Judging a book by its cover

Novels are a collection of ideas and images and characters and philosophies and stories, all twisted up in a blender until all the bits come together into a coherent series of words that we recognize as a book.

These words then get wrapped up in their cover like a Christmas present, with shiny and colorful paper that includes the title and author.

Some books have fantastic covers, others… not so much.

booksAs a writer who’s currently editing In the Company of Outlaws, a novel that I plan to publish independently this summer, cover art is one of my biggest concerns. I know that my future book sales depend largely on whether or not my cover catches someone’s eye long enough for them to investigate it further.
It’s important for all authors, particularly those who self-publish, to go all out with their covers. I’ve seen far too many independently-published works that suffer from ridiculous artwork and atrocious typography. I’d like to think none of them were designed by children using MS Paint, but there are some that leave me wondering. (In fact, there’s an entire Tumblr site dedicated to Lousy Cover Art.)

For my own work, I commissioned a local artist, Liz Hermanson, for my cover. While I don’t have anything to show off yet, but based on the rough drafts she’s sent me, it’s going to be incredible.

Speaking to the power of cover design is the book Seraphina, a young adult novel written by Rachel Hartman. The book features a young woman who is a musician in a world where humans and dragons coexist.

I discovered Seraphina solely because of its cover art featuring a green dragon flying across a royal purple sky. It’s striking.

Over the course of a few weeks, the image of the novel’s cover (and the sequel, Shadow Scale) stuck with me. I shared the artwork with my own cover artist and she agreed that it was fantastic.

At the same time, as much as I love fantasy, I wasn’t sure I was ready for a young adult novel about dragons. That all changed when saw a display with Seraphina at my local Half Price Books last week (at our Indie Publishing Austin meetup, no less!). I had to take a look at the book that had captured my eye online… and I immediately bought it.

I just started reading it a couple of days ago, so this is not a review, but what I can say is that so far, it’s excellent, and I long for the weekend when I’ll have enough time to properly dive in.

The point I wanted to make was that as much as we’re cautioned against judging a book by its cover, in this case (and in many others), the cover was what drew me to the book and made me want to read it, in truth, to desire it. Sure, the general book marketing mattered. Without seeing the cover posted somewhere, I never would have known the book existed. But it was the cover that drew me in.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 3.04.08 AMWhat’s interesting is that the current cover was not the first one. For reference, I’ve included a screenshot from Amazon.com of four different covers the book has had since it was published. Seeing these, I’m pretty sure I would never have given the book a second thought when it bore the red cover with the woman and the dragon’s eye. That makes me grateful that someone at Ember/Random House repackaged the book.

I’d love to learn what books other people have bought solely (or mostly) based on cover art. Have you ever bought a book solely because of the cover… or despite it?

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