Judging a Book by its Cover

This week I have been trying to get a handle on what I want on the cover of my new novel ‘The Angel Bug‘.

Traditionally published novelists often get no say in what goes on their cover. I heard one author complain that the cover of one of her Romance novels showed a blonde wearing tweeds, when it was obvious to anyone who’d even read the first chapter of her book that the main character was a brunette and wouldn’t have been seen dead in tweeds. (She said that it was set in the countryside, and she guessed that’s as far into the description of the novel as the illustrator had read)

The other extreme is deciding totally on your own what to have on your own book cover. And there’s the rub… what impression to convey with the cover? It is definitely a tricky choice because some people DO JUDGE BOOKS BY THEIR COVERS !

Now, I have the offer of a professional job on the cover, once I have an idea of what I want .. so I have been trying a few rough mock-ups myself – finding this easier than explaining in words what I want. (The words that come out of my mouth seem to get translated into a different language as they go into someone elses ears)

The Angel Bug is set at the (world) famous Eden Project (in Cornwall) – at least for the core of the novel… so I thought I’d try to combine a picture of this with the idea of a ‘bug’ or ‘bacteria’ and change the picture of Eden to look like something you might see down a microscope.

Ok, effective-ish but WHAT MESSAGE WAS IT GIVING?Β  Having shown it to a few people I realised it wasn’t coming over the way that it was meant… it was looking a bit sci-fi..ish, a bit ‘weird’ and probably my usual readers wouldn’t pick it up.

So I tried the same idea without the inverted colours… now it just looked messy.

I won’t show you the weird effects I created trying to make it look like Eden was sat in a petri dish.. or indeed under an actual microscope – the images were too rough and I deleted them before thinking about this blog post!

I tried with a different picture and different view – better, I thought, but still the book looked like a sci-fi or a thriller…. neither of which it is, though,I suppose, it does carry some small elements of both.

original photo Neil Kennedy wikimediacommons

Another colour change and I felt I was working towards something that might not frighten off my readers … but did it convey the right image of the book?

At this point I really don’t know … I do know that it needs more thought and more feedback … or perhaps I’ll settle for the ‘blonde in tweeds’ and be done with it …

What does this cover say to you? Would you pick it up to read the blurb?

Do you judge a book, in the first instance, by its cover?

How do you select books to read?

Do share – I’d love to hear from you… and you never know it might help me πŸ™‚

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14 thoughts on “Judging a Book by its Cover

  1. OK…The first two illustrations look like squashed golf balls (my husband is a golfer and The Masters has just finished yesterday so I might not have thought this so readily at other times. The next two convey nothing at all to me and the title sounds religious which would not attract me at all.

    Oh dear, this sound negative doesn’t it? Does it maybe need a sub-title?

    However I go by authors if I know them and your name would be the attraction–nothing else needed. I would turn to the back cover and the blurb right away.

    Now I have to look up the Eden project which means nothing to me–is it like Findhorn or a supposedly self-sufficient enclosed ecological system maybe? I am off to look it up now.

    • Hi Erika,
      Squashed golf balls! Well, there you go! How useful – as I knew it was an aerial photo of the Eden project I knew what I was looking at (albeit colour changed) but an independent eye sees squashed golf balls – definitely not the message – thank you!

      I too will look for names I know – but sometimes you have to try out new names – that is when the cover might draw me in to look at the ‘blurb’ or synopsis… so I want to get it right.
      Thank you for your comments, once again!

  2. For me, it is the author that I generally look at first, I look at the title of of the book but I never let that alone make me pick it up or put it down. I read the synopsis of the book and sometimes the first page or two to see how it rolls. Your first pics of the cover has not inspired me at all, but it has me interested enough to want to read the synopsis. Not sure that this makes much sense really but I know what I mean. πŸ™‚

    • Hi Lynda, Thank you for commenting!
      It looks like I need to get my synopsis or ‘blurb’ just right – it seems that is the ‘go-to spot on the book cover (or ebook description)
      It is interesting that a strange cover made you curious to see the synopsis.. perhaps an element of not quite knowing what the book will be about is good. Food for thought πŸ™‚

  3. Paul and I have discussed what we think… and we are agreed that without knowing what sort of story it is… and what the plot is it’s difficult to really know. However we didn’t like the last one – it looked to both of us like snakeskin rather than the Eden Project.

    Paul felt the first one with the red writing reminded him of blood… not sure that’s the right impression either.

    The only thing we can think to suggest is to make the Eden Project look like the Eden Project which is exactly where the book is set you say.

    As you mentioned it is a world famous place so it will attract readers because of the setting, so it seems a shame to waste that opportunity (assuming you don’t need permission from them to use it)

    Good luck with it whatever you decide and the cover is far less important these days of Kindles and e-readers!

  4. Hi Nicky ( and Paul)
    Thank you for your feedback. I think I am coming round to the idea of using a view of the Eden Project that everyone will recognise (or part of it – perhaps part of a dome)
    Either that – or none of Eden at all – though it is central as a setting. As usual the story is not straight forward and though I know the underlying message it isn’t one that can be decribed in a picture. Perhaps I need just to tantalise enough for people to want to read the story. Thank you both for your feedback πŸ™‚ Ann
    BTW the ‘snakeskin’ photgraphs are of Eden taken at a night-time event

  5. I think it’s important to convey what type of book it is with the cover art… To be honest, these covers don’t really say “novel” to me.

    It seems to me modern covers have changed a lot in the past 20 years and they’re now very thematic or focused in on a specific character.
    How wedded are you to having a photo of the Eden Project on the cover? If very, I’d suggest it remain a background element with something else key to the story superimposed. That would give the impression that it involves the Eden Project somehow, but would also give a hint of what else the book might be about before we decide to flip it over (or scroll down) and read the blurb. (Posting the jacket blurb might help us give more specific comments.)

    I can only imagine how hard this must be. My recommendation would be try to some alternative ideas and flick them all to your beta readers. πŸ™‚

  6. Hi Ellen,
    Thanks for dropping by. Yet more useful thoughts! And perhaps I am over thinking this. Perhaps I need more of a ‘feeling’ about this – rather than the setting.

    I would have posted the jacket blurb – but I seem to be struggling with that almost as much as the cover idea – what to say to tantalise but not to give too much away….

    But your idea of trying some alternatives on my beta readers is a good one. It’s going out to them soon – so I can follow up on that. So far only my proof-reader and my husband have read it and they don’t agree on what they like or don’t like about the cover ideas at all – lol !
    Thank you for commenting! – Ann

  7. You’re right in spending some time and energy on getting the right cover. It’s funny – although many books only exist in electronic form, having an appealing cover can make a world of difference in how the book sells. Best of luck in finding the right one!

    • Thank for the comment Liv,
      Yes – even with ebooks it matters – yet now we have to scale the picture down to a thumbnail and check it still works at that size too !!
      Thanks for your good wishes! Ann

  8. Late with feedback as have been away in London to meet new Grandson! πŸ™‚

    I’m not too keen on the last two shots of the Eden Project – look too much like domes on an alien planet to me. I think your idea of just showing a good photo (or possible a drawing or painting?) of the domes sounds reasonable as it’s the setting for your novel. Perhaps you could post your blurb here when you have it, and maybe folks will come up with some more ideas.

    Good luck with it!

    • Hi Maggie,
      You are not alone in disliking the coloured domes – so I suspect they will be out!
      This weekend I had to write a short synopsis of the book and a ‘brief’ saying what I wanted for the ‘feel’ of the cover and what elements I thought might go into it.
      It really focused my thoughts – and I am now aiming for something cleaner, less cluttered, yet with the right atmosphere….
      Everyones view points have been helpful – thanks for commenting πŸ™‚ Ann

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