If you write and publish books for a living then you probably groaned when you read the title of this blog. It can take many months (6 months minimum) between finishing your book and all of its edits, to it finally being published. Many authors begin writing their next book whilst simultaneously working on the finishing touches for their last book, and by finishing touches, I mean final edits, book covers, taglines and blurbs. It can be a bit of a headache, especially if you’re like me and you’d rather forget your previous work and focus solely on your new book idea instead. However, the title of this blog has been purposefully selected, as many authors and non-authors alike tend to overlook the importance of book covers, taglines and blurbs.
Let’s start from the top, as frustrating as it can be to look at your book and think ‘I have no idea what cover it should have or where to even begin’, getting a good book cover is incredibly important. The ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ may hold true in a lot of cases, but everyone knows that people do judge books by their covers. It can be the difference between someone picking up your book or just passing a glance over it.
If you read a lot of books then you have probably noticed that certain types of book covers tend to appear on certain genres of books. Crime Thrillers nearly always feature an unidentifiable person or silhouette of a person either walking away from or towards the holder’s gaze. Young Adult books tend to have abstract covers which pop with bright colours and big titles. Romance books tend to feature a quaint little house, or cute couples, or beautiful semi-naked couples, or semi-naked hot men, I mean, come on, it’s not a surprise, women generally read more fiction and they are the most likely to read romantic fiction. Horror’s again, tend to have shadowy unidentifiable figures on the front or objects that seem eerily out of place, like an open umbrella lying on the ground with its owner nowhere in sight, or a child’s loved teddy bear left in an abandoned house, or they tend to be more scenic with images of distant buildings under a stormy grey sky.
If you’re sat there nodding your head then you already know what I’m talking about. The images used on book covers have been carefully selected on purpose to target a specific audience, and to highlight that the book inside is of a specific genre. It helps people to find books similar to what they have read and enjoyed in the past without them having to trawl through dozens of books in order to find something they might like. Seems obvious right? Well it’s just another thing that you will need to consider when you’re trying to market and sell your book.
You need to keep four things in mind when you’re choosing a book cover for your book; Who is your audience? What genre best fits your book? What type of covers are being used by books currently in that genre? And finally, what book cover design can you come up with which is different, yet in-keeping with your genre, and will grab people’s attention? It’s important to point out that this is not the law, sometimes going for a completely different book cover design is the best way forward, as it will potentially stand out more when it is sitting on the shelves with other books from the same genre.
Ok so once you’ve got the cover sorted next comes the tagline, what the hell is a tagline you ask? According to the great god Wikipedia; ‘The idea behind the concept is to create a memorable dramatic phrase that will sum up the tone and premise of an audio/visual product, or to reinforce and strengthen the audience’s memory of a literary product.’ I took three points from that; powerful, relates to the book, and memorable. Think of it this way, the book cover is there to make a good first impression and the tagline is there to make a great second impression. Taglines may be replaced in the future once you’re famous enough, reviews of your books from notable people, authors and press outlets will appear in their place, or simply your name and a reference to one of your other popular books, e.g. ‘From The Best Selling Author of The Fault In Our Stars’ or ‘The Best Selling Author of The Da Vinci Code’. However, for the rest of us mere mortals, here are some examples of taglines…
‘Power is a dangerous game’ – Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. (Young Adult/Paranormal & Fantasy)
‘Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.’ – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. (YA/Action & Adventure)
‘You’ll float too.’ – IT by Steven King. (Horror)
‘She had six husbands, money -and one lover too many.’ – The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. (Detective Fiction)
Taglines can be annoying, it’s difficult to think of one line which sums up the important parts of your book, is catchy, and yet doesn’t give too much away. In my opinion, (and I’m in no way a professional) if you have a tagline which grabs your potential reader’s curiosity or makes them wonder what you’re talking about, then you’ve done well. The best place to get ideas for taglines is to look at other books, especially ones you have read, because then you are more likely to understand why the author chose that specific tagline and whether or not you think it is effective.
So your potential reader has liked your book cover, they’ve picked up your book and they like your tagline, then they turn the book over and you know what is coming next… they read the blurb. Summoning Wikipedia; ‘A blurb on a book can be any combination of quotes from the work, the author, the publisher, reviewers or fans, a summary of the plot, a biography of the author or simply claims about the importance of the work.’ Most of this is easy, the hard part is ‘a summary of the plot’. As far as I know and from my own experiences, writing a summary of the plot is pretty much the bane of most author’s existence – they are not fun or easy to write. Somehow you need to write a short piece which hints at the plot, uses the right language and terminology, names your main characters, contains a question and ideally a hyperbole, and is limited to 150 words. You’re probably thinking that writing a summary of the plot sounds like the way to madness (it probably is), but it is important. It’s likely to be the last hurdle between your potential reader buying or not buying your book, so getting it right is worth the effort.
Again you need to look at what is already out there, look at the blurbs which feature on the back of popular books from your genre and try and pick out their similarities. According to the author society most fiction book blurbs have a set formula they ‘start with a situation, introduce a problem, and promise a twist’ then ‘they usually end with a sentence that emphasizes the mood of the story.’ Your first sentence is the most important so make sure it grabs the potential reader’s interest otherwise they probably won’t read the rest of the blurb, I mean humans do tend to be lazy and strapped for time, you have got to make every word and second count.
For example, going to Amazon’s list of best sellers, ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine’ by Gail Honeyman is currently sitting in the number one spot. The blurb for this humorous fiction is…
‘Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live.
Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.
One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.
Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
An astonishing story that powerfully depicts the loneliness of life and the simple power of a little kindness.’
I don’t know about you but that blurb certainly sparked my interest, I may even have to take a closer look at this book and read it myself, and that’s exactly what you want your potential readers to think and feel. It is one of the three factors along with your book cover and tagline which your potential readers will use to judge whether or not they want to buy and read your book. This blog is getting a bit long now so I will conclude, pay for a good book cover, write a cracking tagline and nail that blurb. Happy Reading Bibliophiles and Authors, Keep On Writing.
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