What’s your favo(u)rite colo(u)r? Mine’s a rusty, burnt orange hue. That, and complimentary colors such as pumpkin pie and café-au-lait.
But that’s irrelevant when it comes to book promotion. It’s not what color you like, or even the color your prospective reader likes, that matters. What’s important is what the colors do to that reader.
Like it or not, we’re genetically and environmentally programmed to have similar responses to certain hues in our environment. Who isn’t calmed at the sight of an idyllic green pasture or azure lake? Who isn’t alarmed when red lights flash or big red letters appear on our digital screens?
Marketing gurus have known this forever: certain colors are better for sales than others. Sure, there will always be the odd exception to the rule, but the trendlines are pretty reliable. For instance, the food and beverage industry know that the colors red, orange, and yellow make people hungry.
Think about your favorite fast-food outlet: what colors are their signs? McDonald’s? Carls Jr? Sonic? They all use red and yellow. DQ and Jack in the Box? Both use primarily red and white. Can you think of any that use blues or greens? Probably not.
This is good marketing. But what does it have to do with your book? The answer is this: the colors you use on your book cover will affect the message it sends to potential buyers, and what their responses might be. Let’s take a look at some very broad categories of color and the messages they send:
Red: Urgency, Necessity
Orange: Excitement, Surprise
Yellow: Energy, Fun
Green: Nature, Freedom
Blue: Authority, Calm
Purple: Passion, Eccentricity
These, of course, are only some of the things these colors invoke, but it gives you a place to start when designing a book cover. Keep in mind that the shade—from light to dark—is equivalent to the volume setting. Much as ALL CAPS means screaming in social media; bold, rich colors are loud messages, while pastels whisper.
Groupings of colors also have subliminal meanings: blue and pink suggest gender; the primary colors—red, blue, and yellow—evokes children and education. Green and blue suggest conservation and outdoor activities.
So, no matter which colors are your favorites, it pays to consider the message you’re sending when you choose colors for your book cover. One of the most frequent missteps I see in self-publishing is the tendency among women to use pastels on book covers.
Yes, these appeal more to women than men, and you might think them appropriate for female audiences. But they also say that your message is timid, passive, and of lesser importance than the competition decked out in bolder colors.
The opposite problem occurs when colors are too loud; the reader feels assaulted and manipulated, as by a heavy-handed salesman. No one likes to be yelled at unless the message is urgent. If your book is non-fiction about emergency preparedness, this might be appropriate. But if it’s fiction, it might feel like a hard sell to the buyer.
In the next post in the Book Marketing series, we’ll look at typography and the subtle—and not so subtle—messages your font choices send to prospective readers.