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AB Testing Book Cover Designs Using Helpfull Feedback

In this age of digital distribution and self-publishing, just about anyone can publish a novel - but not everyone can publish one that sells. Learn how Helpfull's community can transform your cover art.

February 5, 2023

How To Design A Book Cover, The Right Way

In this age of digital distribution and self-publishing, just about anyone can publish a novel. For the aspiring novelist, this is both a blessing and a curse.

While anyone can publish a book, not just anyone can publish a book that will be read. A proverbial sea of literary work flows out into the internet on a daily basis; when the tide ebbs, it leaves only a handful of surviving works. The pieces that manage to float to the top of the best-sellers list are not always the most well-written or unique works - they’re the works that sell. They’ve managed to captivate readers’ attention when others did not, and while they may vary in their tone or prose or genre, they likely share one unifying characteristic: they all have an effective book cover design.

No matter what the idioms say, people absolutely judge books by their cover - and that’s a good thing! The most eloquent, powerful novels in the world are worth little more than paper-weights if there is no audience to read them. We as consumers have to make quick, calculated judgements based on visual appearance - or else we would go insane! With literal hundreds of millions of literary works available at our fingertips, it’s vital that we’re able to make discerning choices, lest we get lost in the minutia.

Our app’s tested surveying methodology, coupled with a community of bright and eager pollsters, makes Helpfull the ultimate tool for any graphic design project.

Before we look at how meaningful consumer feedback can revolutionize your design process, let’s first take a look at:

Make A Book Cover Using AB Testing

For the remainder of this article, we want you to view us as a budding author in the romance/horror genre. Our draft is finished, we’re self published - the last thing we need is an effective cover that will draw our audience to read our novel.

Hiring a professional book cover designers can be extremely expensive and time-consuming. So for the purposes of this article, we will be putting on our book cover designer hat and get our hands dirty by delving into a little graphic design work. There is no need to hire a professional cover designer when we've got the community to help us design a cover!

Starting our Helpfull image-survey, we note to the audience that we’re going for a book cover that looks “sensual, mysterious, with just a little bit of terror on top.” We drafted some rough concepts for our novel, and asked the Helpfull community to give critique.

Make A Book Cover Using AB Testing
 Helpfull pollsters opinion on book covers

In half an hour, one-hundred Helpfull pollsters had viewed our first set of book covers; their feedback was absolutely crucial in determining how the final project turned out. The Helpfull audience gave us measured feedback on the merits of our font choices, the models we featured in the forefront, and the ominous scenery that formed the backdrop of each book cover design. They ultimately chose two of our prospective book covers - ones that the audience noted best elicited our target emotional response, and fell in line with other similar good book cover designs existing in the genre.

AB Testing Book Cover Designs

Now that we’ve got a general idea of what our audience responds to, we can utilize their feedback to continue developing and work-shopping our book cover ideas.

Get Real-Time Feedback On Cover Design Iterations

Now that we’re mid-way through our design process, the changes we make to our good book covers are going to be much more minute and immediate. While surveys from traditional platforms take hours or days to complete, Helpfull surveys provide immediate feedback that can be accessed in real-time. Like having our own personal focus-group, we can continue feeding design iterations through image-comparison surveys until we’re happy with our final great book cover design.

Get Real-Time Feedback On Cover Design Iterations

For our next set of concepts, we wanted to focus primarily on narrowing down the final concept for the book cover image. We submitted six designs this time: four of them featured designs from our first round of choices, with variations in the text font. We weren’t ready to completely settle on these two design concepts, so we introduced a third into the mix - with two variations of it to showcase the favored text-fonts from our last winners. This wild-card design keeps us open to new ideas; the feedback we receive from our Helpfull pollsters could point us towards certain design software or stylistic elements.

Book cover results

Compared to our first set of tests, the choices made by our audience were far more immediate and direct. In just 25 minutes, we’ve found a winning concept for our book cover design. Additionally, all 3 of our designs that featured the bold font won out over those with the more traditional, type-writer font.

Book cover feedback

Now that we’ve received more feedback from the community, we’re ready to move into the final stages of the design process.

What Makes Effective Book Covers

When it comes to creating a book cover for your next novel, there are some important considerations to make.

It’s vital to know that there is such a thing as an objectively bad book cover design. An ugly or ineffective cover often violates one or more of the basic rules followed by most effective cover designs:

  • The title must be large, and easy to read
  • No more than 2 fonts are used on the cover
  • The color palette is appealing & makes sense
  • The art or photo used is professional

The concept of “parity” refers to how consumers place products in mental “boxes” that contain similar or comparable items. When designing a book cover, it’s natural to want to create something that falls in line with your in-genre competition; otherwise, how else will consumers know what your book is about? This is a valid strategy, but one that must be conducted with consideration to aesthetics. The worst thing a book cover can be - other than drab, ugly, or offensive - is unmemorable.

A Helpfull Audience Is A Better Audience

Ultimately, when designing a book cover, you should be looking to capture the attention of your prospective readers. This means putting your own book cover design concerns and preferences aside, and consider first-and-foremost what is going to compel your audience to click on, crack open, or otherwise purchase your novel.

The best way to get feedback on any product design is to put it in front of a group of consumers. These neutral third-parties are going to provide you from-the-heart feedback that cuts to the core of what makes your cover effective, or ineffective. The sheer number of unique perspectives that you’ll be given ensures that there will be at least one major book design point or product flaw you failed to consider. The Helpfull app lets you effectively a free book store-front for a fraction of the cost it tastes to focus-test audiences in a traditional format.

feedback on any product design

For our final batch of cover designs, we wanted to tweak both the text font and the asset inclusion.

Throughout the design process, we received mixed reactions on whether or not the mysterious floating face added to the book cover in a positive way. In the design process, cutting elements out of an image can be just as impactful as adding in new ones. We wanted to make sure the book cover we ultimately run with is professional, and resonates well with our consumers - so we developed six more example book covers, and ran one final survey.

Final winner feedback

Responses to all six drafts were positive; however, we found that the simpler book cover designs with the bolder font rated the highest. Ultimately, our audience selected the book cover design draft that featured the San Serif font, and excluded the additional floating-face element.

One last cycle of audience feedback left us feeling satisfied with our book cover design. Now we have a book cover that we know doesn’t just satisfy our wants, but resonates strongly with our audience as well.

Develop Your Designs with Helpfull Feedback

Every good book needs a better book cover. Whether you’re a first-time digital designer, or a graphic artist with decades of experience, getting constructive feedback from your audience is absolutely vital to the design process. From first concepts to final iterations, getting outside opinions on your work can help you correct-course and develop a product that sells.

An intuitive user-interface, coupled with the ability to gather hundreds of consumer responses in just minutes, are just a few of the features that make Helpfull the ultimate tool for any artist, book cover designer, or marketer.

Refine your marketing - sign up with Helpfull today, and get surveying within minutes!

Types of Feedback