Anne here and today I'm musing on the importance of covers.
Most of us, firmly believe that we "don't judge a book by its cover" and yet, a lot of the time I suspect we do. People make instant, often subconscious, judgements about what they will or will not pick up. Maybe we don't judge the book itself, but the kind of cover it has will influence us — incline us in favor of finding out more, or deciding us against it without even opening a page.
A good book cover should achieve a number of things. First and foremost it should attract readers, intrigue them, make them want to pick up the book and examine it. It shouldn't be too "busy" -- the title and the author's name should stand out and be read at a glance — and in these days of purchasing books on line, they need to be readable on a screen in tiny thumb-nail size.
It needs to give the reader an idea of what the book is about, what genre — romance, a crime novel, fantasy or whatever — and referencing the plot in some way. is it set in a medieval castle, are the characters at war, is it a road trip? Are there vampires? Dragons? A murder?
Certain genres have particular looks: Crime tends to have darker, or starker images, romance will have lighter, softer often "pinker" colors, Paranormal romance will be dark, moody, bold with perhaps an image of a wolf or a bloodshot moon.
A romance will often have a couple on the cover. If it's predominantly told from the heroine's point of view, it might only have a woman on the cover. If the hero is the focus, it will have a man. A very sexy read might have the clothes-falling-off look we're all familiar with. Or no clothes at all.
But if a romance cover is too obvious or lurid, a lot of readers will take the trouble to hide the cover of the book they are reading, wrapping it in brown paper, or specially made covers in pretty fabrics, so they won't be embarrassed reading the book in public.
For an author, a good or bad cover can make or break a book. I've generally been lucky with my covers, but I've had a few less-than-successful ones.
With my first book out in the USA I was really lucky in that I'd entered the UK edition in the RITA (the big Romance Writers of America competition) the year before, so when it came out in the USA it had a little "RITA finalist" banner (just under my name) which most finalists never get, because the book is already out.
My early books with Berkley were beautiful — very classy and pretty. See The Perfect Rake above. No people, no falling off clothes, just period images that related to the story.
The covers of my next series, however, were less successful in my opinion.
On the right is my least favorite cover. It doesn't tell you much about the book, does it? A cover like this signals "generic romance — nothing special". But this is my chick-in-pants heroine in a Regency-era Egypt setting, and there are slavers, crocodiles, cats, pirates, and more. And although it received some lovely reviews and was listed in Library Journal's (USA) Best Books of 2009, it has the lowest sales of all my books. Because covers matter.
BUT then, the cover I got for the next book — The Accidental Wedding — was one of my most beautiful ever. That's it below left. I was thrilled to bits when I saw it. You can't see it but you can feel the texture of that beautiful dress. Readers agreed — my sales bounced right back up, and my career was saved. And I'm evermore grateful for it.
So what about you -- what attracts you or puts you off about some covers? Do you ever hide the cover of a book you're reading under brown paper or in a special cover? Or have e-book readers done away with that necessity? And that makes me wonder -- with e-books, do covers still matter or are they more important than ever? What do you think?