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A Lesson from Selecting a Book Cover

books and book covers

Here’s one of the fun parts of releasing a book: selecting a book cover.

As I await feedback from my beta readers, I get to sit back and let the graphic artists do their work. I can look at what they submit and dream about what the book will look like when I’m holding a copy in my hand.

It’s pretty cool.

The Hard Truth About Books and Book Buyers

The process of selecting a book cover, though, raises a hard truth about books and book buyers. It’s one that some authors might find tough to accept.

Virtually everyone who buys a book decides to do so before they have read one single word inside the book itself.

While the cliché may claim that one can’t judge a book by its cover, book buyers do. 

This idea may be difficult for some authors to accept, which I completely understand. They’ve sweated over a manuscript for months and even years, and to learn that it comes down to cover art, colors, or a title?

The book buying process is not only not entirely rational, but often unconscious and even instantaneous, based on a combination of factors. 

Buyers will judge a book based on the title. Readers use a title to judge its relevance to their interests. They’ll rely on the recommendations of others, and how they judge the quality of the person recommending the book. They’ll read the book description and see if that summary confirms the relevance of the book to them. They’ll look at the number of pages; buyers of a non-fiction business book won’t devote the time to read 600 pages.

All these factors go into the decision to buy or not, yet not one of them has anything to do with the words inside that an author has poured out and sweated over.

You Aren't Judged By Your Work

For professional services providers, there’s a hard lesson tied up in all this.

You are not judged directly on the quality of your work. Clients decide to buy or not to buy based on factors that may be totally unrelated to how well you do your work.

When they sit in front of you, they make judgments based on how you handle yourself, your office environment, or how they feel about you slurping your soup at lunch. 

Clients will evaluate you based on the caliber of your referral sources. If a client gets a recommendation on you from someone whose opinion they highly value because of the referrer’s success and reputation, it makes an enormous difference in whether you will be hired. That client comes to you predisposed to hiring you.

If, on the other hand, you get recommended by the loud, obnoxious guy at the networking event whose fly is open and who has had too much to drink, your chances of getting hired take a huge hit. 

Your education and certifications don’t matter. You might have graduated number one in your class at Harvard Law School, but if you are known for not being able to solve problems for clients, you won't get hired.

Whether you are a consultant or a coach, marketing or branding professional, business advisor, attorney, CPA, or in virtually any other professional services discipline, your content, your technical expertise, is not unique. There are thousands of professionals out there who claim to do what you do. None of us want to believe that, but down deep, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know it’s true.

What’s Unique is YOU

What’s proprietary, though, is your unique journey and experience, and how you synthesize and deliver what you know. What’s special is your demeanor or the way you deal with your best-fit clients. What’s invaluable is how you deliver immense value by guiding people through massive changes in their personal life and in their business that bring them to places they never thought possible.

The combination of all these elements is quite different for you compared to any other service provider in your industry and who claim to do what you do. You have a mix of tangibles and intangibles that is uniquely yours, a combination that appeals to a very particular and unique swath of clients. 

Each of your clients is attracted to you for their own unique and highly personal reasons. Some clients are attracted to your onboarding process, while others appreciate the education you provide them with throughout their work with you. Some like your follow up, the resources you provide, your support team, your accessibility, or the intuitive way you anticipate their needs. Each of these characteristics makes you unique and adds value to the client experience, a value you must learn to put a price on.

You're Not for Everybody, and That's Good News

Because you are unique, you’re not for everybody. You’re not even the right service provider for most people.

That sounds harsh, but it’s actually both liberating and potentially quite profitable for you. If you’re a soloist or a small firm services provider, you don’t have to appeal to everyone. You don’t need the considerable number of clients a large firm needs (like the one you might have left) to pay the bills and give yourself and your family a comfortable existence. You can stay within your own unique niche of clients who you understand and who see your value.

If you do, those clients are much more likely to have a higher perception of the value of you and your work for them. If that’s the case, then you’ll have the ability to price your services much more effectively than you would otherwise.


John Ray advises solopreneur and small professional services firms on their pricing. John is passionate about the power of pricing to change the trajectory of a business and the lifestyle choices of a business owner. His clients are professionals who are selling their “grey matter,” such as attorneys, CPAs, accountants and bookkeepers, consultants, marketing professionals, and other professional services practitioners.

This article is adapted from John’s forthcoming book, The Price and Value Journey: Raise Your Confidence, Your Value, and Your Prices Using The Generosity Mindset Method, will be released later this year. The book covers topics like value and adopting a mindset of value, pricing your services more effectively, proposals, and essential elements of growing your business. For more information on the book, as well as John's podcast, The Price and Value Journey, go to


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