People Do Judge Books by the Cover

You can’t go anywhere without hearing about a movie or television show getting a reboot. An update breathes new life into the work, and this isn’t only limited to the big and small screen—rebooting books are especially popular right now as well. There are plenty of reasons to refresh your book, from including additional or current information, placing a stronger emphasis on a particular aspect of the book, or an effort to help sell more copies. I’ve just released a new book called How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book, which will efficiently prepare you for that new version of your book. If you decide to move forward, the first thing you may ask is, “Do I need a new book cover

In almost every case, the answer to this is going to be a resounding yes, but there are a few exceptions.

Ironically, when authors are ready to pay thousands of dollars for my expertise in every area of book marketing, many are hesitant or unwilling to change the book cover.

Still not sure? If you’re planning to re-release your book, here’s a list of the top things you’ll want to ask yourself about your book cover.

What’s Your Genre?

The biggest problem with covers is that they don’t often match the genre, meaning that book covers don’t have the “look” of that genre. Doing this right is very, very important. An excellent way to start is by stepping back and taking a hard look at how your cover compares with every other book in your genre or nonfiction category, especially if they’re selling relatively well.

When was the last time you asked yourself: What does my audience expect from my book cover? Or, perhaps even better: What does my audience look for when they want to buy a book in my genre or category?

Is Your Cover Readable Enough to Sell More Books?

Have you looked at your Amazon book page recently? I ask this because if you’ve seen how cluttered these pages are with other items that Amazon is trying to push, then you know the last thing you want on that page is a book cover that isn’t 100% on point with your target buyer.

A book cover with scrolly fonts or too many elements jammed in, or that doesn’t have the right balance (the font isn’t big or bold enough), are also standouts as amateur jobs that make authors look disconnected and less than professional.

Look at NYT best-selling authors. You can read their titles from a mile away, and genre-appropriate imagery usually supports them. They aren’t scared to shout for your attention. Also, most of these authors know that the importance of the book cover design goes beyond “screaming for your reader’s attention,” but it’s also trying to obtain your focus on an already cluttered Amazon page. While you’re at it, check out Amazon’s little-known secret to help drive book sales!

What Does Your Imagery Speak To?

If you designed your first book cover with too many images or the wrong images, you’re an ideal candidate for a reboot. Too many photographs (on your book cover) don’t give the buyer something to focus on. You’re making buyers work too hard. I see two common image mistakes over and over. One is choosing an image too detailed for online viewing. The other is featuring a big picture of you as the author when you’re not a household name or sales leader in your category. Check your ego at the door. If a buyer doesn’t recognize you, a big picture of yourself on the book cover is a lost opportunity.

Speaking of online viewing, this is something that continues to be ignored. Current statistics say approximately 70 percent of books are sold online, which means books are making first impressions based on very small images of the book cover.

Let that sink in.

A successful book cover will still be legible and impactful when it’s not much bigger than your thumbnail. Don’t make your decision solely based on a full-sized image file on your computer or the print copy on your desk—your success depends on this. So if you want to sell more books, your cover should be easily readable from a distance when you re-release your book.

Is Your Book Cover Professionally Designed?

One main key to selling more books is to know your reader and to write to your reader market, but this extends to a professional cover, also. Self-designed or hand-drawn covers are another no-no. I’m referring to hand-drawn that is literally drawn on a page, without any kind of assistance from an artist or a professional designer. We see some “handwritten” covers, but they’re all professionally developed. You should not have a hand-drawn book cover or a painting on the cover unless the book is about painting or drawing by hand. Even then, a professional cover designer can use your work in a way that’s also appealing as a product representation.

I once had an author who was a child therapist contact me wanting to use one of his patients’ paintings on the cover. The book was about dealing with difficult children. The problem with the painting was that it wasn’t clear what it was exactly. He had a connection with it, but the reality was, why would anyone else?

When you re-release your book, do yourself a favor and hire a professional book cover designer.

How Does Your Book Stack Up?

How does your book cover compare to top sellers? I will grant you that New York publishers don’t always get it right with some books they choose to publish, but their covers are (in most cases) spot on with the market.

They know you need to have a market match in order to capture a reader’s attention. If the book looks “off,” or doesn’t quite fit, you won’t stand out, but, more tragically, you won’t sell more books.

Covers that aren’t a genre match confuse the mind. Even before readers realize what they’re doing, the mind will click off the page. They jumped to the assumption that’s not the kind of book they’re seeking. And guess what? You’ve just lost a book sale!

Is Your Cover On Brand?

Conversely, if you’re considering whether a cover change is right for you, there might also be the question of brand.

Let’s use the For Dummies books as an example:

Everyone recognizes this brand just from the look of the books, right? What if they were to change this to, let’s say, a blue or a red cover. Not so recognizable anymore, is it?

Also, keep in mind that if your book has a great cover and matches the genre it’s in, maybe all you need is a cover polish. Update the title by adding phrases like, “Newly enhanced edition,” or something similar. In some cases, you may want to simply add a banner or a ribbon at the corner of the book. If you got the rights to your book back or if you’re re-releasing a book, you could put a ribbon on it that reads: “Director’s Edition” or “Special Author Edition.”

These are just ideas, and you don’t have to add anything to the cover. In most cases, there will be something you can do to add pizzazz to the cover and give your book a better shot at increased sales.

Periodically Change Your Book Cover

There’s a tip I learned by accident. We were working with an author who decided the original cover no longer suited the direction of her future books, so she redid it.

I advised her to leave the original on Amazon and swap out the cover for the e-book to see what happened. As it turned out, refreshing your cover is a great thing and could help sell more books! Now, I don’t recommend doing it a lot, but a book cover relaunch will help you sell more books.

It’s rare that we don’t gain some new insight into a particular book’s reader market after it’s been out awhile, right? Or, like my example, the storyline takes a twist you weren’t originally planning on that changes the story’s “image.”

Why not take this invaluable information and use it to create a new cover that better attracts readers in your demographic and hopefully, sell more books?

What will a new cover cost you?

A new cover could approximately cost you anywhere from $150 to $1000, and sometimes more.

Generally, nonfiction books fall into the pricier category typically because the nuances for reaching their potential buyers need to be much more refined. The research to find successful comparable titles and pull marketing from is much more intensive.

Fiction can also be more expensive, depending on various factors. However, if you have a lot of books to redo (let’s say you’re re-releasing a series), then book covers can add up quickly. A great way to begin is to search in your niche for a cover you like, and ask the author who designed it.

The final price mainly depends on your goals and how much branding work you require. If you feel strongly that your cover designer needs to read your book cover to cover, do not expect their price to be on the low end of my estimate. This is what these professionals do for a living, so respect their time and expertise and keep your expectations realistic. If you want to sell more books, it pays to invest.

The Bottom Line

Have you answered yes to any of the questions above? Do any of the explanations previously mentioned match your scenario? It just may be the right time to get a new cover for a reboot. People really do judge books based on the cover, and if yours fails to dazzle or impress, you may have lost a sale. Never underestimate the power that a cover has—it’s vital to helping you sell more books. To learn more about revising and re-releasing your book, follow this link to my new book that provides all of the necessary information.


Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. 

To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at