DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jan 25 2017

The Book and Its Cover

by Camille B

“The book cover is the window to your book’s soul.”   

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They say never judge a book by the cover– well, I do it all the time. I know that I shouldn’t. I know each book stands on its own merit, appealing cover or not, but I find myself being swayed anyway. I’m sure that in spite of your best efforts you do too; whether it’s the cool jacket or intriguing title, you find yourself passing over the blander looking dust jackets to pick up the ones that seem more enticing.

Even though those covers have misled us before. They either promised pages filled with intrigue and adventure and never delivered, or the book looked really dull on the outside and turned out to be fantastic!

So why is this? Why is it that against our better judgment we find ourselves drawn to book covers on the library and bookstore shelves that appeal to the eyes; without even checking the blurb on the inside to see what the books are about? Probably even robbing ourselves in the process, because who knows, that ugly looking book with the brown cover might turn out to be quite an interesting read.

According to an article in the Huffington Post, a book cover is the first thing a potential reader sees and it can make a lasting impression. “Our brains are wired to process images faster than words, when we see an image, it makes us feel something, a great cover can help the reader instantly recognize that this book is for them.”

So it’s human nature to have our curiosity piqued by pretty or unusual book covers. You should feel better knowing it’s not entirely your fault. It is the publisher’s job to lure you in with fancy and captivating book covers, using intriguing teasers and taglines, contrasting colors, and paying careful attention to details such as font style and text placement all in the purpose of getting you to pick up the book and take a closer look.

Does the cover actually sell the book? One blogger puts it this way “The front cover sells the back, the back cover sells the flap and by then you’ve sold the book.” Well, yes and no, because for me personally the blurb is the deciding factor; because pretty cover or not, if it doesn’t interest me, I’m not buying it.

There are some who won’t even get as far as reading the blurb on the inside of the book because they’re so turned off by its hideous cover. Says Naomi Blackburn, one of the world’s top  Goodreads reviewer and columnist for The Author CEO, “If the cover seems to be nothing more than a catalog photograph with block lettering, I bypass it,” she says. “If the author didn’t care enough to dedicate time/effort to their cover, I wonder how much time they put into the book itself.” 

And I agree. I think the cover should have appeal and make a potential customer or library patron want to pick it up. But what about those authors who don’t have a say in the design of their book covers? Because the truth is most of them don’t; just ask Anne Rice who’s Facebook fans were not too thrilled with the cover of her book Prince Lestat which they felt did not represent the story. “I have no control,” she said in her response. “Never have had. Of all the covers on my books over the years, I have liked a few”

And this is true of many authors. I guess for some it comes down to a matter of trust and loyalty after being with a publisher for so long, and depending on the working relationship they have together or contract in place. They may, or may not have approval  for the consulting and cover of their book. Sometimes they like the covers, sometimes they don’t, but at the end of the day it’s all just one of the realities of the publishing world.

So whether a book cover is flashy, lame, witty or simply leaves us with a question mark hanging over our heads, we have to admit that in today’s competitive world of book publishing they’ve made the phrase “Don’t judge a book by the cover” pretty darn hard to do.

Here is a survey that was taken to try and determine how much influence a book cover actually has in helping a customer decide whether to buy it or not.

Here are some other interesting links about book covers:

 18 Modern Redesigns of Classic Book Covers That Will Make You Want To Read Them Again

  50 of the Coolest Book Covers

Below are some suggested titles that you can find in our DCPL collection:

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Book design made simple- Fiona Raven & Glenna Collett

Creating the cover for your graphic novel– Frank Lee

Do you have a favorite book cover?

 

 

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jencey Gortney January 28, 2017 at 11:17 AM

Camille, I agree with you. It is also so true what you have said. I just voted on a secret Facebook page for an author’s upcoming release. I also was recently disappointed by a book I read that had a great cover. The story left a little to be desired.

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