Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Color

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Just yesterday, someone posted an interesting question to one of the discussion groups that we follow.

Basically, the question was “Does anyone have any idea what the “ideal color” for a business book should be?”

I was surprised by the number of responses that actually suggested a color! Blue, it seems, is the color people associate with business books. Apparently, content and subcategory doesn’t matter. It should just be blue.

To me, responses such as these are dangerously irresponsible. How can a group of people suggest a “sellable” color without doing the extensive research needed to choose a book’s packaging?

How can something as vitally important as a book’s cover be reduced to the simple question of: “What color should a [insert your own category here] book be?”

Below are some highlights from my response to the “color” discussion. I hope you find them useful:

Asking about the color of a business book doesn’t take in to account so many important variables. To come up with a thoroughly competitive cover design, you should do the following:

1. Research the subcategory – leadership, time management, ethics, human resources, business management, management, how-to business, marketing, etc.

2. Purchase (or at least go to the bookstore and look at) the top sellers in your subcategory. Identify the colors, fonts and images used.

3. Find out what’s working and why. Are they all the same color, same title treatment, same image pattern? I’m guessing not. Why not? Which of the books “popped” off the shelf most. Why? (the color could be why)

4. Pull out books in colors that you and your client like that are in your cover design. Put them in the shelf within your category. Can you see them? Why? Why not? Which colors will stand out on the shelf.

It’s important to keep in mind that cover design is ultimately driven by the consumer. We teach people what to expect when they go in to the business category in terms of look, feel, trim size and even price. So, you want to be sure that you’re what they expect. At the same time, it’s important to stand out. If every book in your subcategory is blue, you might want to try red, or green or muted purple. You might want to try something very bright that practically leaps off the shelf.

Most importantly, there is no set formula for choosing “a color” for any category of books. you need to thoroughly research the subcategory and find out how you can match up against the competition and get noticed on the shelf.

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