Ode to the Book Cover

Last week I had a little epiphany that made me just the teensiest bit less enthusiastic about e-books as the primary delivery method for books in the future.

I’d been reading The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin on my Kindle. Then Joyce did a guest post for me and in the course of putting up her post, I perused her website and blog, and looked up her books on Amazon.

When I saw her book covers, I realized that although I’d already been reading the book, I’d never actually seen the cover. Don’t know why, I just hadn’t.

And as I looked at her book cover, I realized that if I’d seen it before I ever started reading the book, I’d have had a better feel for the book right from the beginning. I would have understood something about the tone and the feel of the book. I’d have known what kind of book I was reading. I’d have context.

That book cover—that picture—may not have been worth about a thousand words, but close.

And it hit me once again in a whole new way that when we go to strictly digital books, we’re losing something. I won’t talk about all the things we’re losing and gaining (because I know it’s a trade off and I do love ebooks), but this one thing is enough to give me pause. Book covers are a whole art form unto themselves. There are people who are incredibly talented at this exact art form—creating a visual design that sets a tone and prepares a reader for the words within the cover. How sad to think that we may be moving to an era where far less effort will be expended on actual “cover design.”

It’s not just that we “judge a book by it’s cover”—it’s more than that. The cover design tells us at a glance information that it would take several minutes (or more) to get in words. It can do this on a subconscious level, too, helping us to instantly recognize books that are “for us” and reject the ones that aren’t.

I can only hope that with the iPad and other technologies that have the capacity to show a beautiful image with clarity and definition, that book covers won’t become a thing of the past but will simply be viewed in a new way. And I hope publishers continue to put a priority on quality cover design, because no matter whether it’s viewed on paper or digitally, I believe the cover of a book is an integral and important part of the whole reading experience.

Q4U: How important is a book cover in your buying or reading decision?

(c) 2010 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  3. Daisy Harris on July 29, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    >I LOVE e-books because they have freed me from the preconceptions of the book cover! I never, ever, ever would have started reading romance, or even urban fantasy, if I had had to buy those books in paper. I would have been embarrassed by the beefcake heroes and scantily clad heroines, and never discovered all the awesome, fun, fantastic writing going on in those fields.

    This winter I have 2 e-books coming out- both erotic paranormal romance and they will probably have covers I will be embarrassed to show my friends and family. But it's what's inside that counts!

  4. elaine @ peace for the journey on July 26, 2010 at 4:18 PM

    >Book cover is very important to me, especially if I'm going it alone in the bookstore… title, a close second. That being said, I'll take a reader recommendation over a good-looking book cover. That being said, reader taste is subjective, so both cover and opinion can be deceptive.


  5. Sharon A. Lavy on July 23, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    >E-books should include the cover on the first page.

  6. PD on July 22, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    >I'll definitely avoid books where the cover is obviously designed to market the book as chick lit, romance–whatever genres I don't read. Otherwise, I prefer flipping to a random page and reading a paragraph or two. (Why are blurbs so inaccurate these days?)

    I can only hope sellers take advantage of high resolution screens to display bigger covers. As someone who enjoys typography, I'm interested even in the ones that are just text.

  7. error7zero on July 22, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    >I preorder books from small presses. If the advance cover looks whack I wail like my ice cream cone got swiped, and try to get it improved before publication.

  8. Rachel on July 21, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    >I'm a book collector, so cover art is huge for me.

    The ability to see cover art is one reason that the Nook is my choice for an e-reader when I have the funds to buy one. With the Nook, you can still see the covers on your device, in their full color glory.

    As a historical writer, a good cover is very important to me. When done properly I can figure out the time period and even the general setting just by looking at the cover. If the cover art is lousy, has the wrong type of clothes, the wrong hairstyle, etc, it's usually a dead giveaway to me that the author hasn't done their research and didn't tell the art department it was important to get the cover right.

  9. Aamba on July 21, 2010 at 11:22 AM

    >I absolutely judge a book by its cover. It's pretty important to me. I get that sense and feel for a book that way. If the cover draws me in, then I turn it over to read the description and then I decide whether or not to buy it.

  10. June G on July 20, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    >I hope you're right and the art of the cover remains integral, but unfortunately, the world seems to be in a state of contraction in which less is more. We'll see.

  11. Lyndieb on July 20, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    >I agree with your post. There is the eerie feeling, isn't there, when the book as a second printing or the paperback is released with a different cover than the one you have grown to love. It makes the book seem like a distant relative or it draws you back in and makes you want to buy it all over.

    I have a strange relationship with my book covers. While I want my books to appear worn and used, it is not the same with the covers. I don;t want them damaged. So I remove them while I am reading the book and then put the pristine cover back on the book.

    Here is my prediction for our e-readers. The technology will continue to improve and soon they will be provide 4 colors and the covers will be available electronically, as well as illustrations. It is the thing that makes sense.

  12. Anonymous on July 20, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    >With E-books, along with the disappearing book covers, what happens to author book signings?

  13. Kathryn Magendie on July 20, 2010 at 6:41 AM

    >The book cover may draw my attention, as does the title, but it won't sell me the book. I look at the "whole package" – and sometimes, I just take a chance on a book.

    One of my "blurbs" on my book makes me smile because the author colleague tells men not to be fooled by the "pink cover" and the "girly" cover or whatever he says – because inside is universal to men and women. It's one of my favorite blurbs.

    Authors don't always have input, or very little, on the final decision of bookcovers. I've had mixed comment about mine – some love them, some think they don't fit, some just don't like them, some rave over them. *shrug* what can you do? 😀

  14. Anonymous on July 19, 2010 at 11:47 PM

    >Big deal–of course Amazon sells more cuz you can get real books @ Borders & Barnes & Noble. Ordering online will never replace the experience and feel of real books and an actual bookstore–for one, they don't have coffee shops!

  15. Anonymous on July 19, 2010 at 11:12 PM

    >I just heard on the nightly news that Amazon has announced that they are now selling more ebooks than paper books. Art hasn't gone away with internet..it won't expire with ebooks.

  16. Dineen A. Miller on July 19, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    >Honestly, I don't see that becoming an issue. The way technology is going, color is the new trend and the higher the resolution, the better. The iPhone 4 is testament to that. The resolution on that small screen is AMAZING! People want details so those book readers that don't support it now, will or they will die beneath the stampede of consumers reaching for the latest technology.

    As a designer who's had the pleasure of doing some bookcovers, I think they're vital to sales, whether print or online. They still have a place, and yes, they are an art form that speaks a subliminal language of its own. 🙂

  17. Susie www.susieshawsoulcare.com on July 19, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    >Honestly sometimes I'm stunned at how cheesy and behind the times some covers are… with all the talented graphic artists out there it absolutely takes me for a loop?

    BTW think Thomas Nelson has some great designs and some smaller houses.

  18. John Lord on July 19, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    >I'm into the art of the book cover a great deal. If we go to the digital books I expect the covers to go digital and add video, sound and become even more interesting. Catching the eye, the attention of the prospective reader is going to be a whole new ballgame, don't you think?

  19. Vicki on July 19, 2010 at 8:45 PM

    >When browsing at a bookstore, I often use the cover as a tool to decide if a book is Sci-Fi, Fantasy, or Urban-Fantasy/Paranormal. Sci-Fi books generally have space/planet scenes, aliens, or advanced technology on the cover. Fantasy (or 'high fantasy') books are a little more varied, but often have mythical creatures or people dressed in robes or overly elaborate clothes. Urban-Fantasy/Paranormal books often have street scenes and/or people dressed in 'normal' clothes with scared or brooding expressions. I usually know as soon as I examine the cover which of the three genres it falls under.

  20. nightwriter on July 19, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    >I recently bought STARDUST and A TRACE OF SMOKE based on the covers and, of course, positive reviews.
    Katheryn Haines' Rosie Winter series has wonderful covers (though the first one was a bit cartoonish) with excellent writing to match. I do love a good historical mystery…

  21. Brad Jaeger on July 19, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    >This is very loosely related, but since it's connected to e-books I'd just like to mention that Amazon just announced that Kindle e-books are outselling hardcovers by 143 to 1! And e-books sales have tripled since the start of 2010! Wow.

    Better get used to digital covers one way or the other 😉

  22. Rosslyn Elliott on July 19, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    >I'm in that happy pool of WordServe authors awaiting covers. But this will be my very first! I'm really looking forward to seeing how the TN artists imagine Fairer than Morning. I suspect that like Christa, I will find it much better than anything I could have imagined myself.

    Covers may be able to tell you what type of book you're about to read, but they can't tell you whether it's a good book. That's why I have a healthy skepticism about covers. I always open up a novel to check out the writing somewhere in the middle of the story before I take the plunge and buy it. Not being able to browse the middle is another current disadvantage of buying on Amazon.

  23. Rebecca Murray on July 19, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    >I never buy the e-book unless I've looked at the cover. And if I like the book, I print it off onto photo stock and aske the author to sign it.

    I am also an author- my first book will be released in a little over a week as an e-book. I have already gotten some bookmarks with the front and back covers printed on it (front and back, of course) for fans who ask for one and can provide me with proof they bought their copy. I'm not giving them to e-book pirates, sorry.

  24. Bernita on July 19, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    My ebook has a cover…
    A very good one, I think.

  25. Carrie Turansky on July 19, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    >I agree! The cover is very important to me. It does give us a taste and set the tone for the book. A good cover pulls me in. A bad cover design can turn me off.

    I don't have a Kindle or I-pad yet. Don't they show you the cover?


  26. wonderer on July 19, 2010 at 2:59 PM

    >For the vast majority of books, my process is:

    – get recommendation from somewhere
    – read blurb
    – read first few pages (for me, voice/style trumps plot)

    However, cover art fascinates me, and once in a while I go for a book just because of the cover. The last one was RED by Jordan Summers.

  27. Timothy Fish on July 19, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    >Something to consider is that in the digital world the book video may replace the book cover. Or there could be multiple covers aimed at a specific type of reader.

  28. Shannon Nicole Wells on July 19, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    >I think this is interesting and never comsidered losing something without a book cover. Honestly, as a person who is blind, I couldn't care less about the cover. 🙂 Just give me a good audio sample, or an ebook in html so I can actually read the thing, and I'm good.

  29. Reena Jacobs on July 19, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    >I totally judge a book by the cover. In fact, I've missed out on some awesome reads because of it. For example, I would never have picked up "Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins, "Mind Games" by Carolyn Crane, or "Shiver" by Maggie Stiefvater because the covers are rather in my mind. Only recommendations led me to them.

    On the other hand, I do wonder if cover art would degrade by going digital. I've noticed a lot of the paper covers presented today are very similar–cover art on bestselling author books. Some even go as far as using the exact same model(s) photo, but just changing the background or color scheme.

    As of now, I still receive the cover art with most downloaded books. It's nice to see the cover on my digital bookshelf. I'm always a bit disappointed when I see a book with just the title on the front and the generic plain blue background.

  30. Jeannie on July 19, 2010 at 1:55 PM

    >Very, very, very. Unless I already read a good review on the book, or the title indicates that it's actually a subject I'm interested in, the cover remains a major part of my decision. Ninety percent of the time, if the cover is a turn-off, I won't pick the book up.

  31. Erastes on July 19, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    >If I don't know the author and I haven't been recced the book – then the cover will ALWAYS be the main source of whether I click further to find out about it, or whether I take it off the shelf to read the back.

    I remember when I first discovered Lee Rowan, her book, Ransom, was on my Amazon page for Standish, under one of those "customers who liked Standish also bought Ransom" and I remember having seen the original cover which was vile and thinking "ew – why are people buying this with mine?" then I went to read an excerpt and found it was brilliant. So I would have missed that excellent book if I'd gone by the cover. They are vital – and covers that are so bad that you need to cover them up to read on the bus? How stupid is that?

  32. T. Anne on July 19, 2010 at 1:39 PM

    >I miss book covers with the Kindle. Looks like the ipad does a better job of producing a book cover. I will admit if I think the cover looks cheesy, no mater how well written the book is, I feel it's been downgraded to a B novel.

    Different novels require different cover treatments. The Sig Larson cover's fit his style of novel perfect. A hard boiled thriller might have a simple picture of a government building on the front. I expect those things. When I reference cheesy I mean those covers that look like they were chosen from clipart leftover from some stock photoshop that was popular in the nineties.

  33. Alaina on July 19, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    >I am both a visual and tactile person, so when I am browsing books those two elements definitely make a difference on whether I pick the book up off of the shelf and investigate it further. From there I'll read the description and flip through a few pages to see if it's something I really want to read. If that first impression isn't good then it's likely the book will never have a chance to prove its cover wrong.

    If it's an author I'm familiar with the cover doesn't make a difference, though I freely admit to critiquing them. Author reputation and excellent recommendations can and do trump bad cover designs.

    I'll also admit that it drives me crazy when there is something on the cover which does not match the story, like one I read where it is emphasized multiple times that the main character NEVER takes off his gloves yet there he is on the cover without them. Obviously it still annoys me since I first read it some months ago and still remember.

  34. Brad Jaeger on July 19, 2010 at 1:06 PM

    >As far as my shopping habits are concerned, if the author is an unknown and I have no further information about the novel, then the three most striking features to me are in this order:

    1. Jacket description
    2. Cover
    3. Any notable blurb

    Take a book like Stephen King's The Dome. I would have bought that regardless of the name on the front, just for the cover alone.

    I certainly hope that covers continue to be given the attention and detail that they deserve.

  35. petesmom on July 19, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    >I don't rely solely on the cover to make my reading decisions, but they certainly attract me when I'm in the bookstore/library! They do evoke "something" and when that "something" speaks to you, you MUST pick up the book. Then if the back cover verbiage attracts me, I buy/read it.

    I think they should be using at least one graphic in the ebook form – a front cover image, and/or an author image w/bio. I agree – the image is important. I have a small image "collection" of covers for books from the 18th & 20th century – the images and the stories behind them ("the Great Gatsby" for example, see: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://bigread08.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/the-great-gatsby2.jpg&imgrefurl=http://bigread08.wordpress.com/2008/10/15/the-art-of-the-great-gatsby/&h=500&w=351&sz=252&tbnid=Al3tUnIEd7PruM:&tbnh=268&tbnw=188&prev=/images%3Fq%3DGreat%2BGatsby%2Bbook%2Bcover&hl=en&usg=__zbXNYibSSW0Jrx3iGnjcXR7knGI=&sa=X&ei=EpJETJLkFMPpnQfApMDqDQ&ved=0CBsQ9QEwAA ) are always interesting and sometimes, truly amazing!

  36. Terri Tiffany on July 19, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    >Very. When I owned my bookstore, quite often I selecte the books by their covers–unless I knew it would sell by the blurb. Covers sell.

  37. Teenage Bride on July 19, 2010 at 12:15 PM

    >I never choose a book based solely on the cover, however I do appreciate a great cover. Cover art is always something I try to refer to when I am reading. I like to try and figure out why a cover was designed in the way that it was. I think it adds a whole new element to the story.

  38. wizardofwords on July 19, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    >A book cover is not that important to me as I primarily read non-fiction (which is what I write.)

    It's generally the author or the subject matter that encourage me to buy any given title.

  39. Ginger Merante on July 19, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    >I am a COVER WHORE! I only read the books summary if the cover has enticed me to pick it up in the first place. I recently choser books off of Amazon based soley on their covers, never reading the details in an effort to break out of the genre I found myself stuck in.

  40. Susan Meissner on July 19, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    >Totally agree we shouldn't judge a book's content by its cover 'cause a book lacking a cover could still be the most eloquent thing ever written. But covers are definitely part of the judicial process of buying. That's why we even bother to have them.

  41. Joyce Magnin on July 19, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    >Yes, Nicole, it is extremely frustrating when a cover doesn't match or represent the story very well. It can even ruin the story.

  42. layinda on July 19, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    >You can't tell a book by its cover, but everybody does. Publishers will only be shooting themselves in the foot if they try to eliminate them.

    I don't have a Kindle, but I do have the Kindle for Mac downloaded to my computer, and even the little covers on the Home Page help me to tell which title is which at a glance.

    I think that as long as the demand is there, publishers will supply it. It's like packaging – if it looks nice, consumers will buy it. because it boils down to $$$.

  43. EricaVetsch on July 19, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    >I'm always interested in book covers.

    The current trend I really don't like–though I must be in the minority, because these covers are everywhere in the CBA–is what I call the Marie Antoinette cover.

    I would rather the publisher not put a person on the cover if they're just going to cut off her head.

    But, as I said, I must be in the minority, because so many of these style covers exist.

  44. mary bailey on July 19, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    >Great conversation here. I've never really thought about it until now. I don't think I tend to judge a book by its cover. I rarely go into to a bookstore and scan covers. I do a lot of book research and read about books on blogs and in catalogs and reviews first and it is the written word that sparks my interest. However, I do love a striking cover.

  45. Robert Michael on July 19, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    >Covers, shmovers! I judge a book by its spine…And its typeface.

    Seriously, I think it is common to judge whether a book is worthy by how "worthy" the cover appears. Sad, but some very fine books have very plain covers.

  46. Emma @ Divorced Before 30 on July 19, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    >I definitely judge a book by its cover, unless I already KNOW that I want to read it. I do the same thing with wine. It's silly, but I think it's natural. We all have our own sense of aesthetics. I wonder whether people who like the same types of art tend to like the same types of books?

  47. HL on July 19, 2010 at 10:32 AM

    >It's absolutely important and, at times, excessively frustrating.

    I work in a public library and buy children's chapter books and there are books that I've purchased with great reviews that I know will never circulate–because of lousy covers. But the little insipid chapter books fly off the shelf because they have better covers.

    We're seeing new covers on classics and that is helping breathe life back into the collections, which is nice.

    We're all magpies, lured by the shiny…

  48. Tere Kirkland on July 19, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    >What I love about my nook is that is shows the covers in beautiful color on the touch-screen. I tend to browse online for new books on my pc and add potential books to my wishlist, so covers are just as important to my decision to ad to the wishlist as the blurb.

    Also, I see a lot of intriguing and memorable covers on book blogs, which also help sway me.

    Here's hoping more e-readers will incorporate a view/touch screen like the nook has.

  49. Nicole on July 19, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    >Critical. First look. Yeah, incredibly important. And when they're wrong for the book: it's a shame.

  50. Joyce Magnin on July 19, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    >Rachelle, thanks for reading Agnes. I am thrilled with my book covers. The artists really captured the tone and sensibility of Bright's Pond. Book covers are so much more than pretty pictures. They are a metaphor for the story which I think readers get in some, subliminal or sub conscious and even quite conscious way. A good cover is portal to a good story. Let me know what you think of Agnes.

  51. LJ on July 19, 2010 at 10:13 AM

    >I have the same issue. I'm usually drawn to books based on the cover as I feel like it is usually a pretty good gauge of the content and whether or not I'll like the material. I have a Kindle mainly based on not having any room left in my bookcase, but there's something about holding a book and the packaging which I don't think can ever be fully replicated by an eReader.

  52. Jill Domschot aka Arabella on July 19, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    >I've felt the same loss with e-books. Book covers are important indicators of style and tone (let's just hope the publishers get it right!) On the other hand, I love my e-reader. It allows me to buy books I would either have to drive 80 mi to the big city to buy, or would have to order over the internet and wait a week (or two or three) to get in the mail. I really want the best of both worlds, I think. I want hard copy books and e-books!

  53. JRMann on July 19, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    >For me, the book cover is what makes me pick up the book. Generally, if I'm in a bookstore and the book cover is what I see first, that's what I base my decision to look at the book on. Not the author, or the title, though both have good weight in my decision, but the book cover.

    I will be very sad if the industry switches to all e-books and the wonderful book covers don't go with them, because I think it will be harder for me to pick out books I know I'm going to love.

    75% of the books I pick by their covers go on to be some of my favorites, the cover just gives me that feeling, and I would miss it terribly if it were gone.

  54. Kellye Parish on July 19, 2010 at 10:00 AM

    >I definitely judge books by their cover, no doubt about it. I think one of the things that influences me in that regard is the fact that I was a visual artist before I was a writer, so powerful images are just as alluring to me as powerful prose is.

    I have stumbled across several amazing books in various genres I don't typically read based on the draw power of their covers alone. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Water Witches by Chris Bohjalian, and The Beach by Alex Garland all come to mind.

  55. christa on July 19, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    >I first form an impression of a person by his/her "cover," and it's only after talking to and coming to know more about that person that I come to a better understanding of (or sometimes confusion by!) their appearance.

    So I'm not all that surprised that covers first attract me. In fact, I may not even pay attention to the title until after the book's in my hand.

    The first Christian fiction I read was Tiger Lillie by Lisa Samson because I loved the cover art.

    I experienced high anxiety waiting to see the cover for Walking on Broken Glass. When I opened that email, I held my breath. It was not at all what Id imagined. It was so much better, and I am in awe of Emily Keafer, its designer.

  56. Marybeth on July 19, 2010 at 9:50 AM

    >Rachelle, this made me think of my husband's obsession with finding the album cover art for every single song he puts on his iPod. He will go and search for it if it doesn't automatically come with it. He's very proud of this– that all of the album covers are included. How do I know? He frequently points it out to me. 🙂 Perhaps there will be those of us who– in the future– have to do the same with our books. I sure hope not because I, like you, think of covers as art and don't want to see them lost. I do judge books by their covers.

  57. Mark Young on July 19, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    >Book covers are part of the package. If I'm looking at an unknown author, a lackluster cover is one of the considerations that might make me put it down. As a recent convert to ebooks, I believe the covers, like print, will become more important as technology advances. In the mean time, though, ebooks sell because of versatility, price and immediate availability.

  58. MoDrake on July 19, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    >I have an eReader AND I judge a book by it's cover. I bought a Nook specifically because it gives the ability to browse by cover on the touchpad. I also have an iPad but I don't use it for books because it doesn't have e-ink capabilities. I get a headache from reading a computer for too long as most people do. It makes me wonder how long (or how often) people who use iPads as eReaders read.

    Everyone knows you judge a book by it's cover. I want to know if you can judge a Reader by their eReader!

  59. Melody on July 19, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    >Book covers are extremely important to me. Sometimes I feel rather awful about this; judging the book by its cover and all that. But really – the cover tells me about the book and whether or not it's for me. I rely a lot on it.

  60. steeleweed on July 19, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    >I seem to be in the minority here, but the cover art is not what draws me to a book. If I'm just browsing (instead of looking for specific books or authors), the trigger to pick up a book is a title that is either clever or seems interesting. When I pick up a book, I start reading. If I go beyond the first paragraph or two, the author has a guaranteed sale. I may skim through other pages just to get a better feel for the writer's style and voice. The last think I do is read the flaps for the bio and synopsis.

  61. Beth Sorensen on July 19, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    >Most of the covers are available on Kindle but are at the back of the book. This means you don't see it until after you've read it. It doesn't make sense. I wonder if there is a way to fix or change this. Food for thought…

  62. Beth on July 19, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    >I was discussing Kindles with a friend who owns one, and she said it's hard for her to recognize books that she's read, because she never sees the cover, just black print on a white page.

    On the same note, a girl saw the book I was carrying yesterday (The Hobbit) and said, "I saw the print on the cover and knew you were reading Tolkien."

    So owning a Kindle is tempting, but so far I'm resisting. I'd miss the colors and textures of a "real" book.

  63. MJR on July 19, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    >I definitely buy books because of covers. I bought THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER in a bookstore because I liked the ocver. I can usually tell by the cover if it's the kind of book I might like. It's not enough to see a thumbnail picture in the e-store.

  64. Daniel F. Case on July 19, 2010 at 8:30 AM

    >I recently read a book on my Kindle for iPhone that shocked me by not having a cover. The book was available in print, and I'd seen the cover when ordering it, but the actual e-book was totally sans cover (other than a tiny thumbnail of it in the directory)

    I loved the book ("Wednesday Wars" by Gary D. Schmidt), but not having a cover to look at, I felt like I'd been robbed.

    As e-readers evolve, I believe covers will still be an art form. There are new screens now under development that will marry the advantages of e-ink (Kindle screen) and advanced LED/LCD screens (iPad/smartphones) allowing both efficient text in full sunlight and full-motion video. Imagine an e-book with animated cover art and an interview with the author at the end. The possibilities are endless!


  65. BK on July 19, 2010 at 8:24 AM

    >Book covers are very critical to my choices of books. Two of the last three books I read were because they had such intriguing covers.

    I use a quick glance at covers to weed out tons of books. But I have yet to graduate to being an e-books reader.

  66. Anonymous on July 19, 2010 at 8:24 AM

    >Rachelle, what's with the forecast that e-books are going to be the sole format? I think that's silly, and I'm wondering how much of this is a "everyone is predicting this, arghh, so we'd better hurry up and get rid of paper books!" scenario. In other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I'd like to know why people think paper books need to go away, like that crazy university president who emptied the library and replaced it with e-books. Why? Why was that necessary?

    There's no reason why e-books and paper can't coexist, so why such doom-and-gloom predictions?

  67. Deborah Vogts on July 19, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    >Unless I know an author or am looking for a specific book, what draws me to a book is the cover or title. If those two things don't catch my attention, I'll walk on by.

    I'm looking forward to what Zondervan has in store for my third book – Blades of Autumn. So far, I' ve been very pleased with the covers for the Seasons of the Tallgrass series. Great post, Rachelle. 😉

  68. lynnrush on July 19, 2010 at 8:22 AM

    >I have a nook, and we can view the books by their book covers.

    When browsing, we can see them, too. It's pretty cool, actually. But I can see your point. I love book covers.

    You're right, they don't make or break the deal, but they sure can be telling in some situations and would be nice to see for sure.

    Great post.

  69. Katie Ganshert on July 19, 2010 at 8:04 AM

    >I'm obsessed with book covers! Obsessed. Sometimes I'll go into a bookstore just so I can look at them. This may sound odd…but one of the things I'm most excited for when it comes to getting published is seeing what sort of cover the publisher gives my work.

  70. Sarahsalt on July 19, 2010 at 7:55 AM

    >Book covers and wine labels influence me HUGELY when deciding on a purchase. I used to try to be "above" the look of the thing and only consider the content, but I really like to look at pretty and interesting images almost as much as I like to drink good wine and read lovely words.

  71. Susan Bourgeois on July 19, 2010 at 7:48 AM

    >I read every area on a book cover. I think it's important for a cover to have the ability to grab a person's interest. Before I purchase a book, I make sure to read every subtitle or blurb available. I don't wish to spend money or time with a book without having a clear idea of what is between the pages of the front and back covers. To me, the cover represents a major form of anticipation and excitement surrounding the book.

  72. Adam Heine on July 19, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    >Eerie. I spent today thinking about a paperless future too. Although I'm kicking myself for forgetting about book covers.

    In truth, though, I think there will always be book covers. The B&W Kindles are only first generation technology. I'm pretty sure in the future, pictures and color will be the norm.

  73. Laurinda on July 19, 2010 at 7:40 AM

    >I agree that it sets the tone & stirs emotion. I appreciate a good cover.

    I went to pick up a copy of Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" and bought the more expensive copy because the cover invoked the emotion I remembered from reading the book in high school.

  74. Kurt on July 19, 2010 at 7:14 AM

    >I buy 90% of my books online, so the cover makes no difference. Amazon's "look inside" feature with an interesting first 5 pages is more important.

  75. mbeougher on July 19, 2010 at 7:08 AM

    >Book covers are important. More than one of my favorite books became that because I liked the cover and picked it up off the shelf.

    I don't think book covers will go away completely. Perhaps the digital "era" could introduce a new aspect to book covers. Introduce a flash aspect to it. Elements on the covers could move when selected for a closer look. I think it could be interesting.

    Not sure about the Kindle, but on the Nook when you search you can opt to see the book cover, so I don't see them going away any time soon.

  76. Mary Anne Graham on July 19, 2010 at 6:53 AM

    >A cover won't convince me to buy nor will it persuade me not to buy. However, it can – and often does- catch my eye enough to make me pick up a book off the real or digital shelf.

    I think a cover will remain an important marketing tool for paper or digital books. And I think it's important to keep the graphic artist in the marketing mix. My hubby does my covers and he's always trying to teach me the the power of simplicity.

    I'm not a visual person so I don't really "get" it until I see it, but then it's generally perfect.

    So to me, covers are mostly about marketing and grabbing the buyer's attention so that they pick up the book. I don't think they have to convey the plot of the book to do that beyond a simple visual image that the flap copy or product description will reinforce.

  77. Jessica Nelson on July 19, 2010 at 6:44 AM

    >The cover and title are what catch my attention first. Back in the pre-writing days if a cover had a hokey looking person on it (you know, when they don't look quite real and are even somehow off in their features) then I'd pass on the book just because the cover annoyed me.
    I don't do that now, but still, maybe other readers do?
    Great post!

  78. Krista Phillips on July 19, 2010 at 6:31 AM

    >I think they are VERY important! Unless I already know about a book by word of mouth, it's the main thing that draws me toward a book.

    I went to the bookstore yesterday, knowing I wanted to buy a few books, but with nothing really in mind to get.

    The first thing my eyes scanned PAST were Amish books because they aren't my fav. Then, I tried skimming over historicals because I've really wanted to read more in my genre (contemp romance), but they dominated the shelves as much if not more than the Amish ones. Most of the contemporaries you could tell either by cover or author that they probably were women's fiction.

    So, I settled with 2 historicals (both with GREAT covers) and one Contemporary romance:-) I don't read back cover copy usually… it gives away TOO Much of the book many times and I like to be surprised.

  79. Lisa Jordan on July 19, 2010 at 6:19 AM

    >Book covers account for at least 50% of my buying decision. If they have people on the front, they give me a feel for the characters. And like Rachelle said, they help set the tone for the book.

  80. Adam on July 19, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    >Covers can become an icon for our memory. They can become a shorthand reminder for an entire book. No one can remember every event in a book they love, but for better or worse, as already-read books sit on shelves, we relate to them through their covers. It is always a little disconcerting to seek out a book at a library, one that I have read and loved before, only to find a different cover. I know it is the same book, but I still pause. I don't think I am alone in this.

    One thing digital readers don't consider much is this mental shorthand. I can stand if front of all my books and in an instant, simply feel all the books, the different sizes, widths, hard or soft cover, and organization. I think that digital readers are good in many ways, but there are several ways that they fail to consider human behavior. And I mean this in a much more nuanced way than, "Some people still prefer to read off paper."

    Thanks for all the thought provocation.


  81. Katy McKenna on July 19, 2010 at 6:13 AM

    >I love it that the iPad lets me retain the book covers of choices I've downloaded. I have never actually seen a Kindle in person (I know, weird), but when you download titles from Amazon, don't you at least see the book cover on Amazon at that point?

    I do wish authors had more sway and say as far as covers go. Many book cover artists do a tremendous job of capturing the tone and flavor of the book, right down to the correct eye color for the main character, but there are also the stories of the author's/agent's concerns with the cover being largely dismissed. I don't see how THAT can be good for the book, ultimately.

    To me, covers are extremely important. Only a few have made me buy a book all by themselves, but it has happened. And I hope it happens again! Power to the Cover!!

  82. Emily White on July 19, 2010 at 5:50 AM

    >The cover is extremely important to me. If I'm just perusing the bookshelf, looking for a book by an author I've never heard of before, I'll only be persuaded to pick up the book if the cover appeals to me.

  83. Timothy Fish on July 19, 2010 at 5:36 AM

    >I’ve purchased some books primarily because of the cover, but on the other hand, some covers do as much harm as they do good. When I look at a lot of Christian novels and find that they are pink and covered with lace, I have a hard time convincing myself to buy the book. Perhaps it is good that the cover is becoming less important again.

  84. Tessa Quin on July 19, 2010 at 5:21 AM

    >It's very important if I'm buying a book that I've never heard of. If I'm choosing books that come highly recommended, I don't mind the cover much (like Vampire Academy – I don't like the covers, but I read them because *everyone* was reading them).

    That said, I've noticed that agents/publishers are worried about the future of publishing. Have you read Randy Ingerman's post on it? After reading it, I don't think agents/publishers have anything to worry about: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/2010/07/07/the-future-of-publishing/

  85. Yvonne Osborne on July 19, 2010 at 3:51 AM

    >It is what draws my eye first and foremost, even more than author name. If the cover attracts me I stop and touch. I read front and back. If I'm taken, I buy.

    Covers can never really go away. They're too important. I share your hope that publishers will continue to invest in quality cover design.

  86. waterfall on July 19, 2010 at 2:16 AM

    >I agree with rosemaryinwheat. Sometimes book covers appear to deter readership as oppose to drawing them in. I have read the romance genre for leisure and I remember thinking these novels could do with a little marketing gimmick. For starts the book covers! It cheapens the true value of the story to a mere nutshell with their poor choice of illustrations.

  87. Anonymous on July 19, 2010 at 2:04 AM

    >A book cover is not only an art form, it can be a powerful sales tool. That's why it's SO important to have the author's input on the final cover design. After all, who knows the content better than the writer? I admit, I've even bought books based on the cover alone, because I appreciate good graphic design.

  88. rosemaryinwheat on July 19, 2010 at 1:38 AM

    >As a bookseller by day, I know the power of a book's cover. Despite an excellent story, I cannot sell my favourite historical thriller to male readers because the cover screams "romance novel".

    All our staff members love Gone by Michael Grant, but we all start our sales pitch to customers with "ignore the cover".

  89. Ted Cross on July 19, 2010 at 1:37 AM

    >I certainly judge books by their covers, which is why I think writers should get more input (if they want it) about their covers. So many covers are just terrible. I haven't seen any eReaders yet, so I assumed they included the covers for the books. It would be wrong not to. They should include any maps and interior artwork also.

  90. Anonymous on July 19, 2010 at 1:28 AM

    >Very. Fabio, fangs or families on prairies tell me to run – run fast and far away from the shelf.

  91. Rahma Krambo on July 19, 2010 at 1:23 AM

    >I have mixed feelings about the whole digital direction that publishing is going. Book covers are one aspect I hadn't thought of though and I do judge a book by its cover!

    That's not easy to admit, but I think it really applies more to people, not books. I love the 'invitation' I receive from good cover design and I think it would be a great loss to have this fantastic art form fall by the digital wayside.

  92. Vicki Rocho on July 19, 2010 at 1:08 AM

    >I almost hate to admit to judging a book by its cover, but I'd be lying if I denied it. It's not the only factor, but if the cover is a complete turn off, I probably won't even pick it up to read the jacket copy.

    Sad, but true.