Friday, February 24, 2012
Judging a Book By Its Cover
by guest blogger Mary Sutton
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We’ve all heard this phrase before. Usually we hear it from our mothers and it’s usually a reference to not judging other people by skin color, race, or other external features. And usually that’s good advice.
But I have a dirty secret: I judge books by their covers all the time.
Oh, not in reference to people. In reference to, you know, books.
Here’s a recent example. I follow Linda Rodriguez on Twitter. For a couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing tweets about her upcoming book and how it won an award from Malice Domestic. I thought that was cool, but I didn’t feel compelled to check out the book.
Then Linda tweeted an image of her cover. That I looked at – and I liked it. So I Googled the title and found the synopsis. Murder in a college town? Sign me up. I preordered the book.
Let me repeat that chain: cover à jacket text àpurchase.
I distinctly remember wandering the library or book store growing up, looking for interesting books by cover art. I don’t think I’m alone. In fact, when I posted about this on social media, a friend of mine said, “I used to do that all the time, roam around the aisles of books and picked up what grabbed me, if I liked what the back said I got it. But I wouldn't pick it up unless it had an intriguing cover.”
When I mentioned this topic to my SinC sibs, one of them immediately mentioned a new app –Flipbook. It allows her to see images related to posts on Facebook or Twitter, like a magazine. If the picture looks interesting, she can read more.
All three examples have something in common: interest starts with cover art, with a picture. Yes, the story has to be good, the old “Content is King” concept, but we humans seem to be hardwired for images. We authors know this. Otherwise, why would we obsess about the cover art for our books? Why would we get so excited about it?
Yes, a beautiful cover does not guarantee a great book. I am sure there are copies of Moby Dick with gorgeous cover art; that doesn’t make the story any better. But a great cover does something incredibly important in the process of selling books: it makes the reader pick it up and (hopefully) read the jacket blurb. This is no less important in the e-book world, which is why authors such as Joe Konrath are so insistent on self-pub authors not skimping on the cover art.
A lot of readers will never hear about the Edgars, the Agathas, or Malice Domestic. But they will see your cover. That image might be your only chance to hook them. Why not make it great?
So what about you? Do you judge a book by its cover?