Selling A Book By Its Cover

A Book By Any Other Cover…

They say you cannot tell a book by its cover but do not ever doubt that you can sell a book by its cover.

You cannot judge a book by its cover. Evidently you can sell pile of them though.

You cannot judge a book by its cover. Evidently you can sell a pile of them though.

This screen shot depicts the overall sales of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice based on five different cover designs and spanning 20 years. This provides a clear look at the power behind design, marketing and understanding the current market.

Sales for this literary classic hit a small peak of sorts in 1995, but overall remained fairly low until 2009 when it surged in popularity netting more than double the sales in a single year.

Why? What happened in 2009?

The Great Pride & Prejudice Surge Of 2009

The Pride & Prejudice film was released in 2005. Which means that this probably did not factor largely in to the 2009 releases success. If anything one would have expected a surge in sales to occur within the next year.

Instead we see that four years later, in 2009, demand for this novel more than doubled within twelve months. What was it about 2009?

Every market surge has a history. There may be many contributing factors to a sudden sales onslaught but one can always trace the reasons. This can often be a complicated process and one may wind up with many dead ends before coming to a reliable conclusion as to the cause, but there is always a cause.

In the case this surge in 2009 it is not so complicated. Have a look at the cover that sold so well.  The cover couldn’t be the sole reason could it? Design doesn’t make that much of a difference right?

Wrong. It is all in the design. The 2009 release happened to coincide with another novel series which just happened to be gaining steam at the time. Perhaps you have heard of it. It involved an angst ridden teenage girl and her love affair with a vampire and a werewolf.

The Twilight Saga had recently become a huge hit. It had been hitting the theaters and was discussed everywhere.  Low and behold if we look at the cover design of the re-release of the Twilight series what do we see?


Well now look at that. Something familiar about those colours and the overall feel isn’t there? What an odd coincidence…

Make no mistake. This was 100% intentional and from a marketing and sales standpoint, it was brilliant. The brains behind the 2009 publication of Pride & Prejudice knew their market. They knew the consumer zeitgeist. They knew what people were reading and they moved on it.

Does Pride & Prejudice share any similarities with Twilight? Well the lead character is a girl and Mr. Darcy is a bit of a wolf… but otherwise to lump these two into the same category would likely cause Mrs Austen to roll in her grave. Yet the design of the book managed to subtly do just that. The four books published in the Twilight series used three key colours and several basic design elements. This is obvious when comparing the four of them side by side as we do in the image above.

The demographic that Twilight was marketed to had, had their eyes trained – trained to look for this specific colour combination and style, thus any other book with similar traits would automatically grab their eye. What is more, the design team behind the 2009 version of Pride and Prejudice increased its book size to match the size which Twilight was published in. The result was a book that looked, for all intents and purposes, like it belonged to the Twilight series – one that could sit beside them and not look out-of-place.

Customers would be looking through the shelves of books and their eyes would automatically flicker what they knew and recognized. Perhaps some of them even thought this was a fifth edition to the series.

This is the essence and foundation behind branding and that is exactly what went on. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series was branded with a very obvious aesthetic look. 2009’s Pride and Prejudice printing simply hopped on that band wagon and rode its coattails to success.

Design & Sales.

All too often there appears to be an underlying disrespect for solid design work. Few people – especially in the small business market place – realize the increase in sales that good design will get them. Instead the see the price tag that comes along with it and they balk at it. They cut corners, call in favours, hire rookies or try to do it themselves with all the “free online tools”. The result is shoddy and unprofessional design.

Graphic and Web design needs to be rooted in technical and artistic ability as well and an understanding of what is working in the industry today.

As we see in the example above, knowing the market and understanding design trends play a huge role in design success.

It is simple and it is truth. Good graphic design increases sales. Good design is worth the price. 


Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.


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