We spend a great deal of time here on The Book Designer emphasizing to our readers the importance of good cover design. Today, we are pleased to welcome Brian Berni who explains to us how we can get feedback on potential covers for our books—before publication. Have a read. I think you’ll find it interesting.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Raise your hand if you’ve heard that said before.
I’ll assume you’re sitting behind your computer with your hand raised.
As much as we want to believe this as fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Readers do judge books by their covers. It’s one of the most critical factors in whether or not a reader will take a chance on your book.
Just like it’s difficult to judge the merit of our work, the same can be said for our covers. Luckily, we can rely upon split testing data to find the cover our readers will like best.
Table of Contents
What is Split Testing? And Why It Matters
When you’re releasing a book, you want to do everything in your power to help make it a success.
Putting a book out into the world with a low-quality cover is the same as stepping out into a winter snowstorm without a coat. Probably a poor idea.
But how do you know if a cover is good or not? Split testing.
The process of split testing will help you answer the question: Does this cover speak to my target readers? And the more important question: Will they actually buy the book?
Without split testing, you’re leaving the success of your book up to fate, but with split testing, you’re launching your book to the world with cold hard data behind you.
I know what camp I’d rather be in.
3 Methods to Split Testing Your Covers
Just like there are multiple approaches to writing a book, there are a few different ways you can split test your cover as well.
Here are the three most common methods out there in the wild today:
1. Survey Your Readers via Email
If you have an email list filled with past readers of your work, then you’re sitting on a goldmine. Both for future book sales and cover testing.
Keep in mind that you should only use this approach if your email list is filled with readers in your market. You don’t want to email your list if it’s filled with your family in friends, as it’ll skew the results.
If your email list is filled with readers in your niche, then you’ll create two emails announcing your new book that are identical. The only difference will be your cover.
Then, you’ll see which cover gets more clicks, and that’ll be the one you go with.
2. Use Online Tools Built for Split Testing
Split testing doesn’t have to be complicated. There are a handful of online tools that make split testing downright simple.
The best tool for the job is called PickFu. All you have to do is upload your two covers, choose your demographics, and run the tests. You’ll have results within minutes.
Plus, it’s recommended by book marketing superstar Tim Grahl.
3. Run Low-Cost Social Media Ads
Another option is running polls or low-cost ads on social media, as long as you’re comfortable running Facebook ads.
With this method, you’ll create two different Facebook ads that have the same exact copy and different covers. Then, run identical audiences to each ad and see which cover gets more clicks.
The route you take will depend upon what you have at your disposal. For example, if you’re starting from scratch with no email list, then you’ll want to use online tools or social media. Where if social media advertising seems intimidating, then go with online tools.
Two Split Testing Approaches
There are two different approaches you can take to split test your covers.
1. Testing Two Radically Different Covers
Let’s say you hired a cover designer to create a few mockups for you, and you have two covers that you love. The only problem is, they’re entirely different.
In this case, you can test these two covers against one another to see which performs best.
2. Test Different Cover Elements Against Each Other
This is useful when you have a single cover you like, but you want to refine it further.
Here you’ll make slight changes to things like your title font, subheading text, colors, overall layout, author name placement, and even your background image.
Change a single element at a time and run split tests to improve the quality of your cover strategically.
Running Your Split Tests w/ PickFu
As you can see there are a ton of different ways you can split test your cover.
But, for the sake of example we’re going to assume that this is your first book and you don’t have an existing audience, so no email list.
If this sounds like you, then PickFu is going to be your tool of choice.
Here’s a quick tutorial of how you can use it to split test your cover.
- First, you’ll need to create a PickFu account.
- Then, click on ‘New Poll’ and select whether you want to run the poll for a new or existing audience.
- Next, you’ll create the basics of your poll and upload your two cover images:
- Once your book covers have finished uploading click on ‘Audience’ to enter details about your ideal audience of readers.
The fee you’ll have to pay for the poll depends upon how in-depth you go with your targeting. Now, it’s time for the tool to do it’s thing.
The great thing about PickFu is it gives readers the option to not only vote for a cover, but give their reasons for voting as well.
Here’s a sample of what the end result of your split test could look like:
Split Testing Case Studies
Still not sold on split testing?
Then take a look at the following words of wisdom from a few best-selling authors:
1. James Altucher Tests the Title of Choose Yourself
James Altucher is the author of the mega-bestseller Choose Yourself. But, did you know he wanted to name the book The Choose Yourself Era or Pick Yourself! Luckily, a small Facebook ads poll was able to show that Choose Yourself was a knockout winner.
2. Tim Ferriss Tests the Title for The Four-Hour Workweek
Tim Ferriss is one of the most popular nonfiction authors in the world. But, before he released his first book, he and his publisher were stuck on a title. So, they tested a bunch of titles before they landed on The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. This title was not Tim’s first choice either.
3. LifeTree Media Combines Multiple Covers into One
LifeTree Media is a hybrid publisher who’s helped to produce dozens of best-selling titles. During one cover testing session, the results didn’t pick a clear winner, but instead of giving up in frustration, they combined the elements that people loved into one incredible cover.
Without split testing, there was no way these authors would have chosen those titles and covers.
Hopefully, you understand the importance of split testing and are ready to start testing your next cover today!
This article was written by Brian Berni, a former Vatican Secret Archives researcher, now a bestselling author under multiple pen-names. He blogs for writers and self-publishers at AuthorsTech and is the co-founder of BookAds, an agency that helps authors advertise their books through Amazon and BookBub Ads.