Your thoughts on book covers—

This is a question for all of the readers out there (and by readers I am including writers, aspiring writers, and publishing professionals, ’cause we all know who the main book buyers are).

I read this article/essay:

What do you think? Are covers dead?

I was hoping for a comment section on the site, but no such luck. Instead, I’m turning to this li’l ol’ blog to voice my opinion.

Amazon is data rich, but as a book browser Amazon gives me headaches. It’s ugly, inelegant, and has an incessant need to focus on things I’ve looked for in the past. Amazon’s best feature, as far as I’m concerned as a reader, is its prices (as someone on the writer/editor/publishing end of things, I also understand that there is great controversy with Amazon’s pricing formats. You may also have heard about a lawsuit?)

So, essentially Amazon=cheap. The site has customer reviews, which is nice. And it does try to tell you about stuff you might like, which is nice (kind of). But it’s missing any sort of “cover,” which, I believe, is one of Craig Mod’s main considerations (coupled with the general coverless-ness of ereaders) in his declaration that the cover is dead.

As far as I’m aware, readers don’t always choose their books by browsing through Amazon’s website, even if they prefer reading in digital format. They often get recommendations from friends, or Goodreads, and many also participate in “showrooming” (going to bookstores, browsing, and returning home to complete their purchases). Why? Because the Amazon experience is not overly user-friendly unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, and that’s not how a lot of people choose books. Many readers are looking for something they haven’t encountered before.

When you don’t know what you want to read, you need a starting point. Covers are marketing tools, and as such I don’t believe they’re dead. Humans are visual creatures, and how something looks does make a difference. It isn’t the only factor, or even, ultimately, the most important one, but aesthetic often provides the initial attraction. The cover is the reader’s first point of contact with the material.

Ideally, a book cover represents the text in an eye-catching way. For some covers, it is the author name that stands out (such as “Stephen King”), and for these books Amazon is great. There really is no reason to have a cover when the audience is looking for a work by a particular author (except, of course, to garner new readership).

Catchy titles are similar in that you don’t necessarily need pictures to be intrigued by them. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” stands out to anyone who has ever heard the name Jane Austen, but covers are still important for these books. A clever title can only stand out if it’s placed among a throng of boring ones. If the reader doesn’t have an opportunity to see the title, he or she will never be drawn in by its cleverness. On a site like Amazon, the audience for a book is limited to people who find it via a keyword (or similar) search. Would you think of looking for “Pride and Prejudice” or “zombies” to find your next read?

Sought after authors still do well in a no-cover world, and books with catchy titles have half a chance. What about other books? In an age where attention spans are limited, choices are vast, and people only have time to offer a quick glance before making a judgment call, covers remain an important vehicle for getting the message out. They are a split-second representation of the book, designed to make readers stop and take notice.

Amazon may actually have issues if its low prices put the competition out of business. If readers are unable to browse in bricks-and-mortar stores for their next read, Amazon will have to find new ways of offering this experience to them—either virtually, or by funding stores itself. If that doesn’t happen, readers may turn to libraries to browse for new reads. And if you can rent a book for free, why would you pay even Amazon’s rock-bottom prices?

It should be noted, though, that in this digital age a number of clear runaway hits have snuck up on us, the most recent being the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I haven’t read the books, but reviews suggest the writing is mediocre at best. Why, then, are they so popular (besides the erotica and a clever marketing campaign)? In a global arena where there are many choices, the fact that a large number of people are reading the books and talking about the books means that the books have more market share than they probably should. If “jumping on board” is the new way of choosing what book to read, then Craig Mod could be right. Herd mentality does not require covers.

What’s your opinion? Is the cover dead?

Tag—I’m It!

Thank you, Sharon.

The Rules:

  1. Post the rules.
  2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post
  3. Create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
  4. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
  5. Let them know you’ve tagged them!

For Me:

1. Who would you pick for your celebrity wife and/or husband?

Hugh Jackman: gorgeous, great accent, and he’s all about family.

2. What’s your favourite time of day?

Late evening — I get my best ideas then.

3. What are some of your relationship deal-breakers?

I’m easy-going, so that’s a tough one, but cheating, beating, and general law-breaking would all make the list.

4. How many times did you change your major in university and why, or, why not?

0. English and History, baby. I never had any doubts about what I loved as an undergrad. It was after I’d accomplished my degree that the fun began (NOW WHAT?!?!).

5. What’s your theme song? 

We get one of those? Hmmm… I guess my theme song is “Forever Young.”

6. What do you think people most frequently say about you behind your back?

“She seems nice.” (Or is that just wishful thinking?)

7. Do you feel your Zodiac sign or Chinese astrological animal accurately represents you?

I am definitely a Virgo. My monkey-ness is up for debate.

8. Who would star as you in the made for TV movie about the most interesting year of your life?

There was an interesting year in there? If I could have anyone at any point in their careers — a slightly younger Brooke Shields. If I have to pick someone today to play me then, then I’d have to say, “Anne Hathaway, please take centre stage.” 

9. And, what is the title of said best-selling memoir?

You mean I wrote a best-seller? Cha-ching! I titled it An Unexpected Twist: Finding the Person I Was Meant to Be — but for the movie they dropped the subtitle 😉

10. Name two posts you believe should’ve most definitely been Freshly Pressed.

My Lemon-Berry Lentil Cake — I worked hard on that one!

And one of my Friday Flash Fiction pieces — someone has to promote fiction (and poetry)!

11. Make up a question and answer it.

Big Bird or Oscar the Grouch?

Oscar! I might not want to be in the same room as him (he’d be a little hard on the nostrils), but B.B.’s eternal optimism would drive me up the wall.

For You:

1. How many authors does it take to screw in a lightbulb? (And why?)

2. Favourite low-calorie snack?

3. When did you realize books had editors?

4. Who is your favourite artist? (And why?)

5. What dish do you love to cook and who enjoys it most?

6. Favourite day of the year?

7. Best smell in the world (experienced so far)?

8. Perfect age to have children?

9. What are the two best animals for you to have as pets (even if you’ve never had one) and why?

10. What fast food do you crave most?

11. Best karaoke song ever?


You don’t have to do it, but if you’re short on blog ideas… this post’s for you!

And if anyone else wants to jump in, feel free to copy and paste to your own blog (tag me so I can read the post), or answer in the comments below!


I won!

ScriptFrenzy Winner

*does happy-dance*

*tosses script in imaginary drawer*

*waits six months*

*edits script*

*sells it for a million dollars*

*wakes up*

Winning definitely doesn’t mean I have a brilliant product. Most of the work that comes out of this crazy month is not headed for a movie theatre or playhouse near you. Winning means I accomplished something that I set out to do. I put pen keyboard to paper screen and churned out a mildly interesting idea in a comprehensive structure that at least a handful of people will enjoy reading (when it comes to writing, family REALLY counts!).

I also had some fun along the way, thanks to @Taliana83 and @Catnipkitty (the ScriptFrenzy leaders here in Toronto). These girls gave it their all and organized some great events, including a Murder Mystery. Who wouldn’t enjoy spending an evening as a quick-talking con artist aboard a space station in a galaxy far, far away? And the food at Tequila Bookworm, our host establishment, was pretty good (I had an avocado-topped burger) — although they did have to reheat the french fries.

I don’t know if I’ll have the time to do it again next April, but I’m very happy to have gotten it done in 2012.