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Just recently, we blogged about the importance of category research when choosing the right cover for your book.
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:
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.
No they won’t.
The first rule in publishing is to know your audience. For authors and publishers, this means know your reader (the end consumer) and your business partners (retailers).
While you may believe that you’ve found the “perfect” book that is uniquely qualified to be all things to all people, it’s important to really know your audience.
Let’s look at this through the eyes of a potential publisher:
The Retailer—While the publishing business is moving more and more to online sales and marketing and finding a solid audience, it’s still important to ensure your book is “shelved” in the right place. While you may have written a novel for 8 year old girls that can have a positive impact on her 12 year old brother with special advice for mom and dad, that particular shelf doesn’t exist in the bookstore. Your book will be shelved in one category. This is important to know before you ever write your book proposal. You need to identify where it goes in the book store so you can determine what editor or publisher to send it to. They know their retail market, do you?
The Consumer—The consumer is the end audience for your book. This is the person that will pick it up, skim a few pages, and ultimately make a purchase. Whether it be for themselves, as a gift, or required reading for their occupation, that consumer is your audience. That means you need to know: Who they are? What they buy? How they shop? What the competition for their business is? Does your book “fit” your consumer? Do you have the right cover design, price, trim size? Are you shelved in the appropriate category?
These are just some of the questions that agents, publishers—and retailers—ask when they are pitched your book alongside thousands of other books. If you want to stand out in a crowded marketplace, it’s important to know your audience.