The old adage is “you don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but let’s face it. We all do it. If we didn’t, then cover art wouldn’t be such a big deal. The truth is, publishers know people judge books by their covers because like anything in retail, it’s “packaging”. The better adage is “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” Visual marketing is all about the blink instinct. You are either drawn to or repelled by things you encounter in life thanks to our fight or flight brain response. So in a bookstore (or on the web), you are drawn to certain covers. Why? Here’s a look at the elements of a cover and the “types” of covers out there.
1. Photo or illustration 2. Title of book (and font and size consideration. Caps? No caps?) 3. Author name and placement thereof. 4. Blurb or no blurb? Tagline or no tagline? 5. Colors – for fonts and background. Light, dark, bright?
Overall, the cover art must convey in an instant the “feel” of the book. The reader should have a good idea of the tone of the novel and the genre from this snapshot. Here’s a sampling of some of the cover art and what it conveys to me. Besides the romance genre, typically the cover art doesn’t show the face because you don’t want the reader necessarily believing that face is the hero or heroine. So you find a lot of beheaded cover models.
Chesties, Leggies & Backs. “Partial bods” can be found in any genre. Naked chests and backs are typically found in romance, nearly all sub-genres. Considerations: Level of dress or undress, type of clothing, face or no face? In women’s fiction, children often get center stage, or a child clinging at a woman’s side.
Illustration: To convey a light tone, humor, chick lit or a quirky or eccentric nature, illustration (for adult books) can be used.
Objectively Speaking: Stands to reason, if you’re not going to use a person, you’re going to use a “thing”, right? So our last category is the broadest, and can be the most creative. Sometimes the OBJECT is a direct tie-in to the book. Other times it’s more metaphorical. Or, hey, maybe the artist just thought it was pretty.
Discussion: What usually catches your eye in the bookstore? What was the last book you bought triggered by great cover art? Do you have a favorite cover of all time?