Monday, November 21, 2011

What’s in a book cover?

What’s in a book cover?

I was having a conversation recently with one of my acquisitions editors, and we got to talking about covers and how people respond to them. Authors often agonize over their book covers, driving artists to distraction with their “vision” of what is the perfect image to sell their book, but in the end, is it really the cover that pulls a reader? A good cover catches the eye, but what makes the reader part with their valued dollars? I’m thinking it has a lot more to do with the author from the moment the cover says “pick me up” to the potential buyer.

Ultimately, we buy books for the stories they tell, so it’s the words that are really going to persuade a reader, isn’t it? How many people have been “fooled” by a stunning cover that masks a half-assed story that lacks depth and passion? I admit it’s happened to be a time or two, so I’ve started ignoring the pretty pictures to a large extent and really reading what is written in those all important blurbs on covers or webpages.

I am often reminded of how much more important the words are when I am looking at Harlequin books. I admit that my favourite line of HQ books has been their flagship imprint, Harlequin Presents. Now, consider every book in that line carries the same white cover, banner, and then the image of a couple in the middle of a circle. What is important in these books is the title and author name blazed across the cover, not the often generic couple that adorns the book. These books rely on catchy blurbs and author reputation.

And what about the opposite–a cover that you find really ugly for whatever reason. Does that put you off the book to the point where you refuse to pick up the book and read the back of it? One of my publishers recently released a book with a cover that I detest. Not even the presence of Jimmy Thomas saves it for me. I know the author and she’s not someone I’d read if I was stuck on a desert island, so I have no way of knowing if I’d excuse that cover if it was someone else. I do know that I frequently buy books with plain covers that contain little more than author name and title, so I like to think I’m not always influenced by something as shallow as a picture on the cover. *lol*

So, I’m curious what you, the readers, think of covers in general. Do you like sexy heroines, curvy heroines, kick-ass heroines–or are you drawn more to the hero of the story? The book cover that I spoke of earlier had the very sexy Jimmy Thomas, but the heroine was a frumpy looking, plus-size girl who just looked very unattractive. I have nothing against plus-size heroines, I’ve written them myself, I just don’t feel the need to label the book that way–a woman is what she is, and her body size is not what makes her beautiful to the hero, is it? Yet, here we are all of a sudden using this as a marketing angle. It’s a shame that everything devolves into a superficial need to “label” at all, but there you have it. Curvy girls are as gorgeous as slim and trim girls, it’s the skill of the writer that makes you fall in love with the characters, not the emphasis on what your heroine’s dress size is. So, again, would you buy a book just because the girl on the cover is less than “perfect” by media standards? I’m thinking there has to be more to it than that.

So, dear readers – let’s hear from you – what do you like, and what don’t you like to see on the covers of the books you buy?


  1. Well the cover art is part of it,but I look on the back covers to see what the book is about and then I turn to the first couple of pages. If a book can hook me in a few sentences, then regardless of what bo-hunk is on the front or some really cool artwork-I buy it.

  2. So true, Nikki - a cover can put you off initially, but in the end if the book is good, you don't even pay attention to the cover. I've found many a wonderful book by simply looking closer at it, and discovering there is a great story inside!! Thanks for dropping by! HUGS, D


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