Guest Post by The Great and Powerful Perry.
I judge books by their covers all the time.
Every time I’m looking for something new to read in a bookstore, I’ll be looking for either recognizable authors, books that have been recommended to me, or the cover art.
Recognizable authors come first. If a given author has already taken me on a wonderful journey, I’ll be more inclined to give them a blank check to try and repeat the experience. For them, their foot is already in the door to my mind and all they have to do is follow-up on the good impression they’ve already made.
By the same logic, if a friend recommends a book for me and I’ve enjoyed their selections before, I’m more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt.
For the rest of books out there, the cover art’s got to draw me. Not necessarily sell me, but draw me.
If I see a book with a fantastic cover and find out it’s a story about Peter the petulant possum pondering the philosophical philosophies of pineapples, I’m probably going to put that book back on the shelf and back away slowly. On the other hand, if the cover’s great and what little I see of the novel seems interesting enough, I’m pretty much sold.
This is the cover for Ashes of Candesce, by Karl Shroeder. I saw it in the bookstore and it immediately drew my attention. I was intrigued! Large open space, big sweeping staircases and trees! It struck me as a very elegant image and I wanted to know more about it. I wanted to meet the women languishing by the railing and find out what her story was. What little I found out about it only served to raise my level of interest to the point that I found the rest of the series.
All of that impulse decision-making (curse you impulse!) was made on the strength of the cover art.
If the cover had been a plain black field with just the title and the author, I likely would have passed right by it without a second thought and moved on with my life.
Book covers are important tools as they’re usually the first thing a reader sees. They serve to make that vital first impression on the behalf of the story within and it can be damned hard to draw in a reader with a cover that has no visual hook.
That’s not to say that cover art needs to be elegant and have a minimalist feel to it in order to be effective.
In this wonderful example, we have the cover to Split Infinity by Piers Anthony and indicative of the typical fantasy art at the time (the 80′s), it looks a little ridiculous.
But it’s an intriguing kind of ridiculous, isn’t it?
I mean, when I first met this book, I didn’t know that I wanted to read a story about a half naked man in a hat fencing a black unicorn with two white socks…but once I saw the picture, I was sold. I wanted to know more about this duel and the novel didn’t disappoint me.
Both of these covers follow two very different styles but they both accomplish the job of drawing the eye and getting a potential reader interested enough to at least pick up the book and take a look at it. After that, it’s up to the story to start carrying its own weight.
I kind of see the bookstore now the way I used to see toy stores when I was a little kid. It’s a complete sensory overload. It would have taken me years to play with every single toy in the store so my little brain was forced to compartmentalize, for its own sanity if nothing else.
In the same way, when I visit a bookstore, there’re far too many books for me to wrap my mind around so I don’t even try. I stick to known authors, recommended books, and anything past that needs to jump out from the shelf and grab my interest on its own.
All covers aren’t drawn the same, though.
I’ve found that what attracts me are covers that are fairly clean, with a clear and definable image.
Looking through the Sci-Fi/Fantasy shelves, I see a lot of cover art featuring huge expansive battles with spell-casting wizards on the left, leprechauns stabbing pixies on the right with a huge aerial dogfight between Imperial Star Destroyers and dragons overhead.
That just strikes me as far too much.
Show me something simple that’ll hook me; give me something clean!
So what kind of covers will convince you to pick up a book?