How Our Covers Look In Stores
This post is pretty visual, because I think we as indie publishers need to understand what our books look like on various shelves. Here are some snaps I’ve taken over the last year, taken from: Endgame in Oakland, CA; Games of Berkeley in Berkeley, CA; and The Source Comics and Games near Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN.
What I’ve learned from all this:
- Retailers use whatever shelving they have, not what we might consider ideal for our books. Before you get indignant about it, consider that replacing shelving is not cheap. You’d have to sell a lot of our tribe’s books before that new shelf pays for itself.
- Titles at the top. Don’t Rest Your Head is a good example of a great cover whose title you can’t see when stacked behind another book.
- Speaking of titles, have a clearly visible title that your audience can read. I’m looking at Mist-Robed Gate here (which only those well acquainted with the book can pick out up there.)
- If you’re planning for your cover art to wow people, prepare to be disappointed when it’s sitting behind a comic stand’s particle board front.
- Landspace books are neat. but often they’ll be stored sideways, which doesn’t really help you or the would-be buyer when the book is weirdly bent from that. I’ve seen quite a few Agon books suffer this fate, which saddens me because I love the form factor so much. So, so much.
- Contrast in your title is a good thing. Especially on your spine.
- Have a spine. I constantly forgot that I own the $20 Blood & Bronze set, because there’s no spine or box. Same with all my staple- & spiral-bound games. (I suppose it can’t be avoided, though, for some super-small games like Gun Thief, which are styled like a single-issue comic.)
- Weird sizes will be put wherever there’s room — on the retail shelf, on the customer’s shelf.
And finally, something I learned from analyzing the covers of best-selling novels: having a quote or line above the title is a good thing. Right now, I’m planning on going with something like:
(Yes, with a different font.)
 Though, I also hear the cover’s being redesigned, and that excites me because the game’s really interesting.
 While I mean “your book should have a spine,” I suppose this applies to you as a creative person as well.