As children, we were taught to not judge a book by its cover. But, it’s a lesson that didn’t stick. Every day we judge something or someone by its outward appearance: that buff guy at the gym must be a narcissist; that woman in a conservative suit and ballerina-tight bun must be dull; and that plain-jane cover must render that book boring.
It’s human nature to make quick judgments – if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have phrases like, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” or receptionists wouldn’t have titles like, Director of First Impressions.
Since I’ve decided to Indie publish Phoenix, I’ve started a rapidly-growing to-do list in anticipation of my October 1, 2012 publish date. Copyrights, ISBNs, distribution channels, all are part of what I need to check off. But, the one that is most daunting is selecting a book cover.
Luckily, I have friends who have read Phoenix and can be coaxed with alcohol to brainstorm cover ideas. Being the responsible marketer that I am, I’m doing my own research in how I select books from new authors, especially in a digital world with bookstores going the way of dinosaurs.
First, let’s dive into a few of my favorite books and how the cover lured me in (these are all books I picked up off the shelf, not knowing anything about the author):
The various cloud formations and ways of depicting clouds – from photographs to meteorological maps had a calming effect but at the same time, made me think this was a sweeping novel that would cover an entire world. The payoff? Yes, it is a sweeping, epic novel that covers centuries and many stories. Some are old stories, some modern, but they are all tied together by one thread.
I still remember when I bought this book. It was the 90s, I was in college, working at a bookstore and was drawn to the lonely young woman, depicted simply by her face, hovering over what I imagined to be the deep end. And yes, that is exactly what the book is about.
I would have been drawn to this story by simply reading the book blurb, but if you haven’t seen it in person, it’s a beautiful, debossed cover that the publisher spent a lot of money on. I grabbed it because it was black and white and red with the circus itself being held in the hand of a god-like being.
These are books that I rated with 5 stars on Goodreads, but what about some I didn’t like as much? Well, I realized that has nothing to do with the cover art. The book I rated the lowest has a bright green cover with a hot pink bear – cool and hipster-y, but I weep for the trees that lost their lives for that turd (book club book, and our pickers were hammered when they chose it … friends don’t let friends drink and pick books). Some of my 2 star ratings had good enough covers, but the writing or story was lackluster. So what does that tell me? Well, you can have a good cover but if the writing or story sucks, then it doesn’t matter if you commissioned Picasso himself for it.
The bigger question now is what does a book’s cover mean in the e-reader age? I have an old-school Kindle, so I’m not buying books for its cover on this black and white beast. But the new Kindle Fire and iPad all have better graphics, so does this mean can spend more on a bang-up digital graphic, or less? Would Erin Morgenstern’s cool cover be as “ooh-ooh shiny” if I didn’t see the debossing and quality of paper?
I have ideas for Phoenix’s cover floating through my mind. A deserted highway with the sun setting on the horizon (cliche much?). Models/illustrations depicting the main characters? Is it simply a cool typeface and color block treatment? Or, does it even matter?
What about you? Do you judge a book by its cover? And, for my Indie published peers, how did you decide on cover art?