Sunday, January 25, 2015

Judging a Book by Its Cover

So what type of cover attracts you?

I’ve had varied reactions at seeing the new cover of one of my upcoming books for the first time. A couple of times I went, “Hmmm.” Other times I thought, “Whaaaa?” And occasionally I’ve experienced a moment of pure cover elation. Cover love. Cover adoration.

When I fill out my cover suggestions for the art department and marketing team, I select two or three key scenes from the book and describe the characters’ clothing and the weather and the time of day. And then I hold my breath. Sometimes the resulting image is nothing like I imagined, and other times it’s even better.

Sometimes I buy a book just for the cover. Have you done that? What was it that caught your eye? Something about that cover made you reach for the book. Maybe something about the back cover lured you in. The price probably didn’t faze you. On the other hand, I’ve passed by some terrific stories because the covers turned me off. I can think of one in particular. I got the book in my stack of entries to judge for the RITA awards. I even put it off until the last, only to discover it was an incredible story that hooked me from the get go and never let up. I liked the author’s voice and style so much that I hunted her backlist and read as many as I could get my hands on. So what was it I didn’t like about that cover, you ask? It was a cartoon cover. I have never purchased a book with a cartoon cover—well except the others by that same author.

I think most of us have auto-buy authors – an author you buy simply because you know they’re going to deliver a story you will enjoy, no matter the subject or the cover. I have several of those. The cover is only the sprinkles on the icing on the cake, because the cake and the chocolate filling are the book, and I never pass up chocolate cake.

I’ve purchased books based on reviews – like movie reviews that draw me to see a movie. Not because the review was glowing, but because the synopsis told me the book was about a subject or character I knew I would like. I’ve bought books because someone recommended them to me. I have purchased a book because of an ad. That could have been because of the cover or the blurb. I’ve never bought one because of a quote on the front or because I saw the book trailer. I recently bought a book on the recommendation of a reviewer I trust and the comparison she made to an author I like. I loved loved loved the book.

I confess I’m an online shopper. Amazon has their suggestion feature that shows what they think you’d like based on your previous purchases, and they also send a recommendation newsletter if you subscribe. And you can subscribe to any number of newsletters by your favorite authors to be prepared for their new releases. There are Twitterers and reviewers to follow and Facebook groups. There are books recommended everywhere.

Covers are enticing. If it has a western or an Americana look, I’m a sucker. There was a day when many readers would buy any book with Fabio on the cover. I’m probably in the minority of romance readers who aren’t impressed by cover models. In fact, if I recognize the guy on the front, it’s a complete turnoff for me. He has become a model in my eyes, not the fantasy hero I want to meet and fall in love with. 

I guess that’s it – a recognizable face spoils the fantasy. I’m impressed by colors and textures, like hair and fabrics. Harlequin Historicals does some of the most beautiful covers around.

I also prefer cover people with heads. I don’t like to stare and stare, trying to figure out where the story peoples’ faces are. I’m a bigger fan of bare backs with laces falling away than of legs and high heels, but that’s probably my historical preferences coming out. I will always buy a cowboy or a cowboy hat. I read more on my Kindle than I ever did before, but I confess I do miss holding that book and gazing at the cover.


Have you ever bought a book just for the cover?

Do you buy books for the author’s name, no matter what the cover looks like?

What are your criteria for spending your cash on a new author’s book?

Have you ever bought a book because you’d met the author and liked him or her?

What are the top three elements that entice you to buy a book?