There is an old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover.” but in truth, a cover can make or break a book.
The first thing a prospective reader sees, aside from the title and author, is the cover. The cover can often determine if a person will pick up the book and examine it further or pass and not even give it a chance. It has been proven that striking covers that catch the attention and imagination of the reader help to sell books…especially in the romance genre. While books, with bland, outdated graphics sit on the shelf. I have no doubt that many a great novel has gone unheralded because of a cover that does not catch the reader’s attention or stimulate their senses in some way. Check out the winners of any cover contest and see which ones score the highest and wins the prize.
But it does not end with a kick-butt cover or serious drool material. It is equally important that the cover and the content of the book compliment each other. If the book is sensual or erotic in nature, the cover should tastefully reflect that, enticing the reader to buy the book and indulge their fantasy. If your book is a historical romance, the cover should be time period appropriate and carry the reader back to the era in which it takes place. If your book is a contemporary, the cover should be sharp, fresh and scream 21st century romance…buy me! A cover that was suitable in the 80s or 90s while it might be very nice, will not wash with the modern expectation of 2012. We are a society that rely on our sense of sight to choose many things in our lives and books are no exception.
Unfortunately, a writer does not alway have the final say in their cover. But you owe it to your readers and to yourself–after all the hard work you have put into your novel– to advocate for a cover that best depicts your book. Work with your editor and cover artist and let them know what your characters look like and how you envision the cover before it is designed. Ask to see the ideas and offer some of your own. If it is not what you want, try to negotiate for changes…within reason of course. Who knows better what your story is about than you? Hopefully editors will understand this, agree and support you in your quest for the perfect cover.
Personally, I am drawn to striking covers with clear vibrant pictures and characters that match those in the book. Because it is a romance, between two people, I prefer to see people on the cover as opposed to a building or objects. I often refer back to the cover while reading a book, so if the hero is handsome, well-built, and dark-haired, the heroine a fiery redhead, that is what I expect to see on the cover. Too often I have started reading and find the characters inside the book look nothing like those on the cover. The same goes for the story itself. The content should also match the cover. This might sound nit-picky, but people do notice these things and it does pull you out of the story. If the cover does not immediately catch the reader’s eye, they will not likely buy the book, no matter how wonderful it might be.
Great covers sell, so if you are writing a book or have finished one and are waiting for the cover art, speak with your editor about the cover and together try to come up with something that will wow the readers and make them want to buy your book.