Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Design and Amazon Sales

I really like going to a B&N brick and mortar bookstore. I used to purchase all of my books from B&N. Now, like many readers, I still enjoy visiting a B&N and finding books I would like to read and then go home and purchase the book for less, even with shipping & handling costs, from Amazon. Granted, the books I buy now are almost always used, but still, I save huge amounts of money.

There is no doubt the cover impacts my decision when I can physically examine a book. Depending on the type of book, fiction or non-fiction, the interior design can impact my purchase decision as well. Non-fiction books meant to be used as reference manuals need to have a very user friendly design or I will not purchase the book. Photo books of topics I am interested in need to have a well thought out method of displaying the photos and the content accompanying the photos. I am not too picky about fiction when it comes to interior design, but the print does have to be large enough for me to read with ease.

Do I make the same choices when I look at books on Amazon without first vetting the book at a physical bookstore? I am not sure.  I know I rely heavily on the product information about the books content and I always read several of the customer reviews if any are available. But does the cover still have an impact on my decision to purchase or not? What about the interior design?

As I have become more knowledgeable about book production, I have started paying more attention as a consumer. I do look at the cover image and if the option is available, I use the search inside feature on Amazon to check out the interior design, especially if the book is a reference manual or photo book.

Aaron Shepard argues simple covers are the best and his are certainly simple. But if Mr. Shepard were not one of the foremost authorities on self-publishing, using Lightning Source for POD service and marketing on Amazon, would his books sell at the rate they do?

I agree simple is often good. But some covers shout self-published and the same can be said for the interior design of the book. One of my early efforts certainly fits that description. My two best selling books have professionally produced covers and interiors. I wonder if that has anything to do with the sales totals of those books?

As more and more books are self-published and sold on Amazon and as more people turn to Amazon to purchase books, the reading public will become more savvy about the books available on-line for purchase. Self-publishing authors will have to make sure their books are well designed and produced. For many of us, this may mean hiring professionals to do the work for us. I don't have a creative bone in my body when it comes to design or artistic flair.

UPDATE: As luck would have it, I found this instructive and helpful interview with Joel Friedlander about cover design for the self-publisher.