Yes we all know this expression and maybe we like to think we don’t do it — but we do.
Book covers are big business in the art of selling and marketing books. This seems especially true for debut authors that to the reader are yet to be tried and tested. And marketeers know if you grab readers with the debut, and assuming they like the book, you are building the audience for future book sales. Most of us when buying a book look at the cover, the blurb, flick and read maybe part of the first page to try to assess the writing (remember the blurb is deliberately there as a sales pitch and the first page is usually always the most polished!) … but the cover does impact most on selling. Or why else does so much go into it?
Some research indicates that different types of people look for different things in a cover and there is a lot of discussion about making book covers suit genre and in doing so appeal to the audience for that genre. That seems obvious, doesn’t it. You expect lipsticks and hearts in chick lit — oh and pink, you expect black and Gothic and maybe blood for vampire and so on. Literary novels also look for a certain air about them, and this they’re thinking — how does it look when nominated for a literary prize?
Actually, even if you’re unaware of it, you probably know what kind of book it is by looking at the cover. And like genre writing (and let’s label literary as another genre) there are reader expectations being catered for in the cover as well as the writing.
What is interesting is the differences between countries and I know often US publishers will design a different cover for the same novel for the UK.
Also what’s interesting is how an author is ‘branded’ by the publisher. All Jodi Picoult novels for example look the same, photographs of children or parents, same font etc. With reprints there is some scope for ‘reinvention’ but it can’t deviate too much from genre or expectation or how else will the book sell? And that is what it’s really all about.
At Bridge House we are very proud of our covers and we are also lucky my dad and brother are professional artists and so is Gill’s son so they mostly contributed although we have used photographers as well. Does this impact on sales? Well hard to tell with a small press like ours, mostly because these collections tend to sell to family and friends of the featured authors and very few sell beyond that. They are not generally on book shelves in stores to be browsed and sold that way — as the big presses do. But I still like to think they look attractive on Amazon etc.
What’s been fun being sat Bridge House (and at Paws) is being allowed to design and think up designs we want for covers! When Laura Wilkinson had her novel published by us (she won our novel competition) she was clear what she wanted for the cover and had studied some of our covers. She wanted something photographic so we introduced her to the photographer Bexs Robertson and allowed her to directly liaise and I know she was happy with the final choice. In fact she had a few to choose from and made that final decision. This is unusual in the industry, but we’re a small press so we can do it. With big presses the decision is left to the people who know — as I say this is a big decision and once you’re branded — you’re kind of stuck with it.
Here’s Laura’s cover: see what you think? (By the way this is a great novel, so if you haven’t read it — I urge you to!)
Cover by Bexs Robertson, Fronwen Photography
Here are some others by BHP:
What about this?
And by my dad …
I know what I want the cover to be for While No One Was Watching my Kennedy novel, I see it in my head. But when it’s published (when not if I hope) then how much say I will have in the cover probably depends on who publishes it. We’ve featured some great covers In The Spotlight … what are your thoughts?
So when someone says “Don’t judge a book by its cover” — ask them how? Is it even possible?