Kayla Hicks - Author Kayla Hicks - Author

When Book Sales Aren’t Coming, the Book Cover is Often the Culprit

9 min read
Created with Canva.com

Creating book covers requires research, an eye for design, and target audience market testing

There is no doubt that the book realm is a crowded market.

According to Tagari.com, there are over 400,000 books released each day. And viewing this statistic alone is proof enough that your cover needs to stand out among the sea of books constantly flooding the market. This also means that this cover needs to make an impact the minute it publishes so that you can stay on top.

Whether this is a book store or an online market platform, it’s time to carefully consider the options you have to create an outstanding book cover.

The method of how this outstanding book cover comes to be is dependent on your skills.

If you can create this on your own using something like Canva.com or DesignBold, you are able to get started on the process right away. However, if you aren’t able to create the cover on your own, you need your ideas and title ready before you seek out a Freelancer or Cover Artist to create the book cover for you.

One of the most overlooked aspects of creating a book cover is the tool known as market research.

Too many authors skip this step because they are so excited to get their book one step closer to being published. However, if you aren’t taking steps to ensure your cover is something your target audience is searching for, your book is going to sink lower on the list of books.

The reason why market research is such a big deal is that it’s crucial that you are taking a look at the market your genre is in, to be sure your target audience will gravitate toward your book.

This means looking at other book covers in your genre. Taking in the themes, color schemes, fonts, and more. Doing this is what is going to tell you what is working in the genre and what isn’t.

A book that has 300 reviews compared to a book that has 20 reviews, and has been out for the same amount of time has to have some difference in appearance. Between these two books, which one grabs your interest more, and what don’t you like about them?

I know that all of this sounds difficult to decide, but that is because it’s a subjective business.

A cover that works for one person won’t work for another, but that is the risk we take as authors. And by doing this market research, you can gauge what is going to draw readers in by also taking into account the reviews left by readers. What did reviewers say about the cover?

As tedious as it sounds, going through the reviews and seeing if anyone talked about the cover will give you a lot of information.

In addition to looking at the design and art aspects of the cover, it’s good to look at the titles of the books as well.

Having a title that makes the reader want to learn more is a big selling point.

Think about your genre, your plot, and what you want the reader to take away from your story. Using all three of these aspects is what is going to help you create an intriguing title.

If you have trouble creating a title of your own, you can use a title generator, create example titles and ask your target audience’s opinion, or you can even see if a piece of your book would work as the title.

Looking back on that market research piece goes to show that there are multiple books that have the same title. Once you have decided on a title, try searching it on Amazon, Kobo, Google, or other platforms and see what comes up. If you find several other books with the same title, try tweaking the title so your book won’t get lost in the shuffle upon publication.

After you have created a memorable title, be sure to take into consideration how it will look in all formats of the book.

Creating the eBook cover is by far the easiest of all the book cover formats once you have decided on the design.

Once you begin to explore other formats such as paperback, hardcover, and audiobook, you need to start thinking beyond the initial design.

There are four parts for a hardcover, three parts for a paperback, and just one for an ebook format. Why am I bringing this up? Because you need to consider what is going to be placed on each part.

For hardbacks, you design for the front and back cover, the spine, and the inside flaps of the jacket (if you are able to afford one). For the paperback, you design for the front and back cover as well as the spine. For the ebook and audiobook, you simply need to focus on the cover.

As you start expanding your design to fit the various formats, you want to be sure that it is the same and has a cohesive look.

Now that you feel your cover is ready to be published, you need to follow through with one final step, gathering feedback from your target audience on the final product.

Be sure to show readers in your target audience the final product and ask them what they think.

This can be done on social media, by emailing specific readers, or even through your newsletter (with a Google form to gather their feedback). And if you have specific questions for them, that will allow you to gather more market feedback on what you have created.

  • What draws your eye first when you look at the cover?

  • What do you think about the title?

  • What do you like about the cover?

  • What don’t you like about the cover?

  • Would you choose it in the store? And if not, why?

By gathering this kind of feedback, you can adjust what you need to before you publish it and increase your chances of selling it to your target audience.

One of the last pieces you need to be sure you have in addition to this wonderful cover is a grabbing description.

I admit this is something I struggle with each time I publish a book too. A way to condense my 60k plot book into a measly 100–200 word description. Uh, raise your hand if that one hurts your brain too.

So, I started poking around the good old internet in search of answers. How do all of these best-selling authors come up with these amazing descriptions that pull me into buying their books? Let’s find out.

Try a Quote

This is a technique that I have only started using myself. I’ve seen this used by other authors, but to say that I’ve tested it and had success is yet to be determined. For example, if you publish through Amazon, you can simply place the text in bold ( Like this <b> The text you want in bold goes here. </b>) and this helps the quote stand out from the rest of your description. What kind of quotes am I referring to?

Review Quote

Placing a few grabbing lines of a good review for your book in bold at the top of your description can help assure readers they are in for a good buy. You want to avoid overloading the potential reader with too long of a quote or the poor person may never find out what the book is actually about.

Book Quote

Don’t have any reviews yet? Why not choose a good quote from your book and let your work speak for itself? Who knows, this could be the hook a reader needs to make them click the buy now button.


If you take anything away from this post, I hope that it is the emphasis on keywords.

Most people nowadays use social media, like Twitter. Let’s use Twitter as an example for this. To find something you are interested in on Twitter, you would search in tags (hashtags) in the search bar and it connects you with things related to your search. (Typically things on-trend come to the forefront.) This is exactly how keywords work.

I want you to remember these three things about Keywords.


Before you start the description blurb for your book, I want to you research at least forty other books in your genre and similar categories.

As you do this, I want you to pay attention to all of the keywords you come across. For Romance books, you may find the keywords Love, betrayal, relationships, marriage…you get the point. Create a list with at least 100 keywords so you have some variety. (Not only will this research help your description but it will come in handy later with advertisements!)

Put Together the Puzzle

Now that you have your handy list of Keywords, see how you can fit them into your description. This can sometimes be difficult, but it’s workable. And, if done right, someone searches for those keywords and up pops your book!

Ask a Buddy

Ask someone who reads in the genre of your book to read your description and ask for their feedback. This person is going to be able to tell you if it grabs them or if it needs some tweaks.


Last but not least, compare your description to others in your genre. This may seem repetitive as you have already researched so many keywords from these same books, however, now it is time to test what you have completed. Do you see someone from another author’s reader base ready to jump into one of your books with the description you created?

Creating the description blurb is a difficult part of the process but after a few times, it gets easier. Just remember to put yourself in the reader’s shoes.

Once you have followed through with these steps, you are placing yourself one step closer to having a cover that pulls readers in.