Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Judging a Book by its Cover

It's a cliche, sure. But it's a truth of this business: a good--or bad--cover is the first impression a book makes on a potential reader.  While nothing can save a poorly-written book,  a good cover can help a good book find its audience.

Back in December, CBS Sunday Morning ran a segment on the evolution of book covers and their importance. Editors were interviewed, giving their opinions. Cover artists explained the hows and whys of cover design. 

I've been open about my feelings with regard to the covers of my own books. On the plus side, they were certainly eye-catching: bold colors and lettering. On the negative? With the exception of Angels at Midnight, they didn't tell the potential buyer much about the novel. But this was the eighties--greed is good and all that. The glitz and glamour wouldn't play well today, which is why we're changing the covers (and in some cases, the titles) for the e-book editions.  Here are the covers for A Time for Legends, which will be e-published under its original title, The Unicorn's Daughter--about a photojournalist searching for her spy father in Libya at the time of the US air strike in 1986:

I've never read any of the books in the Twilight series. I'm just not into teen angst, with or without vampires and werewolves. But the covers certainly did catch my eye in Borders. They made me pick up the books and check them out:

When Collin designed the cover for Chasing the Wind, I wanted a representation of the two opposing forces of the story: faith and science. He used a parchment background and Papyrus font to represent the ancient text discovered on the archaeological dig. Science? The DNA strand that runs down the center of the cover.

Mike Saxton's 7 Scorpions: Rebellion is an example of cover art that's eye-catching and speaks volumes about the story:

One of Collin's best designs is for William Kendall's upcoming Heaven & Hell--simple but elegant, it would stand out anywhere:

A favorite of mine is the cover Collin designed for his own upcoming novel, ELE (Extinction Level Event): 

And he's done five covers for Beth Muscat. Here are two of them:

It's been suggested that with the growing popularity of e-books, cover designs would lose their importance. I disagree. I see cover art  as being as important as ever, certainly as a tool for promoting one's books online, whether it's on the books' product pages, blogs, author websites, or elsewhere on the Internet. They remain useful on press releases and ARCs (advance reading copies). And of course, for the paperback editions for those die-hards who still want a printed book....

SPECIAL THANK YOU to Erin Lausten for her very generous blog today. My ego has now swelled to ten times its normal size and is making like Godzilla trampling Tokoyo!


  1. Very well put!

    Collin's tremendously talented at cover design, a real asset to any writer working with him. I'm very pleased with what he did for Heaven & Hell.

    I've seen as of late a fair amount of covers in the supernatural vein that pretty much follow that Twilight cover theme; black background, and object lit in the foreground. Like the books themselves that merely seek to cash in on the trend, they're followers, not originals.

    And the new cover for Unicorns Daughter works much better then the original version. As to 7 Scorpions, Chasing the Wind, and ELE, they really stand out!

  2. I do think the cover is very important.

    I think it is great when the cover conveys something about the story, like Mike's. That cover is amazing, and it's memorable. I will eventually buy it!
    And I like William's too...covers that don't necessarily convey the story. But simple bold images or photos that look so good, you want to pick it up and find out what's inside.

  3. ...and I know I've told you this before, but I LOVE The Unicorn's Daughter cover!!!

  4. Covers are very important. They are the first thing potential buyers see. Before they read the synopsis or blurb, they see your cover. If your cover doesn't demand attention, no one will read the synopsis.

  5. Collin is a great designer and yet I bought three of the older books to get a "handle" on your amazing writing. Looking forward to ordering the new ones...yes like the 'diehards'.

  6. I love the Unicorn's Daughter cover art. And, yes, the cover make's a big impression on me when I'm choosing a book.

  7. I'm with you, Norma. I think cover art is super important for ebooks - and my own book proves it. After changing the cover, sales took off!

  8. Interesting post today.
    Cover art is so important as you said it is the first thing you see it brings you in. The same thing as staging a house for sale, an ad in the newspaper or even a greeting card.
    Working for Hallmark and almost every major card company in the 70's I got to see what went into selling a card !
    Really how do you decide to put your hand out and pick up that book from all the others, the cover.

    The new cover for The Unicorn's Daughter is so much better. I not sure who she is and what she is doing but I want to find out.

    I am going to have to find another way to say... Great post today !

    cheers, parsnip

  9. I find myself drawn to books with clean and simple cover designs, but it's the title that gets me to open the book and read the first page before I purchase it.

  10. The cover of a book is so important. It's the first thing (besides the title) that the person sees. If those two things are lacking, then it's inevitably going to be a bomb in the markets.

    Excellent blog!!

  11. Absolutely, the cover is critical.

  12. Covers will always be important to readers. Now, e-readers are doing covers in color. Even shopping on line, it is my first choice for a book.

  13. I hate the covers of harlequin romances. One of my most recent favourites of a great cover, though, is the one for Aimee Bender's 'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake'. Check it out.

  14. Thanks for the shout out. Feedback from readers tells me that the cover has definitely sold books. Speaking of which, that poster for Collin's book makes me want to read it. Especially since one of my side hobbies is astrophysics (yes, I'm a complete nerd).

  15. I agree! Cover art for eBooks is one of the most important factors. It has to catch the reader's eye, along with a great blurb.
    Your covers are great! Collin does a fantastic job on them.

  16. There are so many excellent covers that I would have liked to include, but the blog would have run on forever!

    Maybe I'll do an image blog of cover art....

  17. Collin's covers are great. I agree with you that cover art helps sell a book. Because although you "can't judge a book by it's cover" you can certainly want to buy one because of it.


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