Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Impact of a Book Cover - Carla Neggers

Thanks for inviting me to guest blog! We’re in sunny south Florida for a break from the Vermont snow and cold. Yesterday my mother, sister and I headed to the beautiful Borders at the Galleria Mall in Ft. Lauderdale for some beach reads. My romantic thriller BETRAYALS is due out today after being out of print for some time. It has a fabulous new cover, and I found myself talking to my sister about covers while Mother wandered off to the mystery/suspense section.

The cover is our first clue as readers as to what a book’s about. For me, the art for BETRAYALS is both suspenseful and romantic...the path and the gate invite the reader into the garden and the story itself. There are, however, other aspects of a cover that give books and authors “presence” on the shelves. As an author, I’m very aware of what they are. I wondered about my sister, an avid reader. So I dragged her through the store and showed her various mass market paperback covers.

First we looked at step-back covers. They’re more expensive for a publisher to produce, and many are gorgeous and/or high-impact. My sister nodded and said, “I never noticed.”

Is the impact, then, of a step-back cover more subliminal? Might we otherwise walk past that book in our rush through the store? Might a step-back tell us, on some level, this is an important author?

We moved on to author photos. Color or black-and-white? On the back cover or on the inside cover? What about color thumbnails of covers of upcoming books on the inside cover? Does any of that make a difference?

My sister looked at me and said, again, “I never noticed.”

We checked out embossing and foiling. I showed her the cover of a book by a debut thriller writer that has neither and put it next to the cover of a book by a major thriller writer that has both. She could easily see the difference, but she wasn’t sure it affected her book-buying. The debut author’s book -- the story itself -- intrigued her. But would she have picked it up if I hadn’t shown it to her?

Meanwhile, Mother emerged with a book in hand. Simple cover -- no step-back, no foil, some embossing, black-and-white author photo. She’d heard of the author but had never reader her and was attracted to “cat” in the title.

My sister grabbed a book by a major bestselling thriller writer. Oversize paperback. Step-back cover. Lots of foil and embossing, and a big color photo of the author on the back. An expensive cover with “presence.” But she was drawn to the author’s name -- she’s a fan who’s read most of his books and had missed this one when it was out in hardcover.

I grabbed several books by author friends, and off we went to the cash register.

Are you aware of what attracts you to a particular author, a particular book -- especially if it’s a new-to-you author or genre?

In other words, what can you tell about a book by its cover?

Have a great day, and thanks again!

Carla Neggers photograph - photo credit to Nina Subin


Helen said...

I tend to order my books on line from a catalogue that has a little bit about the story or from recomendations that I have read on blogs.
But if I am in a bookstore looking the cover gets my attention first then I read the blurb on the back and that is what makes me buy the book.

Have Fun

Estella said...

I don't pay much attention to book covers. I buy by author and recommendation by friends or online.

Unknown said...

I would say if a cover grabs my attention I will read the back. I have bought a lot of books that way when I am browsing at the bookstore