Sunday, February 12, 2012

What is a cover's sole purpose?

by Aidana WillowRaven

I've noticed a disturbing trend among thumbnails and cover shots of more and more book covers seen on sites like amazon, or author websites and blogs. Ambivalence.

Due to some very successful books bearing abstract cover designs and minimalistic visuals or symbols, some authors and publishers think they can stick almost any abstract visual on a cover and think it's going to attract an audience.

A book cover has one job and one job only. Yet, that job is worth 70% of a book's marketability and sales strength so it's a HUGE job. It must attract readers.

For a book cover of any genre, there has to be a hint as to what the genre is or people won't bother to even read what it's about. This seems somewhat basic, I know, but you have about a full second, maybe less, to catch a reader of your genre's attention. Your cover has to tell them your book is their genre almost instantly. See the cover I did for One More Mystery, by Vivian Zabel? It's very minimalistic, but you know right away, between the title and the cover art, that this would interest a crime/suspense/mystery reader. If your more into high fantasy, you know right away this book isn't it.

But you say you have a blog to build readership or a killer blurb that will  draw them in convince them to spend their money? Well, guess what, no one will bother to read your blurb or your blog if you don't first get their attention. That is the job of your cover.

Now you ask, "But what about those best selling crime and horror novels that have abstract covers?" Duh, those books/authors already have a following and fan base. Stephen King could spit on a napkin, sign it, slap on his next book, and it would sell ... because he's Stephen King. 90% of all authors are not, nor will they ever be.

Try to remember that your cover may not need to be what most would consider a full illustration, but if you want abstract, make sure it relates in a way that doesn't require reading the book before anybody knows even what the genre is.

All covers need to be simple enough to help a reader decide what the book is about and complex enough to gain that reader's attention. Too much (another topic I should address in a post) is as bad as a cover that doesn't relate to the book.

It's important for authors, designers, and publishers to know that a cover will attract or detract from a book, and a book is judged by its cover. Ambivalence will not attract that 70% of all book buyers.

Art Director & VP of Operation


  1. This article is timely.

    Another thing everyone needs to realize is the cover is NOT supposed to show the whole story, not even all the characters, just a glimpse, a small idea to capture the attention of potential readers.

  2. Great post. I always remember the saying, 'a book is judged by its cover.' That pretty much sums it up - the cover is essential.