Last fall, the Codex Group, a book audience research firm, conducted an online test to gauge how effective different book presentations were at getting consumers to browse books. More than 50 new and upcoming titles were included as part of the test, and nearly 4,000 book buyers took part. Cover presentations designed by Amazon Publishing did by far the best job of luring in prospective buyers. In fact, the company had eight of the top 10 most actively browsed books tested. (As part of the test, each cover has an adjoining “read more” button, with each “read more” click counted as a “browse” for that book.)

Five Amazon titles that rated highly on Codex’s chart were also among the 11 top-selling e-books of 2019, as recorded by BookStats and reported on in the January 13 issue of PW. Though Amazon e-books get a strong marketing push from the company, Codex president Peter Hildick-Smith said their presence on the bestsellers list and the Codex chart “demonstrates the direct impact of strong cover browsing conversion on new book sales—something Amazon appears to deeply understand, particularly for less-well-known authors without established fan bases.”

For two of the three most-browsed books in the Codex test, participants said that the books’ titles, not their graphics, were the strongest factors in prompting them to click the read more buttons. “People who buy and read books are word lovers; nothing intrigues them more than a strong message delivered by uniquely crafted title, subtitle, or even a reading line,” Hildick-Smith said.

Another key in creating an effective cover is ensuring that the design works with the title, said Amazon creative director Courtney Dodson. She explained that Amazon prioritizes “the interplay between the title of the book and the visuals on the cover, because when they interact in meaningful ways, readers understand the world and tone of the book—which helps us reach readers who will enjoy the book.”

Dodson noted that, while there have been cases in which Amazon has changed a title to create a better partner for the artwork, the more common approach is for the team to look at how design “can support and augment the resonance of a title that we believe is right for its positioning message.”

Another major consideration for Dodson is that covers work as well online as they do in stores, and across different formats—a strategy that appears to pay off. Though Amazon also uses available data to check trends and customer feedback, cover designs are very much a collaborative effort involving the author, editor, and marketing and design teams.

“The cover has to work for everyone involved,” Dodson noted. “It is a rigorous process with lots of feedback.”

Amazon publishing teams begin thinking of a design immediately after a book is acquired, generally starting out by determining what everyone involved wants the cover to communicate. “We want to create something that will resonate with readers,” Dodson said.