Cover vs Content

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 While books, with bland, outdated graphics sit on the shelf.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.

About B.J. Scott

With a passion for history and romance, I always have several exciting works in progress. Each manuscript offers a blend of passion, adventure and where appropriate, a dab of comic relief. Carefully researched historical facts are woven into the storyline, providing a backdrop from which steamy romance, gripping plots and vivid characters—dashing alpha heroes and resourceful, beguiling heroines you can’t help but admire—spring to life. I also write contemporary, paranormal, time travel and romantic suspense. After several years in the nursing and child and youth work fields, I met and married my knight in shinning armor and he whisked me away to his castle by the sea. Actually, it is a century old home in a small town in SW Ontario, Canada, on the shore of Lake Erie, where we reside with our four dogs and a cat. While born in Canada, my ancestors were from Scotland, Ireland and England. Perhaps the reason for my fascination with anything Celtic. In the fourth grade, I discovered the work of C.S Lewis, and was hooked on books. While I dabbled in writing for many years, I began to pursue my writing dream in earnest when I completed the first book in my Fraser Brother Trilogy, Highland Legacy. Like all authors the road to publication was not smooth and there is always something new to learn. When I got my first contract, I was thrilled and grateful to my husband, family and friends for their support. One book spawned three and the Trilogy was born. Thanks to the readers. Without you there would be no need for authors or new books. When I am not writing, working at my childcare job or on my small business making had braided Celtic jewelry, Beaded book thongs and assorted other swag and gift idea, you will find me reading, camping or antique hunting. I am a PAN member of Romance Writers of America, World Romance Writers, Celtic Heart Romance Writers, Savvy Authors and several writer critique groups. I am also a proud member of the Clan Scott Society
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12 Responses to Cover vs Content

  1. kendrajames4 says:

    I agree totally. First impressions are paramount, and as authors our covers are are first opportunity to grab the reader.Then it is our job to hold them immersed in our words.

  2. Great post, BJ! I couldn’t agree more!

  3. revrosevan says:

    Interesting topic for today, since I just got the cover art for my book and have sent some suggestions and comments back to my editor. I am hoping that we can agree on something that will wow the audience and really reflect my characters and their story. Thanks for all your suggestions, BJ.

    • B.J. Scott says:

      It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of being published and we rush past the cover art, assuming the artist knows exactly what the cover should look like. Remember, they have not read your book and rely on info given to them by the editor. This is their work too so I am sure they want to present a cover that will bring them more business as well. Discussing it before the art is done, serves a writer better than waiting until it is completed. Even though it is not always possible. Good luck with your attempt to get the cover revisions, but keep in mind it is best done prior to the work being completed.

      • revrosevan says:

        I certainly understand that, BJ. And as I mentioned to the editor, I like the cover, and these are just suggestions. I’m not sure, though, what more I could’ve done to convey my images and visions during the creation process. But I will be content with whatever happens, because in my way of thinking, it all happens for a reason. 🙂

  4. Jamie Brazil says:

    Being on the same page with the cover artist is sometimes a challenge. Sometimes covers are dictated by by budget, or marketing research, or, or, or… yet I still like having covers designed for me vs. designing my own.

    • B.J. Scott says:

      I agree, Jamie that having my cover designed is far easier than doing our own. I also know budget and marketing research comes into play. Another reason it is so important to try and come to some agreement before the cover is finished. If your suggestions are not possible…fine. Comprimise is key on both ends. But a cover that does not catch the reader’s eye and sits on the shelf will not generate profit for the publisher or the writer. I am not saying a writer should have the final say. That is the editor’s call. But discussing it when the book is finished and before the art is done could help to give a clear picture of what the story is about.

  5. diannefarb says:

    Terrific topic for today’s post. I couldn’t agree more. When I browse a bookstore, the covers intice me to pick up the book and read the blurb. There are times when the cover just doesn’t match the blurb, and its disappointing.

    • B.J. Scott says:

      I agree. I found myself voting on a web site recently for covers in a contest. That is one of the things that sparked this topic. When I looked at which covers scored the highest it gave me pause for thought. Covers that were bland, outdated or had objects rather than people ended up at the bottom of my list. Granted that is just my opinion, but have found that the covers that win, usually appeal to readers on many levels.

  6. I will definitely keep this advice in mind when my next two titles are in cover art edits. Thanks.

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