Bad cover? Forget reading the book

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Tables of books in stores are the ultimate proof that covers matter. If customers like what they see, they might even bother to read the description.

I like to showcase my favorite covers every Friday, but there’s more to it than good art. Some people believe that good designs conceal good books — or at least ones that are worth your time.

“If the cover seems to be nothing more than a catalog photograph with block lettering, I bypass it,” Naomi Blackburn, one of the top Goodreads reviewers, told The Huffington Post. “If the author didn’t care enough to dedicate time/effort to their cover, I wonder how much time they put into the book itself.”

Simply put, good covers sell books.

“In addition to promising what a book will deliver, the [cover] image also promises — or fails to promise — that the author is a professional, and that the book will honor the reader’s time,” said Smashwords founder Mark Coker.

Investing in an amazing cover can fool readers into thinking you acquired a publisher rather than self-published, which can negate the “it’s indie and crap” logic. A quality design can even interest retail merchandising managers, which can equal more sales. It also makes a book easier to market.

“The art shouldn’t fight the typography,” said Kris Miller, the designer for the Saima Agency. “A romance novel shouldn’t look like a thriller or visa versa.”

And strong, simple images “pop” best.

I gotta say — a beautiful, striking, or fun cover can make me interested in a book when I had no reason to be. So if you want people to take you seriously as a budding author, make sure you have the best picture to sell your many thousand words.

Did you ever find a beloved book by judging its cover first? Do you agree that a good cover usually means a good read?

5 thoughts on “Bad cover? Forget reading the book

  1. rtcvers

    I think a good cover, more than anything, indicates how highly the publishing house thinks of the book. If they like the book, if they think it’s a worthwhile investment, if they think it’s going to sell, they’re going to shell out some extra dough to the designers, they’re going to take their time finding a perfect fit, and they’re going to call in focus groups and survey groups to see if it fits the public’s idea of the book.
    So, in essence, a good cover will almost definitely tell you if it’s a good book or not, simply because of the amount of time, effort, and thought that went into the design in the first place.
    So….
    yes. :)

    1. Stephanie Carmichael

      That’s a really good point, actually.

      I think some smaller houses (or indie authors) may not have the funds to commission a great cover, but I think it’s incredibly important to do if you — or someone else, like your publisher, as you mentioned — have faith in the book. That way readers can feel more secure in a purchase. We base so much of our initial judgment of a book on whether we like a cover and what we think it’s trying to convey.

      1. rtcvers

        So true. For better or for worse, we live in a very visual world with a very visual mindset. Gone are the days of the olive-green fabric books covers with the title printed in gold lettering on the spine. It’s almost as though the entire story needs to be told in the cover. That’s another reason why the teaser copy on the back needs to be so spot on – that’s pretty much all a person will read to decide if they’re going to like the book or not.

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