Book Sales: Does the Cover Matter?

by Sharon S. on April 1, 2011 · 20 comments

in Covers, Guest Blogger

by Sharon S., guest blogger

Authors ask this of fans all the time. Does the cover matter to you? I can say yes and no depending on where I am looking for a book.

When shopping in an actual book store, a great cover makes a BIG difference to me. I find a table top full of books. If the cover speaks to me I will pick it up and read the blurb on the back. If there is a clever title and the cover only whispers to me. I will pick it up. So I guess titles matter too. Her are some examples (keep in mind I love paranormal romance and dark urban fantasy)

For example:

I see this (Devil Without a Cause): OMG! Must read!

I see this (Distracting the Duchess): Not so much.

I also love these cartoon type of covers (No Rest for the Wiccan, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble, To Kill A Warlock):

BUT, if I am browsing online blog review sites (like this one) looking for something new, then the cover doesn’t matter at all. That’s right! This is where indie authors get a level playing field in the cover department.

Most review sites give the blurb right next to the cover of the book. Since I don’t have to make my lazy ass self pick the book up and turn it over (like I do in a store) I will read the blurb without worrying about the cover.

Here are some indie covers that if I saw them in a store I probably wouldn’t pick them up, but I found them online and I know for a fact they are both fantastic reads… Shades of Gray and Caressed by Moonlight.

Bottom line, in a bookstore your cover will give you a *big advantage* with me. Online, it doesn’t hurt, but I’m far less choosy.

There is a third scenario. If you are an author I already know and love then your cover could be a picture of doggie poo and I will still read it. I’m loyal like that <G>.

Are there times when a cover does or doesn’t matter to you?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Keira April 1, 2011 at 1:06 PM

I like the cover look for the Iron Fey Series (love the series too btw): The Iron King, Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen. I haven’t read Glimmerglass, but I like the cover of it too. It looks similar to Iron Fey without being Iron Fey.

For contemporary romance I like Harlequin’s single title take for Kristan Higgins. This one, which I just finished and loved, is super cute: My One and Only. Plus the red car and dog are both in the book… so it’s accurate! Hurray!

The front of Only Mr. Darcy Will Do is way too fussy, but and there’s no picture of it sorry to say, the back is super pretty. I like a lot of Sourcebooks covers for the Jane Austen sequels including: Mr. Darcy’s Secret, What Would Mr. Darcy Do?, and The Truth about Mr. Darcy.

I’m not usually a fan of cartoon covers, which just goes to show, never judge a book because I really really enjoyed How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf. It’s contemporary and paranormal and super hilarious. The back blurb and first line hint at action in the middle of the book, which based on other reviewers was a tad annoying, but I didn’t mind. I was too engrossed to worry about it. lol :)

I think the covers should reflect the books content. A dark novel shouldn’t be done in bright happy sunshine yellow… and a funny lighthearted novel shouldn’t depict a graveyard.

What about you? Do you find that the covers you like best reflect the book the most?

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2 Sharon S. April 1, 2011 at 1:50 PM

I hope the cover reflects what the book is about. I kind of depend on that while in a book store. With the cartoon ones I expect quirky. I love quirky, but if the cover is dark and dangerous I want to find that between the pages.

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3 Susan S. April 1, 2011 at 4:54 PM

Why in the world do you think I pre-ordered Kerrelyn Sparks Vampire Mine? O.k. yes, her writing. But the COVER. Oh…have you seen that cover? I can stare at it all day and never tire.

I do like cartoon covers. I have Stolen Dreams by Stacey Kennedy. HOT read by the way! Yet…adorable cover.

If I admire/adore an author, the cover doesn’t matter one bit to me. I love Nora Roberts; her covers? Eh…not so much.

No Rest for the Wiccan looks cute. Wonder how it is.

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4 Estella April 1, 2011 at 6:24 PM

I don’t pay much attention to the covers.

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5 Sharon S. April 1, 2011 at 7:23 PM

@Susan, I’ve read the all of Madelyn Alt’s Bewitching series. I love them. Great quirky characters and fun mysteries. They are what you call “cozy” mysteries. I would start with the first in the series though. There is a developing love story with Maggie and Marcus. Another series like it is The Abby and Ophelia series by Shirley Damsgaard which was a little darker, but still a cozy mystery. Worth the read if you like mysteries.

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6 JenM April 1, 2011 at 9:16 PM

A cover may get my attention, but I’d never buy a book solely based on that. The problem with covers is that I may ignore a book because the cover implies something different than what the book is about. For example, I never read highlander books and when I see a cover with a guy in a kilt, I just automatically ignore it. However, I just read a review of Devil’s Own by Veronica Wolff that features, yup, a half-naked highlander on the cover. Now that I’ve read the review I totally want to read it, whereas I never would have otherwise picked it up.

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7 Keira April 1, 2011 at 9:41 PM

Never say never when it comes to romance, someone will change your mind or you might change it yourself. lol :D I tend to avoid ones that look like romantic suspense, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

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8 Joleene Naylor April 1, 2011 at 10:36 PM

Great blog! I’m such a book cover geek, so the title alone had me pulled in ;-)

I’m not sure the cover makes any difference in my actual purchase except that it does draw the eye. I periodically go to smashwords and scroll through their newest releases and click on the ones with good covers and, I admit, I will often view the samples just to see who their cover artist was. (sad?) but I don’t read the samples any further unless the blurb hooked me.

The Devil Without a Cause is a nice one. The Duchess one is okay, but it’s very cluttered and hard to read the title, I think. HP Mallory has adorable covers, doesn’t she? She said on her site it’s stock art, but I’d like to know from where!

Ha ha! Yeah, I get mixed reviews on my cover all the time! One person will say “wow! I love it because it’s so different” and the next will say “eh, not so much”. I think that’s the way it is with about anything, though.

The drawn covers I dislike are the ones that are drawn badly; where it looks like a child drew it (and it’s not a child’s book, of course!) If I can draw better than it, then I am not impressed, and since my abilities are mediocre when compared to a professional graphic artist, that’s saying something ;)

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9 Carla F. April 2, 2011 at 7:04 AM

I find that if I am browsing in a either a bookstore or online, I use the covers to lead me to read the blurb. I actually get a little miffed when there is no cover art for a book when looking online.

Since I am the Regency type, I would definitely read the blurb for Distracting the Duchess. The Devil Without a Cause would drawn me in because of the great cover, but I would be skeptical that I would like it because I could tell it was a paranormal. Depending on the blurb I might read it, but not solely based on the cover. The Caressed by Moonlight cover annoys me, and it would have to be a great blurb for me to read it.

The cartoon ones scream “chick lit” to me. Some chick lit is enjoyable, and I really enjoy the humor that is associated with that genre, but sometimes the situations, behavior, and humor are “over the top” to me. If there was a listing of ten books with cartoon drawings and one that wasn’t I would go for the non-cartoon one almost every time.

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10 Sharon S. April 2, 2011 at 2:19 PM

@Carla- Caressed by Moonlight was a surprise to me. I reviewed the book recently and interviewed the author. I *loved it. It is regency/romance/paranormal/a little dark. The problem with indie authors is they don’t have the money of know how to get those slick covers, but don’t discount them! There are some real gems out there.

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11 Kathryn April 2, 2011 at 4:22 PM

I rely alot on the book cover to get my attention and also to help me get a mental picture of the characters when I read it. Don’t care if it is a cartoon drawing or something more realistic, it helps me picture in my mind what the characters look like. Guess I don’t have much of an imagination myself. I got hooked on an anime manga series called One Piece just because the cover appealed to me. That is the only draw back to reading on my kindle cause I can’t see the covers.

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12 Keira April 4, 2011 at 3:29 PM

Indie/small press book art is sometimes very laughable. I know that some truly hideous ones get called out on Katiebabs WTF or Not? posts. When they’re that bad, the back blurb had better be outstanding!

The covers that annoy me the most are probably ones done that look like video game characters, posed in the nude or not (but usually are nude), and filmed in bizarre positions that look like they’re uncomfortable. Yuck. lol

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13 Keira April 4, 2011 at 3:31 PM

Oh and I before I forget… Smart Bitches does something similar with caption that cover contests. They put forward some truly awful big press/small press covers. The ones they like the best tend to include extra hands and feet.

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14 Selerdor April 12, 2011 at 11:17 AM

I hate UF book covers, which alway feature the depiction of the main characters. ‘I’ like to imagine for myself what the they look like, and not some generic face that was picked from a photobucket or an artist’s rendering (even if painted or drawn well).

It doesn’t ruin my decision to read or not read a book per se, but some covers, like the older versions of Anita Blake, Nalini Singh, Gena Showalter, Christine Feehan, Lara Adrian, the Succubus series by R. Mead, are TERRIBLE. Unless someone I know hadn’t told me how fabulous some of these series are, I would have waited years to even bother to read, or not at all. A couple series that does it right is Simon Green’s Nightside covers, JD Robb’s which gives the reader an idea of that world without exposing too much. So many UF covers are WAY too busy and meaningless. Simple covers like the original JR Ward BDB and Anna Windsor’s Captive/Bound series are perfect, abstract but just enough to give the reader what they’re in store for. Others, like Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series, are dull. Romance covers with over-muscled males half naked just make me roll my eyes. On the flipside of bad covers but good story, there’s been a few covers that I really liked but didn’t deliver a good story within, so, there ya go.

So in the end, covers always matter because they’re the ad for the book, and to get me to read the blurb and maybe a first chapter. However, like that old adage goes: don’t judge any book by its cover.

Also, I don’t think a book being indie/small press book art is any excuse for crappy covers. If the author really cares and wants to entice readers, they’ll do what it takes to make the cover what it needs to be. Finish strong with a great cover, and show us, the readers, that from beginning to end, every step mattered.

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15 Sharon S. April 12, 2011 at 11:53 AM

I agree that UF covers can get to busy. UF covers have changed so much over the years. Lots of books published 5 or 10 years ago would look outdated today.

I like the headless man titty covers . I also appreciate humorous covers like “How To Flirt With A Naked Werewolf”. As long as the cover matches the tone of the book. There are some covers out there, especially in YA that are just flat out gorgeous.

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16 infinitieh April 23, 2011 at 1:38 AM

If a new-to-me author wants my attention, having a naked Paul Marron or Jed Hill on the cover will do it! Those boys do their job really, really well…

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17 Keira April 23, 2011 at 8:33 AM

Jed Hill… mmmmmm! Thanks for pointing out he was the model on Breaking Point. He certainly stands out among models (when he’s half naked anyway… lol) :D Yummy!

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18 Sandra Scholes May 9, 2011 at 2:17 PM

I suppose it depends…

If I go shopping for books in stores or malls, I tend to like looking at the nice covers on the front of romance novels; or novels of any genre really. But what I also do is look at the back cover blurb – that is what gets my attention! And that’s what it’s there for. It would be easy for anyone to look at a cover and base a buy on that alone, but is it right to do that now that there is so much choice available. It might be better to think about the ebook side of things where the novel or compilation of stories in a volume is of more interest than the cover. As most covers are photographs these days, it’s not easy to judge a book by its cover, so in this instance it is better to look at a synopis, review or back cover blurb.

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19 Keira May 9, 2011 at 7:18 PM

Some of those ebook covers are gawd awful. That is why they’re not print, so you canhidethem on your ereader. They look like plastic modeled video game characters and so fake. I much prefer the photo trend

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