by Cathi Stevenson
Creating a successful book cover and using it as a marketing tool takes a bit of imagination, some technical skills, and a little knowledge about human nature and psychology. You need to understand how people view things, what they look at, what attracts them to a particular book online and what makes a person buy one book instead of another. The website, the book’s position on the site and how it interacts or stands out from the other books are important elements.
Lack of knowledge can not only have a negative impact on book sales, it can actually increase sales of your competitor’s book. What can happen is the position of your graphics on a site can “point” to someone else’s product, causing the reader to skip right past your book and focus on your competitor’s, if it happens to be be listed on the same page.
Sometimes it’s not possible to control these things, and third-party sites that list your book are one of those things you can’t control. You can however, design a cover that will work well in a variety of page positions, lessening the chance that your cover will be passed over unnoticed.
Decades ago, psychologists discovered that most people follow the same visual course when viewing a book, magazine or newspaper page. If you know this “eye path” you have won half the battle of layout and design.
The human eye automatically looks to the upper right hand corner of a page. If it’s a newspaper, book or magazine, the reader will look at the upper right hand corner of the right hand page, first. (That is why that position was the most expensive ad space in a newspaper, traditionally).
If there’s a graphic in that spot, the reader’s attention will follow the direction the graphic is pointing. If it looks off the page, the reader will turn the page.; If it is facing the text to the left, the reader will look to the left.
Whether it’s the angle of the book cover itself that is doing the pointing, or a picture looking toward the left, the reader will follow this direction. That’s why pictures in magazines and newspapers will always be looking at the text — the picture will not be looking or angled in such a way that it points to another page or off the edge of the page (unless it’s a two-page spread in the centre, which acts as one page).
This is a very important fact to take into account. If you have a graphic (such as a book cover), or even text in the upper right hand corner of a website, make sure it leads the reader into the page, not to the scroll bar. If you have a 3d cover, then it should be pointing to the left, so the pages are visible, not the spine. If the cover image is to the right of the text, then the angle should expose the spine, not the pages. If you are not sure where it will be, then have the cover facing straight ahead.
When designing your own website, make sure the reader has to scroll down a bit before any graphics other than your book cover come into view. I once saw a website that followed all the elements of good layout, but at the very bottom, on the left had corner of the screen, you could see the top part of an animated graphic. That small, moving distraction lessened the impact of the actual sales pitch simply because it grabbed the reader’s attention faster and encouraged anyone looking at the page to immediately scroll down to see the animation, missing all the text and book cover images before it.