Judging a Book by its Cover
Never judge a book by its cover. Well, yes, but... When you are flicking through Amazon’s many pages, what else is going to catch your eye? If you don’t know the author or the title, there is nothing else to go on. Would you ever investigate an unknown book that does not have a cover image displayed? In a high street bookstore, the cover is what tempts you to take the book off the shelf and look inside. The same applies online.
A book’s cover is important, and publishers do their very best to come up with something that will stop you just passing by and ignoring their book. They are not always good at this, but I sympathise. Finding a cover image that looks stunning all over the world is very difficult. It might surprise North Americans to hear that Europe thinks most of their covers suck. And I’m sure North Americans think European covers are too tame and boring.
Spare a thought for the poor publisher and his graphic designer. Real life is not easy.
One of my titles, How to make Wild, Passionate Love to your Man, is on sale in Australia and the US, but I cannot use the same cover for both places. Seems that Americans want fire but Aussies find that a little embarrassing. We prefer funny, and here are the two covers - guess which is which.
One thing we have to remember when designing the perfect cover is that it will be displayed online very small, as a thumbnail, until the potential reader makes her first click. Any extravagant artistic effect will be invisible and will probably just look a mess. The title itself will be unreadable unless it takes up half the page.
We just have to try our best. Here are a couple of covers from Gemma Parkes. Version one was sort of OK, but version two, with a splash of colour and the girl turned around, made all the difference.
On top of everything else, the censor has to have his input too. Of course, Americans have constitutional guarantees of freedom from censorship. Unfortunately, American corporations exist largely outside the constitution and companies like Amazon and PayPal decide what you can read, and what a book can carry on its cover. They are too busy making money by selling books to bother much about the contents, but they do care about covers. So - no pink bits, no matter how pretty they might be. And no muscular butt cracks either, I’m afraid. Look at this poor model :
Notice the difference? I bet she did, because after my distributor warned that Amazon has a strict no-nipple policy, I had to get my razor out and slice off her button. It brought tears to my eyes, and hers as well, I’m sure.
OK - I admit it. I am absolutely hopeless at guessing what people want to see on their book covers. That would not be so bad if I could rely on the professionals to tell me what works and what doesn’t, but sometimes I just have to shake my head. How about these covers, for the American ebook versions of two books and the Australian print versions? They couldn’t be more different, but which one would make you click and buy?
First, The Prince and the Nun, a historical romance.
And then Her Master’s Voice, an adventurous romance set in South-east Asia,
So next time you make a snap judgement and pick up a book because it has an interesting cover, spare a thought for the work that went into it. At least you picked the book up, so that worked as it should. Now let’s see what is inside the cover...
Jacqueline lives in Far North Queensland, on the shore of the Coral Sea. She keeps herself busy with her cats and garden, and by writing books - some of which are far too naughty for her own good. You can find out more about Jacqueline and her books at www.jacquelinegeorgewriter.com