The Importance of Being a Book Cover

Recently, while surfing LinkedIn (it’s Facebook for working professionals), I stumbled upon this article about 7 Book Marketing Predictions in 2015.

What caught my eye and inspired today’s industry thought of the day was this little gem: “The best way to sell a self-published book is to not make it look like it was self-published.” The quote above mentions self-published books, but this is applicable to every book. I know I briefly touched on my love of a beautiful book in a previous post, but today, let’s focus on the cover.

Did your mom ever tell you not to judge a book by its cover? Yeah? Well, that was bad advice. Hear me out. The book cover is HOW TO GET YOUR BOOK NOTICED. A good book cover should tell the reader something about the book but also intrigue them to pick it up in the first place. A bad cover can send the wrong message about your book.

Secret: publishers put more money into book covers than you think. Book not selling well? They will redesign the cover. On top of that fact, the books the publishers have designated will be the bestsellers (yes, the system is slightly rigged) get more money for better covers.

So, you ask, can we see some examples?

Below are two books: one cover I hate and one I like.

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I can see you scratching you head wondering which one I liked. The first one, The Beautiful Cursed, is the one I don’t like. It is a historical/fantasy book with gargoyles. When I first got the book, I was like, “Is this self published?” For a major publisher, I was thought it looked cheap. SHE IS FAINTING ON THE COVER. The second, Mothership, is a truly hilarious book. Think Juno meets Alien.

But here’s the deal: Motherhsip didn’t sell well. Librarians said the colors  and illustrated cover attracted younger readers. So it got a redesign. The Beautiful Cursed must have done moderately well, because the second book has a cover in a similar design. Both of these covers are, in my opinion, bad covers. One I just don’t like, and one that underserved the book.

But what about GOOD covers?

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There are many examples of good covers (most covers are fine, it is just the great and terrible ones you remember). Red Queen is a great cover. It recently published, but when you look at the cover (and I am talking look at it, i.e. feel it as well) you can tell the publisher wants this to do well. The cover tells you a bit about the story: princess, blood, meant to do well in the marketplace. The Mara Dyer books are the same.  The cover compels you to pick it up.

This has been an especially long post, so I am going to wrap this up.

A book cover is a selling tool. You are meant to judge the book by it. Sometimes the book is better than you expect. But sometimes the cover shows it’s not. Go forth and judge away!

Red Queen Review

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Warning***Minor Spoilers***

Title: Red Queen

Author: Victoria Aveyard

Publisher: HarperTEEN (HarperCollins)

Flap copy:

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.”

So let’s talk about Red Queen. This book had a lot of hype going for it. EpicReads was plugging it everywhere. The cover is gorgeous and has been burned in my brain since the summer. The positioning (Graceling meets The Selection) has been toying with my hope for weeks. And the book was good…BUT I think after all the hype, it just couldn’t be as good as I had built it up to be.

I will say Aveyard did a superb job in making me thing my initial instincts were wrong.  Mare’s relationships are developed in a natural fashion and it lulls you into thinking you were wrong, and then BAM! As the rug is metaphorically pulled out from under Mare, you are shown Aveyard’s brilliance.

I would amend the positioning to Graceling with dashes of Hunger Games and Game of Thrones spiced with The Selection. It is a bit more political and rebellion driven than the publishers’ positioning hence Games of Thrones. And the Hunger Games came through to me as an inversion of itself with the character of Kilorn, Mare’s best friend.

Would I have acquired this? Yes, I would have. It is a strong debut, and the author has a lot of potential.