Monday, August 15, 2016

You Shoud Be Able to Tell a Book by Its Cover

By Vicki Delany

Last week the Typists were talking about what makes us buy a book, and the topic of cover images came up.

Some of us didn’t seem to think the cover is all that important in the buying decision, and others consider it very important.

I am in the latter camp.  Yes, I’m going to buy a book if it’s highly recommended by someone I trust, or if a reputable review source I also trust has given it high praise, but otherwise, the cover is the first decision I make.

Do I pick this book up and read more, or pass on by?

That split-second decision is made almost exclusively on the cover image.

One of the best covers of all time (now extensively copied)
The cover needs to tell you exactly what type of book this is.  Cats and pastel covers? Great, if I’m wanting something light.  The US Capital building at dark, probably in the rain? Guaranteed to be a tough-guy thriller.  A lonely house, perhaps with one light burning? Probably a psychological suspense.

Blood spatter? Not for me.

Only if the cover appeals to me, and tells me that the book is the sort of thing I am looking for at this very moment, will I pick it up.  At that point all the other buying decisions take over.  Is the blurb enticing, what I feel like reading, and is it well written? Then I might stop right there and get it.

But, even if it is the perfect book for me at this time, if the cover hasn’t appealed to me, I won’t even pick it up.

another good one

The same is true for ebooks online or for books on bookstore shelves.

But most of all, what the cover has to do is deliver what the book promises. Whether it be light and funny, dark and serious, gory and horrific.

Case in point, is Barbara’s newest book.  Last week she showed you the two covers. I am pleased to say that she consulted with me (and several others) when the publisher first showed her their design. That was last autumn when I was on a North Carolina book tour.  I’d been in a lot of bookstores, and one thing I noticed immediately was that the current crop of “women’s fiction” all had covers in shades of baby blue.   That first cover of Barbara’s would have indicated to anyone browsing, that the book was something about “female friendships”.   Mystery readers would have passed over it, and women’s fiction readers would have picked it up, read the blurb and put it back down again.

The value of a good, and appropriate, cover can not be overestimated.

Tells you exactly what your'e going to get


Mary Jane Hopper said...

I may pick up a book because of the cover, but if the blurb isn't interesting I'll put it back on the shelf and choose another.

Rick Blechta said...

I just saw this post. Thanks very much for the shout-out on Cemetery of the Nameless.

Interesting thing about that cover, my publisher at the time, Napoleon Press, knowing I was a designer, let me design the cover. What you're seeing in Vicki's post is the forty-sixth that was designed. Many weren't all that different, maybe a variation in colour or type, but many were also radically different. The only common element was the background photo, which I took while researching in Vienna. That actually is The Cemetery of the Nameless.

Thing is, I doubt if there are many books out there that went through such an exhaustive design period. Certainly no publisher in their right mind would be will to pay for the hours this cover took to finish. Believe me there's a lot of Photoshopping that was done, especially to fit the photo of the famous Beethoven statue in as a ghost image. If you look really closely, you'll see notes barely visible on the ground (Beethoven's handwritten score to his 4th symphony) and on and on. It was a fun exercise, and the payback was when bookstore owners and employees would say how much they loved the cover of the book (not knowing I -- with a lot of input by my employer at the time, Kal Honey, and good friend Andre Leduc -- was responsible.

Last thing: the typeface used for my name is called American Scribe and it is a facsimile of the hand of Timothy Matlack the man who copied out the formal signing version of the Declaration of Independence.

Again, thanks Vicki for the compliment of including it in your post!