can do a lot, especially to market it. So let’s break this down into three phases:

  1. Prelaunch
  2. Launch
  3. Branding

1. Prelaunch

Buzz building is a crucial element of most bestselling authors’ marketing strategy when it comes to their new releases. Getting your existing readers excited about your upcoming book and attracting new readers to your writing world is a great way to ensure you get good sale figures when you launch, especially if you’re doing preorders.

I would particularly emphasize targeting your existing readers. Remember the Rule of 7 in Marketing 101. Even your fans may have to “see” your book several times before they click the preorder or buy button.

Here are several ways you can use your book cover to build buzz about your upcoming release before your book goes live. You should start thinking about this 1 to 3 months before your book launch.

A. Cover reveal

A cover reveal is an easy, simple, and effective way to build buzz about your upcoming release. From exclusive cover reveals with preorder links to your mailing list and fan groups, to posts on your social media platforms which you can boost, to paid cover reveal book tours. All of these are easy ways to get your book out there to existing fans and potential new readers.

Many authors do giveaways with their cover reveals to engage their existing readers and attract new ones.

There are two ways you can use your book cover for cover reveals. Just use the cover itself or create attractive graphics that include your cover. In terms of cover reveal book tours, romance and YA fantasy are the two genres that can do well with that particular form of buzz building.

This is the cover reveal graphic I’m using for my upcoming release. Here, I used elements of the book cover for the background, a 3D render of the book, and a tagline with a clear call-to-action.

Blood and Bones Pre-order post

And here’s an amazing cover reveal post where the author uses their actual book cover to full effect (note this is not my design).

Cover Reveal Jovee Winters

B. Profile picture

Another simple way to make your upcoming release highly visible is to change your author profile image on your various social media platforms, your Amazon author page, and even your Bookbub page.

Here are a couple of recent guides which will help you get the dimensions right: Sprout Social Social Media Image Size Guide and Hubspot Ultimate Guide Social Media Image Dimensions.

Social media platforms often change their image dimension requirements so make sure to revisit them at least once or twice a year to ensure you’re using up to date sizing guides.

C. Website

Always try and keep your website up to date by displaying your upcoming release prominently on your Home page. Your cover or an attractive graphic with a tagline and preorder links is an easy way to make sure your readers know what’s coming next, especially if you’re driving traffic to your website with advertising.

Consider adding your book cover with its preorder links to your mailing list sign-up page.

Here’s a website Home page graphic I made for Melissa J. Crispin when we redesigned the cover of her fantasy novella The Crimson Curse.

Sample website banner

D. Banners

Adding your book cover to your social media and newsletter banners is another easy way to boost visibility. Many authors regularly change their banners to not only showcase their upcoming releases but also when they’re doing sales on one of their titles.

Here’s the Twitter banner I made for Melissa J. Crispin.

Melissa J Crispin Twitter banner

E. Ads and teasers

Using your book cover in ads is a brilliant way to boost preorders and increase visibility.

You can either use the book cover itself, elements of it, or images that are evocative of the story in your ad graphics.

Here are two Facebook ads I designed for S.E. Wright when we did her boxset cover.

Facebook Ad The Traveller Series Boxset SE Wright

Facebook Ad The Traveller Series Boxset SE Wright

Here’s a teaser template I created for Melissa J. Crispin, which she then used to add content to use in her social media posts.

The Crimson Curse Teaser

2. Launch

Launching your book is a crazy whirlwind of newsletters, social media posts, advertising, and watching sales and reviews come in for your new baby. If you’ve put in the hard work for your prelaunch, it helps make the launch period that much easier.

Your existing and potential new readers have already seen your upcoming book cover several times in the form of the above buzz-building tactics. Now’s the time to dial things up and get them to click buy if they haven’t already pre-ordered your book.

A. Website and social media banners

Once your book is live, updating your website Home page and your social media banners with new launch graphics is a must. Nothing says “There’s naff all to see here folks” than going to an author’s website or social media page on launch day and seeing the proverbial tumbleweed roll across the screen.

You have a web presence. Use it to the max when it comes to your book launch. Remember the Rule of 7.

B. Boosted posts

Boosted posts targeted at your existing readers is a clever way to get sales on launch day. Sure, you would have sent a newsletter out too, but not everyone will open it on launch day and a boosted post doesn’t hurt visibility.

The book cover itself or a pretty graphic featuring the book and your buy links works well for this.

C. Ads

This is where most bestselling authors concentrate their marketing money. Most authors with a backlist that generates good read through and ROI have ads running in the background for their first in series, a boxset, or their reader magnet for mailing list sign-up anyway, but launch day is when the big guns come out.

Since you have no control over your Amazon ads graphics, ensuring the book cover itself is eye-catching from the get-go with a title or author name readable at thumbnail level is the best chance you can give your book in terms of those few precious seconds you have to catch a reader’s eye on a busy Amazon page.

For Facebook, Bookbub, or Twitter ads, the world is your oyster. Here, you can experiment with all sorts of graphics, images, and elements of your book cover.

Bookbub Ad The Traveller Series Boxset SE WrightThe advice for Facebook ads is usually that simple images work better than graphics featuring book covers. But I have seen lots of great Facebook ads featuring book covers that work really well when you consider their social proof.

At right is a Bookbub ad I did for S.E. Wright for her boxset.

Here are some fantastic examples (note these are not my designs) of how you can use a book cover and its elements to create brilliant ads.

Sample Facebook ads

Shayne Silvers FaceBook Ad

3. Branding

The other function your book cover has is to convey your author brand or series brand to readers. It’s advisable to revisit your author branding regularly (I would recommend at least once a year) to make sure you keep things fresh and on target for your genre and the kind of readers you are trying to attract.

A. Website and social media

Here are some great examples of authors who are constantly updating their websites and social media banners to reflect their latest release and branding (again, not my own designs).

Shayne Silvers books

Domino Finn ad

Elise Kova Facebook ad

When I designed the covers for my upcoming urban fantasy series Legion, I decided to give my website and my newsletter a makeover to reflect my new series branding.

AD Starrling newsletter header

B. Swag

Another brilliant and fun way to use your book cover for branding and marketing is by incorporating them in your business card, author event banners, and all your fan swag. So bookmarks, postcards, posters, mugs, T-shirts, tote bags, fridge magnets, popsockets, etc.

The sky is truly the limit when it comes to swag. And you can even monetize these designs by having your own author store on Zazzle or Society 6, or your own website.

[Note from Joanna: for more information and ideas about merchandising that ties into your books and author brand, listen to this episode of The Creative Penn podcast.]

Here are some great examples: Elise Kova, JA Huss, and Marie Force.

One thing to ensure before you sell physical products though is that you have the correct licenses with regards to the images used.

So now that we’ve talked about the various ways you can use your book cover or elements of it for marketing, what about the tools at your disposal to create these eye-catching graphics?

Here are the three I would recommend right now:

  1. Photoshop
  2. Canva
  3. Book Brush

When it comes to design, every designer swears by Photoshop. It can look like the tool of the devil at first but I would recommend starting with Adobe’s own tutorials if you’re new to the software.

If you don’t fancy paying for Photoshop, then I recommend Canva as a great platform for creating stunning graphics.

The other platform to consider is Book Brush. The new kid on the block, Book Brush promises to help you “create professional ads and social media images for your books”.

Before I started my design business, Canva was my go-to tool for all my graphic needs. Photoshop is now my personal tool of choice because it’s so versatile. If you’re not a designer, then I would recommend trying both Canva and Book Brush’s free plans before committing to a paid plan with either of them.

One advantage Canva still retains over Book Brush is that you can do more than just ads and social media images on there. Canva offers a plethora of design features including business cards, book covers, flyers, and posters among many others.

The good thing about both Canva and Book Brush is that they are constantly innovating and adding to their platforms so you will be sure to get a solid product that will only gain in value over time whichever one you choose to go with.

Your last option when it comes to ads and social images is to outsource this completely. There are a few book cover designers who also offer social media kits and ads packages, including my previous book cover designers, the amazing Deranged Doctor Design. And of course, my own design business 17 Studio Book Design.

[Note from Joanna: You can also find more book cover designers here.]

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and will go forth with a better idea of how you can effectively use your book cover in all your marketing endeavors.

Have you used your book covers in your marketing and advertising graphics? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

AD Starrling17 Studio Book Design is the brainchild of bestselling fantasy and thriller author AD Starrling. Having done all her marketing designs since 2016, AD launched 17 Studio Book Design in October 2018, after obtaining her Adobe Associate Certification.

What can you expect from her? Stunning, professional covers that fit your genre. A reader for over 30 years and an author-publisher-marketer for over 6 years, she knows how this business works. Do check out the 17 Studio Book Design portfolio to see what kind of covers and marketing packages she can create for you.

This story originally appeared on The Creative Penn