Friday, August 8, 2014

How Much Do Book Covers Matter?

Mary Ann has covered this in several of her posts, but after going to RWA Nationals this year and really taking a look at the covers publishers put on their romance books, I have to agree with her--book covers can really draw a reader in!

Ah, the book cover. I firmly believe it can make or break a book.  It’s the first thing a reader sees, the first thing that draws them to your little tale, incites their curiosity, and says to them “yes, this is the book I want to read next.”

A bad book cover can cause all sorts of problems.

If the cover is boring, you gotta depend on the title. If the title stinks, too, then you’re in big trouble. It doesn’t matter how great of a writer you are--unless of course you’re already established with a large group of readers--if the book cover isn’t working, you won’t see much in the way of sales.
Book covers should also reflect a little bit of what the genre is, too. Especially if you are a writer just starting out.
Here’s my own example of why I feel so strongly about this point in particular:

My first book was bought by a small, but well known, press with a great reputation. The book was an urban fantasy with slight romantic overtones. The book cover was of this super hot, shirtless guy in front of some office buildings. It looked like this dude was ready to sex you up and take you home to mama! The twinkle in his eye, the coldness of his chin, the well developed abs, and bulging front of his pants promised a book with lots of hot sex and down and dirty love. But remember, the book had only romantic overtones…so of course, a few people bought the book thinking it was going to be erotica. Luckily for me, the writing did pull me through here, but many people felt that the cover was misleading as to what kind of book it was. 

However, my latest books in the Naughty Shakespeare stories all have book covers that hint at the characters and the genre of book.  In fact, one of the things I wanted to make sure of was that all three books had some similarities. I wanted all covers to have a woman with her back to us and just a hint of profile. All covers also had to in some way reflect a character trait of the story, too.

In Ophelia’s Lessons, a modern day prequel to Hamlet,  I wanted the image to be wistful and romantic. The open back of her dress hints at sensuality as well. Notice the trees in the background? Well, an important scene in the book happens beneath the trees. Even the colors were important to me. The miss of greens and blues is calming and relaxing. We don’t see the woman’s face and are left wondering, who is she? What does she really look like?

I wanted a little different tone for Ravishing Rosaline. Rosaline is a prequel to Romeo and Juliet. In the play, she is the character Romeo is in love with before he meets Juliet. She also happens to be her cousin. This is a story about everything not being as it appears and the search to express oneself with sexual freedom.

Again, the woman is looking away, but we
see her fiery red hair and that she is
unashamed of being naked. It’s being
openly sexually and tantalizing at the
same time. Kind of like Rosaline…

And then there is the Taming of the
Prude. This time we see a little of our
leading lady’s face. That’s a reflection
of Kate alright. She would never
turn her face away or be ashamed
of her nakedness. The flowers hint
at being one with nature, and if you
read the book, you’ll see that this is
true. A retelling of Taming of the
Shrew, Taming of the Prude is a
fun, humorous tale of a freshly
married couple and their discovery
of how delightful married sex can be.
Especially if you add a partner....

Will your reader notice all the little things I just pointed out when they pick up the book? Probably not. But they may notice enough to make them read the synopsis or get an idea of what kind of book it is. That can be the difference in making a sell or not!

May all your nights be hot and steamy ones beneath the covers!--Esmae Browder

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