Never judge a book by its cover.
We’ve all heard it before, possibly said it ourselves, but in the context of book promotion, people do judge a book by its cover. Usually it is a subconscious response, but we seem to make some pretty conclusive decisions in a matter of seconds.
Picture yourself perusing along the shelves at your favorite independent bookstore. A book catches your eye, probably from the title as it is revealed on the spine of the book. You pick up the book, glance at the cover and then, hopefully, turn it over to read the blurbs and synopsis on the back cover.
What happens in that glance at the front cover that either prompts the reader to turn to the back cover or return the book to the shelf? Is there a magic formula that we need to consider when designing our book cover?
I believe that the cursory glance needs to take in enough symbolism to understand the genre, the right color to set the mood, and then just maybe something that triggers a sense of inquiry, whether based on past experience or present interests.
This week I received the first designs for my book cover. While undoubtedly a complex work of art, I felt terribly alienated from what the artist was trying to convey. The colors were dark and sinister, with a daunting oil rig and other smart ideas such as seashells in bedrock. The idea was clearly taken from the title of the book, Oilspill dotcom, and the artist was trying to convey the malevolent nature of multinational corporations. Even the title, written in a thick black font had drops of oil falling from it.
But I want the book to convey inspiration and hope, the true message of my novel. I want a light color and clear images of a computer screen and either a gavel or scales of justice to show that this is a courtroom drama.
What really worries me is: what do I know? I am an author, with no expertise in art or marketing. The cover designer is no doubt a professional, but can s/he understand the message I, as the author, am trying to convey?
I believe in professionalism and earlier made up my mind that I would accept the changes suggested when my manuscript was being professionally edited. But there is something about the cover design that seems so personal, so fateful. In the end I need to be able to hold up the book – whether to a consumer, to a group I’m addressing, or on Oprah (let me dream) and say: This is my book.