Earlier this year I attended a lecture on cover design. Much like everything else, cover design goes through a ‘trend’ period. Most genres have a somewhat standard cover design that you’ll find lots of variations of. Sometimes you’ll get a book with a cover that breaks the norm.
We can all admit it, there are bad covers out there. There are bestselling books with covers that make your eyes hurt. There are books that don’t sell all that well, or have average sales, with absolutely gorgeous covers. So, how much influence does the cover actually have on sales? If it’s an author with a backlog you’re familiar with, will you purchase their next book even if the cover isn’t stellar? Do you believe the cover accurately reflects the content?
For those of us who read eBooks, a cover might not play that big of a factor in our decisions. Personally, I’m more apt to read a book if I find the summary appealing anyway. That’s not to say my eye hasn’t been drawn to an attractive cover when I’m in the store, but I’m not about to buy solely based on that. I’ve more than once found myself looking at a cover, reading the summary, and wondering what the cover actually has to do with the book in question. If you’re buying from your Kindle, the cover is a small icon, and it’s the name of the book and the summary that will garner your attention normally. But maybe that’s just me.
One of the things that stuck out to me in the lecture, though, was the snickering at a cover for a historical romance novel. None of the other covers drew such harsh criticism or disdain, and I’m not going to lie, I was offended on behalf of romance readers/writers/cover designers. The other covers presented were minimal, similar looking, typical of their assigned genres. So what was it about the romance novel (one that was standard for similar titles)? The image was of a woman in historical dress, with fancy script, and if I recall correctly she had some skin showing. Despite what people like to say, one of the biggest markets out there is the romance market, and a typical cover for that market includes scantily dressed people. Most historical ones have a man or woman in the period clothing on the cover. They sell well. More than well, in actuality. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the covers are continuously designed in such a way because it’s been proven a decent amount of readers like them. That’s a tangent for another day, however.
The point of all this is, quite simply, to find out what influences you when you purchase books? When your publisher asks what the ‘ideal picture if you could have it’ would be? Would you buy a book with a bad cover? Do you prefer a minimal style? Can the style of a cover confuse you into thinking the book is a different genre than it is? That’s a lot of questions, I know. But just think about them.