Within seconds of a glancing at a cover, readers, consciously or unknowingly, decide whether they’ll pick up the book and read the back cover blurb or keep on walking (scrolling through Amazon, iTunes etc) until they stop at a book that’s shouting ‘look at me’ the loudest and are compelled to pick it up.
Most people do that.
I used to, too. Probably still do on occasion. But…
What some people don’t realise is, that as an author, (we’re talking traditional print publishers, here) you have very little control over your book’s cover – okay, most of the time, zero control – unless you’re James Patterson, Nora Roberts or God.
Except if you go down the self-publishing road, in which case the author has 100% control…YIPPEE! More about this later.
But back to print publishers and book covers.
When I first got a publishing contract with Allen & Unwin, way back when, for Lucy Springer Gets Even, I assumed I’d have major input into her cover. Naturally, Lucy would have a kick-ass cover, sell a trillion copies and I’d feel very pleased with myself.
A good cover tells you what the book is about without giving away the whole story. An exceptional cover compels you to pick the book up and begin reading…immediately.
I didn’t have a problem with the pink background but who the hell was the woman in the ill-fitting purple velour jacket?
This wasn’t my Lucy. My Lucy was feisty, fun and pretty (not that she was aware of it, though). And my Lucy was a red head. I didn’t want people having preconceived ideas about her, especially about the Lucy on this proposed cover. But by using a photo, that’s exactly what we are doing – encouraging potential readers to form ideas about my heroine in the blink of an eye.
In my mind, the cover for Lucy Springer was going to be a boppy illustration, along the lines of Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl. (It WAS 2009.)
But this one? I knew people would glance at the cover and make a snap decision. ‘I love her’, ‘I hate her’ ‘what the hell’s the story with her gruesome jacket and why is she looking so smug?’ etc and potential customers would be lost in seconds.
When Lucy appeared in bookshops, I’ll admit you couldn’t miss her – the pink was rather eye-catching, and besides, I was finally published. Yay!
With my next book, What Kate did Next, I was anxious when A & U told me they’d found the perfect designer and she’d created ‘the perfect cover for Kate.’ AND, when I saw the cover, I danced a very happy jig. I agreed with the decision one hundred percent. Others might hate Kate’s cover, but I was thrilled.
With my third, Claudia’s Big Break, A & U nailed it. I couldn’t have been happier. I think the cover captures the mood of the story perfectly. It’s light and fun and screams Santorini! The cover and the back cover blurb didn’t lie. They presented Claudia’s story perfectly.
Interestingly, that same year, 2011, Lucy Springer Gets Even won herself a new title, Lucy Bounces Back and a new cover. I loved it, but still the Lucy on the cover didn’t have red hair. Que será será.
These days, I look at book covers in a whole new light. For the record, covers I’m loving at the moment include Dr Seuss, The Cat In The Hat; Rainbow Rowell, Elenor & Park; H.G Wells, The Invisible Man; Max Lucado, Fearless; Pat Flynn, Let Go; and of course, Claudia’s Big Break!
This all brings me back to self-publishing, which is what I’m about to venture into.
To rise to the top of the To Be Read pile, I need to find a kick-ass cover, one that screams ‘I NEED TO BE READ RIGHT NOW!’ So for the foreseeable future – a week at least – I will be scouring the Globe for potential cover designs. It’s a pity I am a Libran and can’t make up my mind whether to write with a blue pen or a black one, let alone handle the daunting task of choosing a book cover and title.
I realise it’s all subjective but I’ll do the best I can to make sure my sixth book gets a look in by potential readers.
So, over to you. What are your favourite covers? How about turn offs?