Friday, April 19, 2013

Does Cover Art Sell Books? By Jacqueline Seewald

Any savvy writer will tell you that the first thing a reader notices about a book is the front cover. Maybe you can’t or should not judge a book by its cover, but it sure helps to have an attractive one that draws the eye of the reader.  For new fiction authors, cover art can make or break the book. What kind of front cover grabs the reader’s attention? What kind of cover art should a book display?
Probably the first and most basic question to ask: is the book going to be sold on the shelf of a bookstore or is it going to be available only online? Is the novel going to be a hardcover, trade, paperback or e-book? Yes, it really does make a difference!
Let’s examine e-books. Online the cover is small, so you don’t want anything too fussy or busy. The old saying “less is more” works best for a book cover that sells online. A short title with a large, easily readable font and bright contrasting colors shows up best on the computer screen. You want to avoid covers that are complicated and hard to read. Plain, simple graphics are best. Here’s the e-book cover L&L Dreamspell provided for: THE INFERNO COLLECTION, my first Kim Reynolds romantic mystery in the librarian sleuth series:

With hardcover fiction books, the cover also needs to fit the genre, be attractive, while the title still needs to be easy to read. Here is the original cover art for the Five Star/Gale hardcover and subsequent Wheeler large print edition of the same novel:
The artist and I worked together to create an appropriate cover for the novel which has romantic and paranormal elements as well as being a mystery thriller. The cover art fits the plot of the novel. Five Star/Gale respects input from its authors which is a plus. Mystery or thriller novels are often dark and boding in appearance, appropriate to that genre. Readers expect it.

There is usually a “money” quote on the cover of hardcover books, either on the front or back. This can be a blurb provided by a well-known author or a partial review from a respected publication. It should always offer praise for the writer’s work. Sara Paretsky provided the money quote for my first Five Star novel: “An unusual setting—the esoteric banned manuscripts of a library—and an unusual heroine with a horrific secret set The Inferno Collection apart from other romantic suspense novels. With some powerful imagery in her disturbed and disturbing dreams, Kim Reynolds makes a thought-provoking heroine. I hope Jacqueline Seewald will explore her life in more depth in the future.” This appeared on the back cover along with other blurbs:
“Irresistibly spellbinding. Captivating from the start, The Inferno Collection, compels with tension and brims with edginess. A thrilling read for suspense lovers!” Iris Green, The Chick Lit Review
From Booklist: “… Interesting characters abound…Seewald’s take on the dark side of academia will make readers glad their course work is finished.”
 The most recent cover for THE INFERNO COLLECTION was developed by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery which published the novel as a reprint April 1, 2013. I had no input into the cover art for this edition.
Paperbacks need simplicity just as e-book covers do. The artwork should support the title and the genre. Here’s the cover art for the new paperback version  of THE INFERNO COLLECTION:

What are your feelings regarding cover art? What draws or attracts you to a novel? What do you dislike or prefer not to see?
To celebrate the Harlequin Worldwide Mystery edition of THE INFERNO COLLECTION, I am offering a paperback copy  to a commentator. Leave an e-mail or web address if interested. Winner will be drawn at random and contacted within the week.


Janis Patterson said...

A lucid and entertaining look at one of the more esoteric facets of publishing - thank you! And your covers are simply fantastic!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Janis,

Thanks for your comments! I thought the Harlequin cover might be a bit too scary since The Inferno Collection wasn't conceived as a horror novel. However, as I mentioned, this was one cover for which I didn't get to offer any input. Readers can let me know what they think.

Ellis Vidler said...

To be honest, I prefer the first cover. The new one may attract a lot of attention though. It does have a slight hint of horror, but the colorful illustration may lessen that. I'm glad it's going to be available for mass market--that's a whole new audience for your books. Good luck with it!

Warren Bull said...

Tantalizing covers can be a major influence with people who don't know you as a writer. Thanks for the discussion.

Nikki said...

I'm with Ellis. The new cover has a slightly comic book/graphic novel feel to it that seems at odds with the tone of the other covers. But maybe it will attract a new demographic for you. I've been fooled by covers before, so I generally place less faith in them than in the blurbs and quotes.

Alice Duncan said...

Wow, I love the new cover. It doesn't look comical to me. Congratulations, Jacquie!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Ellis,

I agree with you. I appreciate that this novel is now available in a mass market paperback edition which is inexpensive. Reaching the reading public is so important.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Warren,

Your point is well-taken. The paperback cover is more dramatic than the others and hopefully will draw readers.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Nikki,

You're right. The paperback cover is more graphic than the others. Maybe that's necessary for paperback editions.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Alice,

Thanks for the encouraging words!
I like the cover art on your new novel too.

D'Ann said...

Great covers!
I just got two new covers, and both might seem plain by some standards, but they jump of the page, I think!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, D'Ann,

You'll have to post your covers as well!

Unknown said...

I once read an article (I forget the author's name) that argued that all books, in all formats, should have simple covers because so many readers are drawn to books by seeing thumbnails of covers on Amazon and similar sites. It was an interesting point, I thought. Anyway, I liked all of your covers, especially the first one.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, B.K.,

I agree with that article. I don't think fussy covers are that appealing to readers. Thanks for dropping by!

Gwen Mayo said...

I've never thought covers were as important as content, but for readers unfamiliar with your work they can make a difference. We all write with the hopes of being read. Great covers are a plus for picking up new audiences. Perhaps, your new one will attract a different demographic.

Gail Farrelly said...

I LOVE the new cover and hope it attracts lots of new readers for you. Good luck!

Conda Douglas said...

I agree with B.K.'s assessment too--the simpler the better, although I must admit the paperback cover is very eye catching--if I saw it full size in a store. I don't think it will be noticeable in a thumbnail, too busy. However, a lot of people who are looking at the thumbnails are looking for ebooks. Love the first cover!

And enter me please: conda(underline)d (at) yahoo (no spaces, of course!)

Anonymous said...

Great blog.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Gwen,

I hope you're right about new cover art drawing on a more demographic!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thank you for the good words, Gail! Much appreciated.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks for your input, Conda. I tend to agree with your assessment.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

My favorite writer..."anonymous"...
thanks for your kind comment!

Cindy Sample said...

It's always fascinating to me to see the different cover art for one book. I'm struggling with choosing a cover right now and the poll is all over the place. I also discovered that my Harlequin covers for DYING FOR A DATE & DYING FOR A DANCE are preferred by those under 45, while the baby boomers love my L&L Dreamspell covers. Either way, you want to draw new readers to your wonderful books. Thanks for sharing with us.

bn100 said...

An attractive cover draws me to the book, but the blurb gets me to read/buy the book.

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Cindy,

I like the cover art for both of your novels. Hope we both draw lots of readers!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, bn,

I do hope good review/blurbs matter to readers as well. That's why I think it's important that some of the best appear on the book covers.

Anna Seewald said...

I believe a good cover art is so important- that's the books first impression. Sometimes readers make judgements about the book based on cover. Sometimes I see very clever covers and I often think about them. As a photographer I am curious how they are born. A good cover is like well dressed person.
The last book I read had a very intriguing and appropriate cover which was well done IMO.
In this case though I prefer the original, first cover.
Good post.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


You are in agreement with most of those who took the time and trouble to comment. I appreciate the input.

Nancy Means Wright said...

A wise and comprehensive discussion on what a smart cover should show the world. Your covers are all compelling. I'd hurry to pick up any of them! And what luck to get Paretsky to do a blurb!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thank you, Nancy, for the kind words!
And yes, I thought it was quite an honor to have the Kim Reynolds series kick off with an endorsement from Sara Paretsky. She's a major American mystery writer.

joye said...

I often "judge" a book by the cover. I am attracted to some covers and I can tell at a glance what the book might be about. The easiest ones to give up that information are the covers on Westerns-usually a cowboy or a horse are on the cover. I like my covers to give me a hint of what is the genre.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I agree with you, Joye. I believe readers are annoyed when they discover what's implied by the cover isn't contained in the book. A sensual romance, for instance, will often show a "clinch"--man and woman embracing.

dkchristi said...

I think cover art is essential to a sale for unknown authors in particular, known authors not so much.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

You're right. The truth is, if we like an author, we respond to the name rather than title or cover art. But with unknowns, cover art is important. We need all the help we can get! And I truly love the cover of Ghost Orchid.

J D Webb said...

I am one who loves most all covers for books. The reader should get a taste of the book but art is a matter of personal interpretation. We hope our readers buy our books because they love our writing, not because we have a neat cover. Good article, Jacqueline.

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