BRIDGET WHELAN writer

Muse, News and Views

Why you SHOULD judge a book by its cover

Self or indy publishing offers a of lot of possibilities to writers, but there are many pitfalls too. A recent article on The Huffington Post explores the depths that the writer-who-thinks-they-can-do-everything can fall into.  Have a look here at a slideshow of 10 lousy book covers. (Their words not mine.)

bad cover
But that begs the question if a book cover is that important to an emerging writer on a limited budget.
I think it is worth spending time, thought and money on the cover because it does an important marketing job – it entices a reader to pick it up, read the blurb…and maybe buy, borrow, read.
Would you pick up any of the Huffington 10 books if they were in your local bookshop? Would you walk to the till with one of them?
A bad cover not only screams amateur, it also suggests something which is a much more powerful turn off: that venturing any further may be a waste of time. And I don’t think the price makes a difference.
Ok, you may take a chance if it was really, really cheap or free, but no one wants to risk being bored by a tedious story or great story badly told and a bad book cover suggests that’s what you’re going to find.
Or, as Huffington contributor Nathan Shumate puts it

The writer-publisher with a stunningly bad book cover obviously has no one in his trusted circle who can turn a critical eye on prospective cover design and point out its deficiencies; it would be reasonable for us to assume, therefore, that said writer-publisher similarly has a blind spot in her regard for her own prose, and has no friends competent or willing to point out substandard storytelling.

So….reader beware.
I liked the cover of A GOOD CONFESSION. I was scared I wouldn’t but I was pleased that the designers came up with two characters that are close to the people who had lived in my head for five years and the picture caught the ambivalence of their relationship. But I have met a couple of readers who hated it, thought it was truly dreadful and didn’t mind saying so. (One had bought the hardback and was dismayed to discover that the picture below was not only on the dust jacket but also printed onto to the cover so he couldn’t hide it.) I suspect that those readers were more interested in the sub plots than the central theme and wanted less romance in the illustration and more of the dynamics of rural Ireland and the 1960s London building boom. Capturing all that would be a tough call…

Good Confession  jpeg One of my all time favourite book covers is Margaret Atwood’s ALIAS GRACE. It’s simple, dramatic and stands out on any bookshelf. It also gives a flavour of the compelling story within. alias graceHave you got a favourite book cover?
Ever bought an unknown book BECAUSE of the cover?

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2 comments on “Why you SHOULD judge a book by its cover

  1. cathum
    January 22, 2013

    Difficult to settle for one, but I do like Umberto Eco’s Baudolino. My copy is the version which parodies a medieval illustrated manuscript, with a gilded border, decorative script and a badly proportioned flat image of a knight on a horse. Very apt.

  2. bridget whelan
    January 24, 2013

    Just googled images of Eco’s Baudolino and it is fascinating to see how different designers have interpreted the brief. I agree that the manuscript one works well and I quite like the heavily cropped medieval painting in different forms, but was less impressive with the turkish edition where the almost-toytown knight on a charger is positioned in the centre in front of an out of focus backdrop in oranges and reds

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2013 by in Views and tagged , , , , , .
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