Book Cover

We have all heard the saying ”Do not judge a book by its cover," but regardless of how true it may be in a perfect world, the truth is that most people use the front of a book as a main factor in not just whether they should purchase the book, but also if they will enjoy it as well. [1] It is just the way our brains work and we can not help it.

The point of a book cover is to create an interest in the book for the reader, it should create a feeling - a promise of the excitement that is inside of the book. That the cover would only be some kind of protective paper around the text, is no longer true. Today the cover is at least as important as the text regarding the success of a book. [2] Cat Yampbell brings up the impossibility of separating ”the substance of the text on the one hand from the physical form of its presentation on the other”. [2] The inside of a book becomes unimportant if the book cover does not reach out to the readers. In her study of trends in publication of youth books, Yampbell also mentions the term ”Grabability" [2] which is important to the marketing aspects of books. Grabability describes how the cover of a book, ranging from front, spine and back to size and design, affect and encourage consumers to pay attention to it. Yampbell says ”The book must visually leap off the shelf and “grab” the consumer’s attention so that the consumer will “grab” the book”. [2] It is simply the cover's responsibility to catch a consumer’s attention when they go through the shelves of a store or scrolls through books on Amazon. When a book is picked up by a consumer it is the cover that is backed up to sell the book's content. Just how we use book covers to judge a book, we use logos and a companies branding to judge them. A company does not pay thousands of pounds just for a logo, they pay for an outfacing representation of their company so that clients or costumers will be convinced that they are producing good quality work.

The book industry is very product-oriented, the biggest focus is placed on the product itself, the book, and not what the market wants. Authors around the world writes about whatever comes to mind, as readers are always eager to read and learn about new things. As Angus Philip says ”Novels provide an especially rich eld for book cover design. This is partly because fiction so dominates the marketplace.” [3] The market for fiction books is a very big competition and because of the competitive situation, the book cover is very important. The book cover has to communicate to readers quickly and efficiently that the book will bring them value. For example, it can communicate that the book has an exciting action, that the book brings a special feeling to the reader or that the book is popular and you should read it to show that you are trendy. Philips mentions that ”Once a book has been picked up by a potential purchaser, they are then five times more likely to buy it”. [4] This shows that when a reader is thinking about buying a book, when they pick up a book the cover plays a big roll in their decision. A good cover can then attract an impulse buyer that was not thinking about buying that particular book in the first place.

In recent years, marketing has been become very important in the book industry while increasing interest in good design. Many publishers spend more money on their marketing departments as they begin to realize the importance of a selling cover, maybe because studies show that when a book sells poorly it often depends the cover. A good example is Budge Wilson’s ”The Leaving and Other Stories”. The cover of the book shows a teenage girl looking over her shoulder in fear as a scary figure who carries a suitcase walks into the woods. Yampbell writes that: ”The cover misrepresents the collection and misleads potential readers. Teens interested in tales of terror and mystery may be drawn to the cover and subsequently be disappointed by the content. The book failed to reach readers of realistic fiction who were most likely its intended audience. (…) The inaccuracy of the cover may be why, in 2004, The Leaving is out of print, despite its excellence”. [2]

You may think that a famous author would not need to worry about the cover, because their style and content is already known. However that might not always be true. Earlier this year Terry Goodkind's published his book ”Shroud of eternity” which got a tremendous amount of critique because of its book cover. Terry chose to publish a survey where his readers got the opportunity to express their opinions on the cover and nearly 12,000 readers took part in the vote and some said they would never purchase a book from Terry ever again, simply because of the terrible book cover. However, the issue was not with Goodkind, it was his publisher, Tor Books. He had stated before publication that he was unhappy with the cover but that he was overruled. It seems like his publisher did not think the cover would matter that much, and that the book would sell anyway as Goodkind is already a very well known author. Terry says ”Sometimes that happens. it stings to see a publisher not always seem to care as much as we do.” [5] This just shows that the cover is just as important as the book itself. People expected a good cover for Goodkind’s book as they are indeed good books. But what is worse than an ugly book cover is one that does not reflect the content of the book, which annoys most readers but can have more serious consequences. Lisa Lau.E writes ”Authors routinely bemoan the covers of their books being less than representative, sometimes downright misleading, of the book’s content and of authorial intention” [6] A misleading cover has difficulty finding the right audience, which leads to reduced sales.

Despite the fact that we have found out that there is a good amount of people that is really passionate about a book’s cover, there is a good amount that is not. Blinddatewithabook.com [7] presents books to readers which may have been ignored initially because of a bad cover. They advertise books with small hints and send them in wrapped packages. The book you receive is at all times a mystery. From one of the reviews on their website ”One of my favorite things on the planet. Recently picked up 3 for myself in Sydney while on holiday, and got a few as presents. Have now found a new author to explore that I’d never have read if I'd not dived in.”. [8] This community shows that there is a market for people that does not care about the cover and only want a small amount of information about the book. They have found new authors and new books that they probably would never find if they were in a book shop themselves. This is a good way to give those books with a bad cover, a second chance.

When you buy a book what do you buy it for? You do not buy it to sit and look at the cover, you buy it to read it. The subject of the book is still the main reason you buy it. In a study on Thebooksmugglers.com [1] they asked readers how large of a role the cover plays in the decision to buy a book. The results shows that 47% of the participants said that the cover has a major role in their decision. In another study on the same website, they asked ”Can (or has) a cover ever be the SOLE driving factor in your decision to purchase a book?” [1] The results showed that 60% of readers said that they do not use the cover as a sole factor for purchasing the book. What we can take from this is that, even though the majority does not really care about the cover, there is still a good percentage that do. We are visual people and as mentioned above, these days the cover is just as important as the book.

Reagan Harvill writes ”Behind the exterior of a book, there is a pretty great story inside of it. Just like a person. Everyone has a different story in them. Each story in interpreted differently from other people. And each interpretation could be either positive or negative. But you wouldn't know until you found out yourself.” [9] She uses people as an example when explaining not to judge a book by its cover. Which I completely agree with. We should not judge a person because of its appearance, we never know what might be inside. But when it comes to books, it is a complete different story. We want to sell the product, reach out to its audience and to tell the truth, earn money. You can not compare an object or a product to a person, its two completely different things. A book get one chance, when released, the cover is there to stay. A person that goes to 5 different job interviews can change their clothes and appearance depending on what the job is asking for. A book can not please everyone, or change to whomever it will get in contact with, therefore making an overall good cover is so important.

I agree that we really should not judge a book by its cover. There is a lot of things in the world that I wish were in a certain way but, it just is not. We can not just close our eyes and turn our heads, we need to accept that fact that the cover matter and that it always will. If we did then we would lose the 47% of people that use the book as a major role in their decision to purchase a book. [1] As Terry Goodkind shows the cover of a book and leaving a lasting impression on the reader and if that is a bad impression it can be greatly harmful, not just to the book but the authors brand as a whole. [5] Producing effective book covers is something which can be done. There are a lot of designers out there, including myself, that are desperate to design amazing book covers and the industry should really take advantage of that. As much as the author loved writing his/her book, the designer will love finishing it off with an amazing cover that will sell well.

Good book covers are needed, they sell books and deciding to ignore this fact is ridiculous. All authors of books should have an interest in producing an interesting, relate to the book and attract readers. Having a bad cover is a great way to lose sales.