The Importance of Book Covers
It’s happened several times to me, I admit: I skip over a book, probably a classic, just because the cover is boring. Years later I see another edition, this one with a much more interesting book cover. Usually, I then proceed to devour the book. Funny how book covers change our perception of what is inside.
A while ago I was reading a post on a Christian speculative fiction talking about a novel that was published by the secular market, but kept its messages, reportedly without compromising. Interesting in its own. As I read on, the premise hooked me.
Then I scrolled down a little further and saw the cover.
It featured a slinky model with a low neckline, heavily made-up eyes, and a skin tight shirt/dress. A graveyard and gargoyles made the background, though the review made it clear this novel was science fiction.
If I’d seen that book on the table in the book store, I’d have walked on by without a second glance. Slinky models and graveyards aren’t my thing. Slinky models and graveyards don’t even sound like that novel’s thing. Later on I even learned that this novel is from the male protagonist’s POV. I would never have guessed that either, judging from the female on the cover.
That’s the problem. We all know covers hook readers and are the first thing to draw them in. But covers do more than that. Covers deliver promises. This cover’s promise, suggesting a horror genre and, er, strong romance, was not fulfilled by the content.
Say I was a completely different person and liked horror. Say I saw this novel in a bookstore. Say I could see how the synopsis could be a horror novel. Say I bought it and took it home and read it. . . and found it to be completely different genre. Bingo, unhappy reader.
I can’t imagine what the publishing house was thinking.
I know, unless you are self-publishing, you may not have much to say about your novel’s cover. But if you do self-publish, or if you are just making a book cover for fun promotional purposes, keep in mind what your novel is about.
Things you should put on book covers:
~Main characters who look like the book says they should
This doesn’t just mean “Don’t use a blue-eyed model if your main character has brown eyes,” although that is certainly true. This means, “Don’t use a model in high heels if she spends her time on the run,” and “Don’t use a serious model glaring at the camera if your main character is happy-go-lucky.”
~Significant inanimate objects from the book
They key word here is significant. “The Mystery of the Hidden Staircase” (yes, that’s probably a Nancy Drew title) will probably feature a passageway or stairs on its cover. Unless it is integral to the plot, keep it off the cover, no matter how awesome.
If it’s set in a generation ship, by all means put stars in the background. Or metal halls. However, if the book is set in New York, countryside should probably me left off the cover. A background is also often used to set the mood of your book: dark, exciting, cheery, etc. The setting often determines the mood of your book as well, so the two may be one and the same.
If you are reading this post, may none of your books ever sport misleading book covers.