Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What does a cover say about a Book?

The first book I had published was Run Away Home.  It did well and my publisher released it again a few years later with a new cover, one that went well with the other two books I had since published using some of the same characters.  Recently I released it again, this time on an electronic reader (Kindle) with a third cover.  That's three different covers for one story and I began to wonder which is really the most effective cover.  Which one would someone who had never read any of the formats be drawn to the most?

 Covers give the first impression a potential buyer/reader has of a book.  That cover gives a broad hint concerning the book's contents.  We can tell at a glance if the book is meant to be suspenseful, a romance, or science fiction.  Over on LDS Publisher there was a recent contest to pick the most eye-catching or appealing cover for 2010.  The contest made no claim to being scientific, but revealed only the opinions of those who voted.  Sun Tunnels and Secrets was the winner.  In the same contest last year my Shudder was a finalist.  These are two very different covers, yet they both ignited a sense of intrigue that drew readers.

Unfortunately sometimes the cover  is misleading and we miss a great book because the cover suggests the book would have limited appeal to most readers or that it is targeting a specific limited group.  I found this to be the case with Meg's Melody, an excellent, insightful book that I believe would appeal to a much larger group than the limited numer who read OB books.

I'm glad to see the popularity of cartoonish covers is fading.  There's just something about that style that shouts "kids' book", fluff, not to be taken seriously, when the book may be a serious love story, general fiction, or represent almost any genre.

 One recent book suffered difficulty finding shelf placement in LDS bookstores because the cover seemed to imply an acceptance of gambling, which couldn't be farther from the truth.  There are also books that lose sales in spite of a top author's name because the cover looks homemade and thus looks self-published.  Though there are some excellent self-published books, the stigma still exists that suggests if a book wasn't good enough to attract a real publisher, it must not be very good.
 So what makes a good cover?  Graphic artists will talk about balance, white space, font, etc.  I don't know a great deal about those things; I only know what appeals to me, what draws me to a book enough to make me want to pick it up to read the cover blurb.  I know Annette Lyon's Chocolate Never Faileth makes me want to find a chocolate stash.  It isn't even fiction and I rarely read cookbooks.

 I guess if I were to name my favorite covers for this past year my choices would be The Rogue Shop by Michael Knudsen and The Silence of God by Gale Sears.

I'd love to hear which covers have caught your attention this past year and why.


Steve Westover said...

Great post. I agree. Covers really do matter.

On the three you posted for your book, I would choose the second, with large bold font and the house on the cover. To me it is most appealing but then I may not be your intended audience.

I look at the 3rd cover and think its a book for women so I would pass it by. I don't know if it is intended just for women (I kind of doubt it) but a cover needs to appeal to the intended audience without alienating others who might like it.

Good luck on your new book. I'm excited to read it.

Jen plus 5 said...

ok, let me try again! I'll have to try to remember what i just wrote, I tried to post and it erased instead of posting!

For someone who has read Run Away Home I do like the new cover. I thought, "Beautiful! We're on the road on the way to the cabin!" However, I also think that if I had not read the story yet the second published cover tells me more about what to expect from the story...

A good cover to me takes into account the story and the title, like Shudder (I use this because it is the only one of the 3 examples you showed that I have actually read at this point) the cover design fits the title and draws you in to the point where at least for me I could hardly wait for it to come out to read it. I read a comment by a different author recently who was happy about the cover design for a book coming out and the comment made was that the photogrpaher/designer had actually read the book in considering what to put on the cover and that in itself made a difference.

I also agree with you about the cartoonish covers I have never been drawn to them and have only read some that a friend insisted that I had to read.

So at least in my opinion, for a cover to be a good one it should tell a story about the story...

That probably didn't help at all!

Hope you have a great day!

Kristie said...

I actually own Run Away Home in the first cover. And it wasn't really the cover that attracted me, it was the author's name. I have a select few authors that I love to read, over and over. So if I see one of their books for cheap, I usually pick it up regardless of what it looks like.
And thanks for sharing about some books you liked. That Meg's one looks good. I am going to have to find it!

Lynne said...

I think covers matter most when you browse in bookstores or libraries.

By the time I get to a bookstore or library, I've usually decided what I want.

I typically decide what to read based on either a good recommendation from a trusted source or an author whose work I already know I like.

Stephanie Black said...

i totally agree that The Rogue Shop and The Silence of God were two of the best covers for 2010 releases. Both are superb.

I love the covers on Josi Kilpack's culinary mysteries--delicious food combined with some kind of suspense/mystery element (like the crime scene tape and a lemon tart).

Steve Westover said...

The Silence of God cover is beautiful.

~T~ said...

I think that you can judge something about a book from its cover: the cover shows what the publisher wants you to think of the book. Lucky is the author whose publisher's idea of the story matches her own!

Scotty & Emily said...

What a fun blog post! I was thinking... this also applies to the cover of a film... Different genre, same idea.

I agree with the idea of choosing the same author over and over. Once I find an author I like, I do a search at the library and request a handful of their books at a time until I've read everything they've written.

However, generally, the way I found that author to begin with was because I was attracted to the dust cover!

Chris said...

Covers are HUGE for me. I hate to say it, but I often choose a book because the cover grabbed my attention. Of course, if the synopsis doesn't sound interesting then I won't buy.

I actually like the covers likeThe Luck of the Draw ...I think it is the bright colors of the drawings that draw my attention. I am actually drawn towards them. Also good quality photos are key if you are going to have a photo cover...if they lighting is bad...or the person posing looks wrong in the period costume...it just won't fly for me.

Jolynn_Reads said...

Wow the cover's on your books are Great. My fav is the forest for Kindle.
Recently most of the covers look better and better all the time.
Good Luck,

Elizabeth Morgan said...

A cover does change how you feel about a book. They always say don't judge a book by its cover but we always do because it is the first we see of the book.