What Makes Books Sell?

Peep Laja asked me some hard questions about what worked and what hasn’t worked as I’ve brought the new book to market. Here is a brief interview about my experience.

And don’t miss the strange falling picture about midway through. This was the day after Halloween, you know.

Design Your Book Cover for Conversion

While we love to stay in the incredibly measureable realm of the online world, we know that many websites need to fuel action in the real world. As I’m putting the finishing touches on my new book, I am faced with the design that will make my book easy to recognize, easy to describe, and easy to buy.

In the book business, there are two conversions: convert an searcher into a finder, and convert a finder into a buyer.

We’ve already named the book Your Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Formulas of The Conversion Scientist. Now it’s all about presentation.

My preference will be a white cover with hand-drawn elements and a picture of me. Here is a crude mockup The drawn images are just for placement, and I’ll want to work with my cover designer before doing any drawings.

Combination-Cover

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments.

There are are some guiding principles I used to come to this collection of elements, many of which you will find in the book when discussing website development.

Here are my guidelines and some examples.

Show the Product

Tim Ash shows a sales funnel on the cover of his book.

In the case of my book, I am the product, as teacher and co-creator of my readers’ digital conversion labs, so it might make sense to put me on the cover.

I don’t find many examples of this in the business book space, and this gives me some pause. However, given the personas I’ve written the book for, it may be a way to look unique in the space.

Encourage word of mouth

When a reader is recommending a book to another person, it is helpful to give them a way to describe the book.

“You really should read the conversion sciences book. I forgot the guys name, but it’s the one with the _________ on the cover.”

In the case of my mockup, they could say “…a guy in a doctor’s coat.” Of course that could sell a lot of books for Bill Nye, the science guy.

The book Presentation Zen might be “one with stacked rocks on the cover.”

Brian Solis book Engage is the “chain” book.

Express Your Brand

Scott Stratten is a funny, self-effacing, contrarian writer and presenter. He says on his Twitter profile that he’s “kind of a big deal on a fairly irrelevant soc media site which inflates my self-importance.”

His book, Unmarketing, is in a plain brown rapper, and looks like it was stamped instead of printed.

This is potentially one of the most powerful integrations of book and marketing, and can make your book instantly recognizable for your most engaged potential readers.

My brand centers around two memes.

Meme 1: The Lab Coat

I wear a lab coat in my presentation and photos. This will be recognized by many of my readers.

Meme 2: Hand-drawn infographs

I occasionally do hand-drawn infographs when at conferences. My book has some of these hand-drawn images in it.

How Leaky is your Shopping Cart

I envisioned an entire lab in hand-drawn fashion, but haven’t had the time to complete it.

Emphasize the author or the topic?

After six years of writing and speaking as  The Conversion Scientist, my business brand is much stronger than the book brand. One could argue that it makes sense to highlight my name more so than the book title.

However, I’m not established as an author, and I’m not a household name. People are more likely to be searching for the book title than to be searching for a book by Brian Massey, or the Conversion Scientist.

I could go either way on this one.

Use universal visual memes

Drawing from universal memes in the imagery quickly communicates what the book is (or could be) about. Philip Graves uses the universal sign for shopping, the shopping cart, over and over again in his book cover.

Universal memes for a book by a “Conversion Scientist” include the lab coat, the ubiquitous test tube, the Erlenmeyer Flask, the Bunsen Burner, and other remnants of High School chemistry class.

The chemical equation will either strike fear or recognition in the minds of potential readers.

I have a whole universe of conversion “elements.”

This is probably too over-the-top.

Own a Color

Groundswell owns lime green.

The “For Dummies” series owns yellow and black.

The Guerilla Marketing books own camouflage.

Avoid business porn

In all cases, I want to avoid what I call “business porn,” or the use of happy, beautiful people who inevitably are devoid of emotion and authenticity. Wiley has built an entire series with cover designs like this. The books are excellent. The covers are uninspiring.

The words should be readable

So easily forgotten in the design of covers is that the title and author should be readable. This means

  • Avoid placing title and author on a busy background.

  • Avoid placing dark text on a dark background. Gradients are especially bad as some part of the text won’t show up no matter which background you choose.

  • Avoid placing light text on a light background

  • Acknowledge that for aging readers, light text on a dark background is harder to read

  • Don’t create font-confusion

Appeal to your readers’ tastes

Once you’ve identified these logical ground rules for your book cover, you can apply your readers’ preferences. This involves choosing designs from other successful books have done in your space.

If you get rid of the business porn, I like the simple design and white background of the Wiley Hour a Day series, and those readers interested in my book have bought lots of books in this series.

I like the had-drawn style of several recent books, and I have some ability to draw a cover such as this.

Stay tuned for the final cover art

I’ll be publishing in less than 30 days, so you can see my final cover.

I’ll notify you wen the book is out if you become a friend of the author. You’ll also get a free video to help you determine your unique site formula to increase conversions.

Talk to me. Comment below.

Would you buy a book with this cover?

Think about the last business book you bought. What was it about the cover that you liked?

Book Cover Concept #2
Concept A: The Conversion Equation

Book Cover Concept #1
Concept B: Me, of course

Book Cover Concept #3
Concept C: Whimsical Drawings

Having finally settled on a name for the book, it is time to decide on a cover design strategy.

As always, you get a vote.

Help me out and get a free copy of the book

Every contributor gets a free copy of the book when it is published (soon!). Just let us know in the comments which concept you think you would most likely buy. You can even propose your own cover concepts, or include links to covers you think are particularly effective.

For curious marketers

My readers are curious marketers. They get tons of advice from marketing professionals day after day. They are wary of more of the same. I want the cover of my book to convey a bit of fun with the learning. Thus each of these concepts is a bit… off.

A marketing equation? Is that scary?

A guy in a lab coat.

A cartoon drawing of the typical shopping cart.

Should I be more serious and conventional? I look forward to reading your comment on the issue.

Thanks in advance for your sage guidance.