Last week, my serial novel ‘Twicebound‘ got an upgrade. I bit the bullet and hired an artist to create some chapter-header art for it. (if you read ‘Twicebound’ you know all about it already) It looks awesome and has gotten compliments from quite a few readers already.
But this post isn’t about ‘Twicebound’. It’s about artwork. Specifically, the difference good artwork can make on your story. The ‘Twicebound’ header art is just one example of how big a difference it can be.
A lot of authors (myself included) dislike the mandatory nature of book artwork. Now, don’t get me wrong; I love beautiful covers and illustrations (most authors do). The problem we have is that people are more likely to pick up poorly written books with high-quality art than books that are well written but have low-quality art (or none).
Your book has been edited by three well-known professionals? It’s been formatted with painstaking precision? Every reviewer you’ve sent an ARC has raved about it? That’s great. But if you put a stock art cover on it, no reader is ever going to pick it up, not when vast hordes of books with gorgeous cover art are competing with your book. The fact that your book is far better written than those other books isn’t going to help you.
Why is this? Good question. I don’t have a good answer for you. It could be because our snap-decision buying habits give precedence to a gripping picture instead of well-formulated blurbs. It could be that we subconsciously think that a writer who put the effort into getting a beautiful illustrations for his book is more likely to have put the effort into writing a good book. It could be a lot of things. Frankly, though, it doesn’t matter WHY. What matters is that it IS.
We’re writers; the covers and illustrations are part of our books, whether we like it or not. So, put as much effort into making your book look good as you put into making it sound good.
Here are two examples, of my own experience.
These are screen-shots of an installment of ‘Twicebound’ from a few weeks ago. The first is the actual episode post, while the second is the Twitter announcement of it. The third is how Tweet view results. (the engagement rate is 1.5%)
Sure, the readers really enjoy the serial, if the comments are anything to go by. There’s no denying, though, that the wall of text just isn’t… interesting. At first glance, anyway, which is important for getting new readers. And the Tweet… well, the Tweet is just boring. No ‘grab’ to it, at all. The statistics bear that out.
These pictures are the same thing, just with the newest installment of the novel. The one with the new chapter-header artwork. If that isn’t a massive improvement… I don’t know what is. It’s eye-catching, intriguing, and just looks good. And the numbers agree with me. The engagement rate over four days (at the last check) is around 4% and the total impressions almost doubled. Now, that doesn’t sound majorly impressive, except for one thing: the percentage for the first day was over 10% engagement at around 90 impressions. THAT is an improvement.
Of course, numbers might not mean a lot to some people. I just happen to be a numbers kind of guy. If you want an example with visual punch, here’s one.
This is the original cover for my short story “Pyramid 76”. I finished the story and had to have a cover to publish it with, so I whipped this one up on Paint. It’s a standard self-published, no-effort placeholder. My beta-reader hated it. With a vengeance. With good reason. Would YOU want to read it? Especially with THIS…
… as the competition? After several months of letting Pyramid 76 languish with the garbage cover I’d rushed through, I finally got around to collecting the props necessary to create a new cover. I took photos, selected the best one, then edited four different end results in GIMP. Then, I let readers select their favorite and replaced the old cover with the new one.
The improvement here requires very large numbers and a mathematics degree to calculate it properly, if you ask me. The original cover is a object lesson in what not to do with your cover. The new one is cool, meaningful, and draws attention to the story in the best way possible.
As I’ve said before, the cover is part of your book; make it perfect.
What do you think? Did I forget something? Have you had a similar experience with your book? Have you ever turned down a book because of a bad cover?