Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover!?

by Russell on May 25, 2012

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Sorry, I have to say it. BULL. Not these days, where everyone with a computer and a wild idea can put a book up for sale on Amazon, Smashwords, and other book sites still to come. Our book covers are incredibly important in this disposable, instant gratification, immediate reply required text message society. With 1,000’s of new books a day vying for your hard earned dollar, that cover has to grab the buyers attention, at least long enough to register in their multitasking, electronically wired brain.

If the cover is good enough our buyer has now, figuratively or literally, picked it off the shelf for a closer look. Ask any sales expert, they’ll tell you. Get the product in the buyers hand and you just took a major step toward a sale. That cover you thought you paid too much for just got the real or electronic hand to pick up your book. Now they flip it over and read the back, take in any extra images you’ve chosen to plant on the back. Hmmm, they say. Back to the cover, the thumb opens the book and reads the first page.

If you got that right, they got to the end of that all important page with questions in their mind. What’s next? Will the person you introduced survive to the end of page two? The hand goes to put the book back and hesitates. That cover is still in view. There’s something on it that makes the prospective purchaser hesitate. You sit, breath bated, waiting. The book drops into the cart and you punch air.

With all the changes to the book market a whole industry of ‘experts’ has sprung up to advise you, promising to make your book better. All vying for your money. Some prey on our hopes and dreams. Spend $1000’s with us and we’ll make your book irresistible to agents and readers. But … no guarantees. . I wonder if all of them are completely honest. Personally, I find it hard to take book advice from someone who’s never written a book.

What brought me to write this blog? I needed a book cover. My own design was pathetic. I’m a writer, not a designer. I chanced on  and thought, what the heck. I had to pay a project fee, but the rest of the money was refundable. I’m always good for a lash at something new. Hey, I gave up my normal life, hit the road and began writing. So I signed up and registered a project for my waiting-to-be-released book, ‘The Watchers’. Phew. I put in the required effort, proactively chased creatives (the inhouse name for the people offering their ideas) and commented on and marked every submission received.

It was a fourteen-day roller-coaster ride. Within two days I’d received artwork of such quality, from several different sources, that I went and ‘guaranteed’ the project. The final total, one-hundred-and-six submissions, from fifteen artists. I have so much good artwork to choose from I now face a difficult task. So I called in my two closest writer friends to be my mini-focus-group, and spent time in a large local bookstore looking at what the other books in my genre were doing. Come Saturday, we make the decision. Well, they advise, I make the decision.

I started out talking about how important that first image is, how we process a picture and form an opinion, in micro-seconds according to scientists. The human animal is a lot more complicated than our domestic friends, but I’d like to offer up the following true story to demonstrate how even animals react to images.

A couple of us purchased two standees, those full-sized cardboard stand-ups you see in picture theatres and the like. They were stored at Cindy’s house, a fellow writer, ‘til I could get to town. The first was of Sheldon, a character from ‘Big Bang Theory’. Cindy’s two small dogs hated Sheldon, barked and carried on like he was an intruder. Then I showed them my standee. The dogs went silent and hid behind Cindy. My standee? A Cyberman from the television show Dr. Who.

We were amazed. Two standees, both cardboard, both smell the same. Yet, the dogs knew the difference between a harmless computer nerd and a homicidal cyber-robot.

Think how much more complicated we humans are.

Don’t’ judge a book by it’s cover? Yeah, right.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cynthia May 27, 2012 at 8:23 am

How many seconds do we have to get a potential buyer’s attention with our cover? Okay, then we have to consider whether we are catching the eye of the market we want to catch. Are we conveying an accurate mood for the story? Coming up with the right cover is tough. I’m still not sure how I’ll do it the next go round.


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