How the Cover Sells the Book

A good billboard is never more than a few words—the theory is that if it's something quick to read and easy to remember, it will come to mind naturally when people need it. The front cover of a book is the same; we want something fast, simple, and aesthetically appealing. The back cover copy is more complicated. It needs to be longer than a mere phrase, but just as eye-catching.

The front cover and the back cover are a team that sells the book. Without a good front cover, no one will pick the book up. Without a good back cover, anyone who picked it up will put it down instantly. A bland, emotionless set of sentences will repel as fast as a clever cover attracts. A good back cover is like the smell of fresh baked cookies or chocolate cake: irresistible. The copy needs to appeal to the reader, to draw them in, to say, "This book is written by someone like you for someone like you about something that you care about. You will benefit from reading this book." And just like that, it's in the shopping cart.

If you can do one well, you can learn to do the other well. Make your front cover like a billboard—and your back cover like the smell coming from a pizza shop.

What Makes A Bestseller

According to yesterday's post, people are looking for one of two kinds of books: books that help and teach, or books that entertain.

Eat This, Not That (now faded from popularity, like most fads) was an overnight sensation, because everyone wanted a book that would tell them how to lose weight easily.

The Help gained popularity so fast, it was a movie before some people had finished reading the book; a moving, compelling account of the hardships of being African American house help in the south in the 60's.

One helps, the other entertains. If you can figure out what people want to learn, or how they want to divert their minds, it's very likely that you can write something that thousands of people will buy.

Study your audience, then appeal to them. After all, they're the ones who are buying your book.

Predicting a Bestseller

This weekend, we went to a conference done by New York Times bestselling author of The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman. Since his first book was first published more than 20 years ago, he has written more than two dozen books. Some have done well, but none have done as well as his first book. Why? Certainly everyone has a different theory, and maybe there are as many reasons as there are theories. But, after all the guesses and conclusions, it boils down to one thing: Gary Chapman figured out what people cared about (i.e., marriage), and he did studies to figure out how to help them. Then he wrote a book that condensed everything he'd learned into simple language that was easy to understand and apply.

On Digital Book World today, Daniel Berkowitz wrote an intriguing article about predicting a bestseller. He analyzes data and gives examples, drawing from his review on the upcoming book, The Bestseller Code, which seems to claim that an algorithm may be able to predict if a book will be a bestseller. Berkowitz marks that this process may be perfected someday, but will never be %100 accurate, simply because of the unpredictably of human taste and fashion.

This is true—what people want to buy and read will always be changing, based on fad, trend, even season of the year. It's impossible to predict what people will buy, but based on past and present best-sellers, people usually want one of two things. Come back tomorrow to see what they are.


It's easy to spend a lot of time wasting time to justify being too busy to do the things that matter; focusing on the bells and whistles instead of the engine and the brakes. And when the time comes, excuses, even though they don't satisfy anyone, are still always allowed. But, at the end of the day, having a real product to show for your work is better than a pocketful of accessories that you spent time putting in order. Like this blog. It's easy to choose a hundred different templates, fonts, colors. The look is an easy way to avoid focusing on the content. But, when it boils down, what's valuable is what it's all about and what it does, rather than what it looks like.

Introducing: A blog about what it's like to be a self-published and always publishing author, striving for success, but working towards significance.

Join me on the challenging journey of creating something that matters.