Thursday, April 16, 2009

How Important Is Cover Art?

~Sia McKye~

"Despite what people say, people do judge a book by its cover" Nightline interview.

A Book cover is a marketing tool. They need to catch the eye. So I'm firmly in the camp that says, yes, what's on the cover is important.

Not all book covers completely reflect what’s in the story line. A savvy publisher is going to observe what is the current style of artwork and utilize it. They’d be stupid not to. As far as I'm concerned, a professional looking cover is vital. There is no excuse for a poorly executed one.

If I’m looking at books to buy—unless if have a particular author in mind—what’s on the cover is what induces me to pick it up. What’s on the back as far as the blurb will decide whether I buy it. A good cover includes a good blurb. Yes, I’m attracted to color but more attracted to a well-executed visual. I never have been attracted to cutesy covers. I usually skip over those that scream amateur.

Regardless of the method of publishing, covers are important. Even Print On Demand books can and should look professional. I saw one recently called Sun Singer, by Malcolm Campbell. It was simple but gorgeous in shades of blue. Recently I saw one that was stunning, called In Her Name, Empire, by Michael Hicks. I had no idea it was produced by a small Indie publisher using Print On Demand Technology, from the cover. If it’s done right, you should HAVE no idea that it’s different from mass-market paperbacks—except for the size. Unfortunately, most of the Print On Demand books are obvious because of their covers or lack of good cover art.

Each genre of books has a cover style. Suspense/mystery are generally darker colors, Romance genre usually have faces or figures, a hunky chest or something to draw the eye. Paranormals can have both or have a rather ethereal effect.

Cover Art is big business in Romance. Harlequin recently had a spot on Nightline regarding their cover art, where they said, “Despite what people say, people do judge a book by its cover. [Harlequin] puts an enormous amount of work and fun into these covers.”

You can see the interview at youtube:

Talking to various authors from both publishing methods, many will submit some sort of pictures, or description of what they see for the covers, be it a face, a body, landscape, a market scene, a city skyline. Give them all the help you can, I figure. Some authors will talk with the design departments but ultimately the design is what the publisher thinks will sell the book. Here's two example of romance book covers I personally like. Both draw me for different reasons. Judi Fennell's, In Over Her Head, because of the rich colors in keeping with a Mer storyline, a hunky chest, and I love the font used. Anna Campbell's, Tempt The Devil, because of the expression of challenge and sex appeal apparent in the man's face. I admit I have quite a favorites of covers but not enough space to show all.

Does Cover Art matter? You'd better believe it does!
What are some of your favorite covers out there and why? What draws you to them? Feel free to give us a link.

Sia McKye has spent over twenty years in marketing and promotion. She's written and published various articles on writing, marketing, and promotion. She's a Marketing Rep by profession and also writes fiction. Sia has completed a single title romance trilogy and is busy at work on a fun paranormal series.


Tonya Keller-Kappes said...

That is so funny that you are blogging about this! I blog at and my blog next week is this very thing. It was actaully a broadcast on Nat'l Public Radio last week. There are statistics that show that books do sale strictly by their cover and author photo. OH NO...I better get a face lift!!!! LOL!!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love rich artwork on book covers - simple just doesn't do it for me. Science fiction tends to have some of the most gorgeous covers. Michael Whelan has done many amazing covers, and I admire his work for Anne McCaffrey most.

L. Diane Wolfe

mynfel said...

I absolutely agree. If a book cover looks cheesy (particularly the romance ones), I probably won't buy it. Sounds awful - and it doesn't do the author any credit, but if I burst into fits of laughter looking it, it doesn't bode too well for purchasing.

And Sci-Fi/Fantasy definitely get the best cover artists - I really like Jody Lee (does a lot of Mercedes Lackey cover art) and John Jude Palencar (Kushiel's Dart series).

It does crack me up to see how much Poser is used for epub covers, especially given that I do a lot of those types of 3d renders myself.

Judi Fennell said...

I've heard a few national booksellers say that they will order more books if the cover is striking, AND feature them in the store so, yes, it does matter.

I love my cover, too! All 3 of them actually. Glad you do, too, Sia!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Tonya, I haven't heard the broadcast, I'll have to search it down, and I will stop by next week to your blog. Hey, great minds work alike.

I didn't know about the author pic, lol! Sheesh, I'm thinking airbrushing, body doubles, face lifts, lolol!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Diane, Anne McCaffrey is one of my favorite authors, and I absolutely LOVE the Pern series. Being fond of dragons, Rauth especially. I have to agree the covers were excellent for not only that particular series, but most of her books.

Sci-fi and fantasy do have some gorgeous covers.

SueO said...

I agree: sci-fi/fantasy has the coolest covers, but my personal favorite is A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony in which a man seems to be in intellectual discourse with a manticore in front of a gothic style gate. In the series of covers, the original hardbound covers for the Incarnations of Immortality.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Judi, I've heard that too. Cover art is so important and even if you as an author don't have a lot of say in the cover art, you do have some say and can offer suggestions. I think its something authors need to keep in mind.

Judi, I love all THREE of your covers and especially the colors used on the last one.

Sheila Deeth said...

I've noticed if I'm standing in a bookstore I'll be ranking covers first, then titles, and then I'll start picking up the books to read the blurbs. How many I pick up depends on how long it takes till other duties - picking up prescription, rounding up family, whatever - take over. So the ones I'm most likely to pick up are definitely the ones with great covers.

I love the examples you chose.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sharon Ford commented:

"I liked Samantha James' book cover. It has half color with her name, and then the other half was a girl, with the name of the book across the lower half.. it just struck me that I would like to read it.. I think it was the color that got my attention first, then her name, and then the girl and title of the book in that order. I do think color is iimportant, and lots of it.. not too confusing with too many colors. My sister's cover is usually black, with either blood red rose, or her name very large on the book, with a hint of what the book is about in the background. They are large books and hard cover at first.. then paperback. Hope this helps you. Attention getters are important.. I did all my own layout in magazines and newspapers when I was a Realtor, it was fun..I was a top producer, so I know the ads helped."

Vivian A said...

Since most books are spine out, I read the title first. If it's catchy I'll pull it out and check the cover and back blurb. I've seen some bad art on good books and great art on cr@p books so I won't fall in that trap. Final step in my pre-purchase routine is to open a random chapter somewhere in the 2/3 of the book and read a page. I know author's work hard on the first and last pages; therefore, I read another section. If I still like the flow of the prose, not storyline then it's a go!

That said...a lovely cover makes you feel like you got something special. Like a pretty scarf, it becomes an intimate object when you associate with it instead of a mere book.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Allison, Fantasy and Sci-Fi do have some great cover art.

A friend of mine had decided to go Print on Demand. I told him, for god sake if you do, please hire someone to do your book cover. The prices aren't bad. They start at about $65 and go up, but it's an investment, the way I look at it. All they usally need is the story board with blurb, info on the main characters. If you have an idea, all the better and I told to do his homework to see what other covers looked like in his genre.

Even e-books spend good money on covers and it's an ebook. lolol!

Helen Ginger said...

The cover art definitely matters. I do look at that, and the title, the back cover blurb, and sometimes will read the first page.

I've noticed a lot of suspense and mysteries lately have some red on the front cover.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Rebecca Cisco commented on your status on Facebook:

"I think it's supremely important. It's what catches the eye and makes you pick up a book to start with. Then the flap information needs to follow up to draw you on in. I admit, sometimes just a title will catch my eye, but that's usually on vintage or antique books. I haven't made it over to read your blog yet, but I'll find time eventually."

Nancy J. Parra said...

I don't get upset about my cover art any more- my 2006 book, The Lovin' Kind- only had horses on the cover-which I thought was disappointing-but I received a fan letter telling me she picked up the book because she loved horses- and once she read it she had to go back and read all my books- LOL- so, you never can tell.

Conda V. Douglas said...

Cover art is important, and so can be frustrating--it's so subjective! I've worked in promotion before and we'd pore over all sorts of ads finding what worked. When we found one the cry was "made you look." That's the whole point. Difficult to achieve.

Kat Sheridan said...

What a great topic! I agree that the covers on Judi's books are so special because of the rich sea colors (appropriate for Mer stories) and the sea-inspired font. That said, I like Anna's cover because of the eyes. Much as a man's hunky bod is compelling, the eyes are more so. I like a cover that includes something in the background that's appropriate to the story (forest, castle, skyscraper, soemething). And yes, I do already have a dream cover in mind for my "someday" book!

Also, while I think it's important to note whatever the current trend is (seems to be naked torsos at the moment), they can eventually all blur together. A wise publisher will buck the trend, or start a new one, with a break-out cover. It catches the eye, which is the first step to a sale!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Yah, you're right, Kat. Lots of creativity with Romance.

Funny thing were looking at covers not long ago on the Wombats' group and it was amazing how many covers sported the same guy. You could recognize him even without the face, by his distinctive belly button. I like a good chest, it does get old, and I like something with with a touch of appropriate background of the story too. Along with a hunky guy, lol! Sorry, hunky hot guys still draw the eye.

Michael R. Hicks said...

Hey, Sia!

I think it's cool you chose the cover for one of my books as an example of a good one! I can't claim to be any great artist or anything, but this one was actually sort of a group effort by myself and some folks at who provided feedback for my while I played around with Photoshop.

I personally think that cover art is really important, at least based on my own buying habits: if the cover is cheesy-looking (which, tragically, so many are for self-published books, in particular), I rarely check out the back-cover or inside blurb. It's true that a stinker of a book can have a good cover and vice versa, but my thought there is that if the author/publisher didn't make the effort to produce a professional-looking cover (not necessarily "fancy", but one that would at least look at home on a bookstore shelf), then they probably didn't make that effort for the writing contained inside...

~Sia McKye~ said...

Michael, thanks for stopping by! I do love your cover and it is well done. Thank you for sharing the link with us, too.

Professional and one that fits with the genre, is a must. No excuse for a 'Cheesy' poorly executed cover.

Cover art, and the title, is such an important selling tool. It catches the attention of the reader so they will pick up the book. If they don't pick up the book, how do they know what a fabulous story is inside?

I wish you the best on In Her Name, Mike!