Tag Archives: book marketing

Covers are important – in more ways than one

I used to haunt bookshops. I loved them, aiming invariably for the fantasy and science fiction aisles and maybe the crime aisles. Oh, and the cookbooks. And anything else that took my fancy. I’d pick up anything that attracted my interest and read the blurb, then maybe a few pages before I decided whether to spend my hard-earned readies on that particular book.

How did I decide whether to pick up a book and look more closely?

The first thing was often the author’s name. If I’d read their work before and enjoyed it, I’d certainly look for other titles. Terry Pratchett (may he rest in piece) was an auto-buy for me. Another factor might be that I’d seen an ad that looked interesting, or had a book recommended. Those aside, I’d look at covers.

My process for buying an e-book is no different. Except that maybe the cover is even more important. In a bookshop most of the books are arranged spine out because there isn’t room to do anything else. In an e-book store, it’s covers all the way. The covers have to attract the right sort of readers and tell a little story in their own right. For example, if you’re looking at Romance books in any sub-genre, images displaying a heap of ripped abs and powerful pecs are likely to be at least steamy. If that’s not your reading taste, move on. That’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Fifty Shades of Grey et al didn’t have steamy covers but if you didn’t know that was what you were buying, you must have just lifted that rock off your head.

But this post isn’t about what elements you should use in your covers, it’s more about how they’re portrayed. I’ve recently discovered a website called Covervault. The owner has created some great free templates that people familiar with Photoshop CC can use to create 3D book cover images and posters. I’ve had a wonderful time messing about with them, pretending it was ‘work’.

3D images are very important for boxed sets because they show the customer what they’ll get for their money.

Here’s an example. The 2D version tells you you’ll get three stories – but the 3D version shows you and gives the names. It’s a classic example of ‘show don’t tell’.


When I publish my books I deal direct with Amazon, but distribute to Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks through Draft to Digital (D2D). After I’d created my nifty 3D boxed set covers I loaded them up to Amazon and D2D. A day later I got a message from D2D saying that Apple would not accept a 3D cover. Frankly, I thought that was crazy. Amazon was happy with the 3D version. I wrote to D2D asking if the other stores would not accept a 3D cover, and if there was a way of submitting both versions of a cover.

D2D offers great support. I received a response that only Apple will not use 3D covers. I was asked to provide 2D versions for the boxed sets which D2D would manually switch for the listing at iBooks. That’s great customer service and a large raspberry for Apple. You’d think they’d be interested in giving their customers the best information available.

Here are some of the posters I’ve created. I hope they tell you a bit more about the books, which is, of course, the idea. If you’d like to know more, click on the poster.

Are you wondering why you don’t get every book you ask for on NetGalley?

Picture of glasses on a bookI’m a member of the Broad Universe group, a collective of  authors who support each other in this writing business. BU offers a range of ways of helping authors and one of these is a cost-effective way to get onto NetGalley.

NetGalley is the digital era’s improvement on publishers sending out galley proofs of new books to people in the know, in the hope of encouraging people to buy the book, garner some feedback, and rake in some reviews. In other words, marketing. Back in the day it happened when the publisher had just about finished the production process. It’s important to note that NetGalley doesn’t just accept new publications. You can list a book first published years ago if you feel it could use a boost.

Mind you, NetGalley isn’t cheap. And that’s where collectives like Broad Universe come in. Members can get a book on NetGalley for US$30 per month. We’ve now expanded the service so non-members can list a book on NetGalley for $45 per month. You can find more information here.

If you’re a reader you can sign up with NetGalley for free. Every month a new list of books comes out and you can ask to download as many as you like. Your request might be approved automatically, or you may have to wait for your request to be approved. Or declined.

As it happens, I’m one of the people in Broad Universe who vets review requests. We do this because as far as we’re concerned, the aim is not to give a free book to the world and his wife. It’s about advertising, networking, spreading the word. For example, I think I’d refuse a request for a book from me.


Because I’m not on Goodreads. I don’t have a review blog. I’m not a member of a book club. I rarely review on Amazon. I’m not a librarian. I’m not a bookseller. Based on all that, I’d just be giving me a free book. (Mind you, not everyone on NetGalley works like that. Even I may well be given a bunch of free books just for showing up.)

So let’s assume you’d like me to approve a request for a book. What should you do?

Give me something to go on


A profile that reads something like, “I love reading” is a well duh. If you add that you like talking to your cat, that’s sweet but who cares? I also don’t care if your ambition is to find the cure for cancer, or that you’ve written three books yourself. If you’re a librarian tell me where the library is. If you’re a book seller, tell me where. If you run a review blog, say so.


If you have a review blog, give me a link. Same with Goodreads and Amazon. Please bear in mind, I do check. If you claimed two years ago to be setting up to read and review $0.99 titles, and send me to a link where that’s all it says – no reviews – then I remain unconvinced. If you send me to a review site where the last entry was dated a year ago, I’m doubtful. If you send me to Amazon where I find exactly one review, I raise an eyebrow (yes, that happened). If I click a link and I get a 404…

Getting the idea?


When you do receive a book from NetGalley the hope is that you will provide feedback. If you do that the links and the profile will be less important. NetGalley gives a feedback quotient on your profile. It provides the number of titles you’ve downloaded against the number of times you’ve provided feedback. If you’ve downloaded one thousand books and given feedback on six, it doesn’t look too good. I’d suggest you choose your downloads with care. Do you really, really want to clutter up your ereader with every book on offer, many of which you’ll never read? If you download six books and provide feedback on all six, your feedback quotient will be 100%. Mind you, you’re not on a timetable, you can provide feedback at any time, months after you’ve downloaded the book. But bear in mind that’s why NetGalley is there. It’s a two-way process. You play the game and you’ll get approvals – even invitations.

The feedback element is less important for booksellers and librarians who provide a different kind of feedback in the form of book recommendations to clients. Nothing beats word-of-mouth recommendations.

So if you’re not getting every book you ask for on NetGalley, maybe it’s time to check your profile, make sure your links work, and that you really are providing the feedback you promised. Do those things and I might even put you on auto-approval.