Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the influence of book cover art on readers’ buying decisions as I now have my own book cover to consider. This has made me analyze how much cover art affects my own inclination to pick up a book.
The old adage ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ may be true, but I’m shocked to discover that I do. When I stopped to think about my own choices, I realized cover art is the single most important factor in my decision to pick up a book--or not.
When perusing the Internet, I came across a blog by four literary agents discussing the importance of book cover design. They had a selection of covers they’d voted on to determine their impressions of them. They didn’t agree on every cover, but there was consensus between them on the best and the worst. Strangely, the one they liked least was my favorite. If I walked through a bookstore, most of the covers they liked wouldn’t even have caught my notice, let alone induced me to pick up the book. This raised another interesting aspect of cover art—target market. These agents deal mainly with ‘literary’ works rather than genre fiction. I can only assume the covers they liked reflected this preference. I, on the other hand, prefer genre fiction, and the cover I liked best out of their selection was the most ‘commercial’ in appearance.
This made me realize cover art doesn’t have to wow everyone who walks past the book in the bookstore, only the target readership.
This explains why the covers I find most compelling are usually on historical romance. (My favorite genre.) When I flip through Romantic Times it’s always the lavishly dressed couples wearing (or partly wearing) Regency fashions that catch my eye—followed by the paranormal covers if they are imaginative.
Other covers I love are fantasy covers such as C.L. Wilson’s wonderful covers for her fantasy romance series. This obviously reflects my love of fantasy.
I read recently that when a UK publisher reprinted some classic novels and gave them modern covers the sales figures jumped, despite the fact the books were unchanged.
I will pick up a book with an uninspiring cover if it’s been recommended to me, or if the author is one of my favorites. Although I discovered recently that unappealing cover art can stop me buying a book even if I like the author.
I’ve read all of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series and enjoyed the books. When I heard she’d written a science fiction story called The Host I intended to buy the book—until I saw the cover. The reviews for the book are good, the blurb sounds interesting, and I’m sure I’ll like the book, but I can’t get past the cover. This first edition is hardcover. I hope they change the cover when it’s released as a paperback.
What about you? Do book covers play an important part in your fiction buying decisions? How do you feel about the covers shown above?