Thursday, May 17, 2012

Judging a Book by Its Cover

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” could be the oldest cliché in the book (except maybe for that one).  A job, a relationship, a book.  Don’t take any of those things at first glance, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.  The thing is, even though we’re encouraged not to, we all do it.

The job’s cover might be a craigslist ad.  The relationship’s cover is how the other person looks.  A book’s cover, well, is the cover.

For me, when I’m thinking of reading something new, the first thing I I see is what the cover looks like.  And I hate to admit it but I do judge.

After checking out the graphics, color selection and font style on a cover I essentially make a decision about flipping a book over to read the back in approximately 0.4 seconds.  If those three things don't resonate its less likely I'll read the description.

I’ve been amping up my reading lately, especially for authors within my genre of Chick-Lit.  Some of these Authors I’ve heard of and just hadn’t gotten around to reading yet (like Jennifer Weiner which, yes, I know I could be kicked right out of the club for admitting to, but in the spirit of honesty…), while others are indie, self-published authors (like me!).

So I spend a whole lot of time glancing at a whole lot of book covers. And I want mine to have that same look and feel of the ones that grab me right off the bat.

The cover of my first book (out of print) has a bright and sunny yellow background.  There's also a pretty pair of heels and a hockey puck. Here it is:

If you were only into reading, say, murder mysteries, is there a slim chance you’d click that cover up there to see what it’s about?  Probably not.

The thing that makes it difficult to find Indie Authors I can really follow is that the market tends to saturate with whatever trendy theme is hot that day.

Dystopian societies crawling with vampires where no one is over 18, has a job, goes to school or worries about paying their rent on time. Those stories dominated for a long time.

But now, finding Chick-Lit that doesn't place huge emphasis on sex scenes is difficult in these times of openly accepted erotica (which I personally consider to be a different category and wish authors would note the distinction).

What makes it tough for an Indie?

It’s a question of balance – the more saturated any particular genre becomes the less books in that genre are actually read. In the book industry saturation works in reverse and causes a genre to become watered down because ‘everybody’s doing it’.

That's why in traditional publishing once you've heard of it, agents don't want it anymore.

Kind of like Chick-Lit back in the late 1990’s and early millennium. Now it's been written so many times it makes many Indie Authors second guess if they should be writing it at all.

Then what’s a girl like me, who believes in books with happy endings, internal struggles to overcome, and cocktails at brunch, supposed to do? I'll tell you what - keep writing what I want to write.

Because any good writer knows that you write for yourself, not the market. Writers who specialize in erotica, congratulations! Your day has arrived and many of you will feel the love as your royalties tick up daily.

However, I won't write that type of story because it just isn't me. I want to sell my stuff but I don't write for the market, I write for me. So maybe I won't sell like my book is on fire right now but that's okay, at least it cuts down on my competition when I release a new book.

And in the end I read for me as well. There's little chance I'll pick up a book with a cover that doesn't grab my attention. But with millions of writers out there I have a feeling that even my preferred un-saturated genre will still provide plenty of entertainment and research potential.

So as I add books to my Kindle Reader I just keep thinking of how much fun it is to research for my job, no matter what the cover looks like, because in the end it is what's on the inside that counts the most!

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lettersfromlaunna said...

Jenn, I think you should always write what you love, not what is popular. Genre's come and go:) I love mysteries and thrillers for a good read for me. I have all different kinds of genre's that I like though:)

Jenn said...

The cover can make or break a book. I'm always looking for a blurb to judge the content by... and rich praise of some other book by the same author doesn't cut it (hate it when they front load the book with what is essential adverts for other books by the author... if I read and like, I will go looking for more. Or better, put a list of other available works by the author at the back of the book... )

Ha ha... totally off topic ranty rant. There you go, have a nice day!

Insomniac #4 said...

I agree with both of the comments above. good books are good books, and self-publishing sorta gives you a way around trends anyway. Your book can reach its target audience and your target audience will be catered to despite whatever trends are ongoing. it's win-win!

Also, I've been trying not to judge books by their covers (or, at least the cover art) but a blurb about the book, and/or some praise by other authors (whether I know them or not) goes a long way. That's harder with self-published works, of course.

And just to bring this full-circle...I knew I was going to enjoy your book before I saw the initial cover art. And when I saw it on your blog I thought "Hello yellow! Yikes..." But now that I see it 'in the flesh' I've come around. It's simple, eye-catching, and different from all the flashy/arty covers. Plus I'm tired of wispy, girly fonts that make every book look like a romance novel (no offense to romance novel lovers) The bold black font works well with your yellow cover, and it's not trying too hard. Hopefully it's done its job and brought you some new readers :)

Almost Precious said...

Unfortunately the human species is very superficial, we tend to made quick impressions based upon first sight ... be it a book, a person or that fantastic new cleanser that the TV ads claim will remove rust, dust or bust !

Right now I'm reading "Olive Ketteridge" by Elizabeth Strout. Good book but, had it not come highly recommended, I probably would have walked right passed it in the book store.

Alyssa Flowers said...

I sure do! I even posted a blog about this myself a month ago.