Catching the Eye of a Sci-Fi Reader - Ryan M. Williams
Alien eye

Catching the Eye of a Sci-Fi Reader

Who doesn't want to fall in love? Hopefully, you've had the experience of seeing that one perfect book cover that captures your gaze, pulling you into an intense and engaging experience. It entices you to pick it up. You run your fingers across the cover. Maybe you turn to read the sales copy or maybe you don't because the cover has captured you so completely.

Although today you might just look and then swipe right.

Online (Book) Dating for Sci-Fi Writers

In truth, most book sales, whether print or e-books, take place online. We're not picking up the book with the cover that catches our eyes. We're looking at the book's online profile. We read the sales copy. If other people have picked up this book, we might read what they say. If we like what we see, we buy the book. Often that means in e-book formats, though it can be print.

If we enjoy the book we might go back to that author for a second date. A third. Maybe, if it's a great match we'll give every book by that author a chance. It all starts with that first look that catches the eye.

As writers, we know the importance of making a good first impression with our book covers. I'm working on improving my covers right now, as a part of the reboot project.

Studying the Bestselling Covers Using Amazon Lists

I tend to picture book covers from decades ago when I think about science fiction book covers. The covers that I grew up seeing in bookstores in mass market paperback formats. I also love old pulp covers.

Design has changed since then. Covers need to work as thumbnail images. Most book sales take place online.

Category Covers

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Sample Covers Selected by Amazon for Categories

Looking at Amazon's categories, they've selected a number of titles to represent each category. Although some of the titles appear to fit the categories, others seem odd to me. I wouldn't call Ursula K. Le Guin's Hainish novels cyberpunk, for instance. Ready Player One might be a better fit. Artemis works for Hard Science Fiction.

The sidebar lists a much longer list of categories. You can also just scroll down to the list. Ready Player One sits at the top with over 15,000 reviews (at this point).

Looking For a Match

Pick a category that seems to match your novel. I'm going with the Genetic Engineering category first for my novel Dark Matters. Here are a few of the titles at the top of that list:

These show a variety of styles. Most without a complicated scene, except for Genome. My Moreau Society series centers around detective Brock Marsden. He incorporates alien DNA into his own using Galactic technology. This gives him unique abilities. It takes place on a world with many different species of aliens, as well as standard humans. Other categories might be Colonization or Adventure.

In the Colonization category we find these sorts of covers:

The covers differ in some ways from the previous category. Persepolis Rising is the only one with a complicated cover painting more in the style of older science fiction. Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles has that ‘classic' look to it. Most use simple shapes that translate easily to thumbnails.

Turning to the Adventure category we find:

Familiar names on this list! Bradbury's cover hits the same red, black and white theme. Brown's covers are easily recognizable as part of the same series. Ready Player One sports the movie-branded cover. Philip K. Dick's cover resembles the Brave New World cover.

Let's compare these to titles from the Mystery category:

Author names are much larger on these books than the science fiction titles, although you see a bit of that with Atwood and Corey. Other colors show up in these covers. I could see incorporating some of the mystery elements into a design that is more clearly science fiction.

What Are Your Favorites?

Let me know in the comments which cover designs and elements you like. What should I focus on for my new covers? I need to come up with new covers for all of my reboot titles. Right now I'm focusing on science fiction. I'll do some more posts as I get further along in the process.

 

About the Author Ryan

Ryan M. Williams lives a double life as a full-time career librarian and a multi-genre writer with over twenty books. He writes across a range of genres including science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, mystery, horror, and romance. He earned a Master of Arts degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University and a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose University. His short fiction has appeared in anthologies from Pocket Books, WMG Publishing, and in On Spec Magazine.

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