Yes, We Do Judge Books By Their Covers — Especially When Browsing

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Most of us are visual creatures to a greater or lesser degrees. What we see influences us in ways we don’t bother to think about. I did a turn in advertising ages ago, and there was a tremendous amount of talk about what would appear visually to a consumer, what would be the most likely to catch their eye. First rule of selling a product to someone? Get their attention.

I’ll wager the old saw “Don’t judge a book by its cover” was written created by an author who’d been handed a very bad cover by their publisher and couldn’t do anything about it. How many times have you picked up a book, read it — and wondered why there was a dog on the cover when no dog appears in the book? Ah, marketing. The bane of both creator and consumer. But the cover was cute enough to get you to pick it up, which was the whole point of the exercise. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good image, and more than once, that’s been what gets me to check the blurb on one book — and ignore another.

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Three books, three covers which hopefully catch your eye. Young Adult, Non-Fiction, Historical Romance.

The Luxe was released in 2007, and I bought this one, in hardback, partially because of that cover.  Look at the lushness of the gown. It draws you in, promising all sorts of richness. This was an easy choice for me because it’s set in New York’s Gilded Age, which has always been an auto-let me look at this thing. Historically the gown is wrong, but it is also a right choice because it evokes the excess of that era. Unfortunately, the book didn’t live up to the promise of that image for me. I put it down one evening, never picked it back up, except to move it to the bookcase.

A Scot in the Dark is not so much one of my favorite covers as a type of cover. The colors are lush, the heroine confident and self-assured, while the bared legs hint at the promise of sexy-times while not being overt. Also, the dress bears more resemblance to historical accuracy, which is always a plus in my book. Personal taste, but I prefer these to “clinch” covers, especially the ones where her gown is falling off her, both of hero and heroine have Standard Look of Ultimate Passion #6 on their face — and there can be an unfortunate placement of a boulder, bench, or other prop, which makes you wince.

The third cover is mine, for Surviving 30 Days of Literary Madness. This is non-fiction, which operates under a completely different set of rules from fiction. You want something quick and punchy which will convey the book’s essential message. When I saw this particular stock image, I laughed because it encapsulated the utter, frustration and weariness that can hit while doing NaNoWriMo. Since the book tries to help you through that stage, it seemed appropriate.

Speaking of covers, today is release day for CROSSROADS CORNER by Brenda Margriet. After an embezzling boyfriend puts her under police suspicion—and deeply in debt—Camryn Bendixon joins her grandfather’s failing construction company. Her goal is simple—work constantly to rebuild her career and her self-esteem. And if she must drag Bendixon and Sons back to profitability by her well-manicured fingernails, that’s what she’ll do.

Will Danson knows life is fragile—a fact brought home when Laura, his only child, lost her sight. Determined to provide for her, he does his best to balance managing the Prince George division of the Kohlenburg Group with his young daughter’s needs. But it can be a lonely road for a single dad.

Soon Camryn and Will are competing for construction bids and career-making contracts. But it is Camryn’s battered heart that Will truly wants to win.

Hop over to the next stop on our tour to see what covers Leslie Hatchel enjoys and why. Leslie has her own release coming up this Thursday, November 14. Freed From Morocco is Book 3 in her Morocco series. Here’s the blurb:

Kidnapped and taken to Morocco, Lady Olivia prays for someone to come and save her. Help appears in the form of Tristan, the man she loves. He disguises himself as an English ambassador in order to rescue her, but he is betrayed. Now, she must find a way to help him. Can they escape? And will they ever be free from the clutches of the sultan?

That’s it for today, but I’ll leave you with a final video, a Ted Talk with Chip Kidd talking about designing book covers. He doesn’t design romance covers, but I think you’ll enjoy hearing about the design process for what is truly one of the most iconic covers in the last 25 years, recognizable even to folks who’ve never picked the book up.

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Header Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

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