Readers Browsing for Books are like Animals Foraging for Food

Advertising anything requires at minimum two things: The “creative” and the “vehicle.” The creative is the ad itself; the vehicle delivers it. In our case, the vehicle is our website, and the creative is a book ad.

A typical book ad has many parts, each piece dependent on earlier decisions. We’ll examine them all in detail in the next few posts. We’ll start with the title and cover.

The cover begins before the designer gets the job – with the title. If you’ve titled your book “A Brief Explanation of Why People Behave the Way They Do Despite Evidence That Should Make Them Change,” you won’t have room on the cover for much else. If you’ve written a book called “The Wind,” your cover is going to have to work hard to tell the audience the genre.

On the other hand “Murder on the Orient Express” pretty much sets it up. “My Vampire Boyfriend” is also clear. When the reader knows what kind of book it is, they’ll know if they’re interested.

So we have a title. Now we need a background. It could be a solid color, using the type or smaller images to convey more information. If it is an image, you must find space for the title and author, and it needs to be a part of the image that is uncluttered for the type to be legible.

There are places where your cover will be displayed in a size that is literally the size of a thumbnail. If the type is unreadable at that size, or if the image reduces to an unknown blob – the game is lost.

The most important thing about your cover is that it tells the truth. This benefits you and the reader. We once saw a book with a plain cover, just type, and the typeface used was a slab-serif, the kind of type used on wanted posters in the American West in the 1800s. The only time you ever see this font family is when the designer wants to indicate a Western theme. But when we read the blurb, it turned out to be science fiction.

So people who like westerns will see that, click it, then be disappointed. People who like science fiction will not click.

The title and typeface can be overruled by the image. There’s a segment of our audience that loves a Cowboy Romance – they gobble them up like candy. All you need is a couple looking lovingly at each other, and one of them is wearing a cowboy hat. You can put any title in any typeface, it won’t matter. Bonus points if there’s a horse.

Here’s the tweetable: Readers browsing for books are like animals foraging for food. If your audience is rabbits, try to look like a carrot. If your audience is squirrels, try to look like a nut. (grin)

Leave a Reply