Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cover Killers

Penny C. Sansevieri, in HuffPost Books lists “8 Mistakes That Will Absolutely Kill Your Book.”

Personally, I think covers can make or break a book. There have been plenty of times I’ve picked a book off the shelf in a store, looked at the cover and put the book back. The cover didn’t appeal to me and I didn’t even bother to turn it over to read the backcover.

Some folks think covers are not so important in the age of e-books. I think they are. I still look at the covers. (I also want more backcovers on e-books and an easy way to turn to them. I sometimes buy a book and don’t get around to reading it for weeks – I’d like to remind myself why I bought it.)

Here are Sansevieri’s eight questions she asked about the importance of book covers:
1. How long does the average consumer spend viewing a book cover before they decide to buy or not buy the book?
(The answer depends on whether you’re looking at a print book or an e-book.)

2. What are the biggest mistakes you see in book cover design?
(Are you looking for good, fast and cheap? You can’t have all three.)

3. Is it ever a good idea to put your picture on a book cover?
(Probably not, but maybe so.)

4. What do bookstore book buyers look for in a book cover?
(Yep, even bookstore book buyers look at the covers, but you might be surprised by exactly what attracts them most.)

5. What distinguishes a bestselling, brand-building book from one that practically guarantees your book will never sell?
(Too many things in this answer to list here, so zip over and read it.)

6. How did one of your self-published authors reach bestseller status (over 1,500,000 copies sold!) without being in a bookstore?
(An author’s book sold steadily for many years, then they redesigned the cover and it really took off.)

7. How can authors evaluate and know that their title and subtitle are clear, compelling and appropriate for their market?
(If your book will have both a title and a subtitle, then you need to know what the purpose of each is.)

8. How can I be sure I'm choosing the right cover design?
(Three things to do here and you, not your designer, will be doing most of the work.)

So, there you are. Eight questions. In the parenthises, I’ve listed a reason to go read each answer if you’re at the stage of creating your book cover. If that’s sometime in the future, the article is still worth reading and saving for when that day comes.

I know some of you have created your book covers already. What would you add to this list?


  1. Thanks for that. I'll pop over.

  2. Yes, forget that old adage about judging books. I have bought many a book off the shelf because the cover grabbed my attention. I found one of my favourite series of books that way. This may be wrong of me, but when it comes to ebooks, I'll often skip a book that has a bad cover design.

  3. Covers are the enticement. Without that, I might not explore further.

  4. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in sometimes judging a book by its cover.

  5. Are you sure you want to share this information with Diddy?

  6. I go for covers too, although I've been burned more than once by great cover and lousy story. :)
    As for my own, I think the whole process is a crystal ball thing, trying to figure out what will draw people in.

  7. I'm rarely disappointed if I like the cover. I now buy books on recommendation, but usually I still like the covers. I'm not sure that I can say why I like some covers & not others, but I devoured prisoner of war & war stories as a kid. My eyes went straight to those covers. Now I'm more eclectic.

  8. Covers catch my eye, but they are not why I buy a book. I actually read the blurbs and synopsis. I might even read the first page or two if I like the synopsis. Covers, not so important to me. I may be in the minority here.

    I can't add any questions, but I will dd something else. When Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City was in a bookstore looking at covers, I remember she said that putting the author's picture on the cover was a sure way to make it flop, and yet she had her picture on the cover of her book. I think it was a bad author picture.

  9. J.M., I do those things as well - read the back cover blurb, the opening, and sometimes a page at random, but I do check out the cover. Often, if the cover doesn't appeal to me, I won't go farther in investigating the book.

    Christopher, I don't believe Diddy reads Straight From Hel. If he does, he's too shy to leave a comment.

    Laura, it is hard to fit everyone, I agree. What I like, others may hate.

    Simon, I'm with you. My tastes in covers and books change with time.

  10. I won't read the back of a book if the cover doesn't compel me to pick it up in the first place. And I just hope my publisher has done well with creating my covers.

  11. I hope authors read these comments, Alex, so they'll know how important covers are.

  12. Hi Helen .. interesting you posted about this .. the Man Booker Prize has just been awarded this year - a British and Commonwealth literary prize .. but!!!:

    "CPI White Quill is tonight racing against the clock to print specially redesigned jackets for The Sense of an Ending, the winner of the 2011 Man Booker prize"

    I wouldn't have known but I was investigating Print on Demand publishers - and CPI Antony Rowe are the holding company here in Eastbourne ..

    Obviously the book cover didn't match up ... Julian Barnes is the author.

    Excellent post for everyone wanting to check ideas out .. cheers Hilary


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