Sharisse Coulter – Why Book Covers are So Important

Why Book Covers are So Important

by Sharisse Coulter

What’s in a cover? We’ve all heard the adage: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But then, we’ve probably also been drawn to or veered away from a book based on its cover art. So where does that leave us? In a perfect world we wouldn’t need them—the text inside would be judged on its own merit, receive praise and recommendations in a fair manner, garner the right amount of marketing aimed at the ideal demographic. For those of us not living in a perfect world, we have to rely on readers finding new books and decipher what makes them choose one over another.

Typically, readers find new books in one of two ways: a friend’s recommendation or browsing a bookstore (online or in person). The former falls more into the “perfect world” solution and doesn’t require elaboration. The latter, however, warrants further investigation. In order to get to the bottom of why one cover may be more effective than another, it’s important to separate general guidelines from genre-specific ones.

Generally, a cover must look professional, featuring a high-resolution photo or image, not pixelated or grainy looking. The title and author should be easy to read and, ideally, the image or artwork will have some relationship to the text within. There are countless ways to work within these guidelines and it is so subjective that it’s impossible to give strict rules. Within each genre, however, there are certain norms that a cover should either work with or intentionally break away from in order to stand out.

A cover needs to captivate the interest of someone walking by the book in a store. It needs to pull their attention from an ad on a website or in a magazine. It must intrigue a reader from a thumbnail on a “people who bought this also bought …” list. So how does a cover do that? There are plenty of sites and books on graphic design and photography that can help you learn about color and composition, but it’s unnecessary for an author to understand them unless they are designing their own covers (which should only be the case if they’re already a professional designer).

A great cover will immediately communicate the tone of the story, be it dark, suspenseful, whimsical, or emotional. If you’re a reader looking for a YA fantasy book about werewolves, you will probably be drawn to dark covers with pictures of werewolves on them, for instance. Not everything is (or should be) that literal, but the cover should give clues to the contents within. If a cover is all bright colors and flowery writing but the book is about a twisted murder mystery, the reader is going to be pretty surprised, and probably not in a good way. But if the cover is genre-appropriate and well done, a book that may have gone unnoticed will catch the eye of a potential reader, beckoning them to read the blurb, the first page, and eventually buy the book. It’s the first impression that makes the difference between never getting read and convincing a reader to take a chance. A book will only be judged by anything other than its cover, if that reader is convinced to take a chance and pick it up.

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Genre – Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Rating – PG13

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