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Book Cover FAIL: Forgetting Your Target Market

This is a post in our ongoing Book Cover FAIL series and part of this week’s focus on target markets.

Half of all Americans start each day with a bowl of cereal.

Which is your favorite? Personally, I love Frosted Flakes. I started eating them way back in elementary school. Tony the Tiger would appear on my TV in between episodes of Muppet Babies and I was hooked. Heck, we even shared a name!

Why did I want to hang with Tony? I was smack dab in the middle of their target market (apparently, elementary school kids watching Muppet Babies). The bright box colors, flashy commercial, cool mascot — I was hooked. And that box design, man. What kid could resist that box? I mean, it says THEY’RE GRRREAT!

Looking back at it now, I kind of hate the box design. The red against the blue gives me a headache. Tony looks creepy. The milk looks fake. The font used for ‘Frosted Flakes’ is obnoxious. But you know what?

It doesn’t matter what I think.

Frosted Flakes doesn’t care what I think. Seriously. I’m not in their target market, so I’m not SUPPOSED to like their box.

What about your book? Do you keep your target market solely in mind when designing your cover? If not, you may be committing Book Cover FAIL No. 4: Forgetting Your Target Market.

Who’s your target market?

Last Thursday, Shannon shared the 5 Commandments of Target Markets. Have you chosen yours? If not, do it now!

When you’re ready, picture a member of your target market. Just one person. Now, think of all of their likes, dislikes and personal information.

What’s her name? (Cindy) How old is she? (31) Which others authors does she like? (Meg Cabot, Stephenie Meyer) and so on and so on…

Design for Cindy, not for you.

A common mistake authors make is interjecting their PERSONAL feelings into the design process. “But Toni,” you say. “It’s MY book cover. I want to be happy with it.”

And we, as designers, WANT you to be happy with your design. But that design has a much more important goal: to grab Cindy’s attention and persuade her to purchase. After all, we’re not selling books to ourselves, right?

You may hate the color pink and modern typefaces and pictures of girls with dark hair, but, if your target market happens to love those things, they better be on the cover of your book. Period!

Repeat: It’s Not About You

With every design draft, take yourself out of the equation and think of Cindy. Or Brian. Or Tom. Or Adrian. Whoever your target is.

If you find this difficult, and still find personal feelings seeping in, talk to your designer. If you haven’t already, tell your designer about Cindy (or, at the very least, your target market in general). He/she can then tell you exactly why their design choices will strike Cindy’s fancy, or adjust some things to appeal to her even more.

Yet another reason hiring a good designer and trusting them is key. But that’s another post.


In the meantime, talk back! Is it difficult for you to remove yourself from the design process? How to you visualize your target market? What advice can you give to other authors like yourself?

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  • Great points! I could easily fall into that trap of picking a cover design based on what appeals to me. It goes against the grain to design MY book cover for somebody else, but you’re absolutely right that it’s necessary. Thanks for the guidance and the series on covers.

  • what an awesome post. Followed the link on twitter and very glad I did. It’s too easy to design for own tastes and forget the target.