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Home » Books & writing

How Much Do Book Covers Matter?

Submitted by on July 16, 2012 – 2:56 pm 21 Comments

I saw this beautiful cover for Michael Frayn’s book, Skios, this morning and was immediately attracted to it.

My trip to the Greek islands remains my favorite so far, and I have fond memories of the gorgeous vistas there. So when I saw this cover, I wanted to know more about the book. But when I went to Amazon to check synopsis and reviews, I saw this:

Wha? Turns out the pretty one was the UK cover, and we’re getting the ugly one in the US. I suddenly lost all desire to read it, despite knowing it’s not fair to the author, since he had no control over this. It’s the equivalent of losing my appetite when I see an otherwise delicious dish served in an unappealing way.

Has this ever happened to you? How much do covers matter to you?



  • Eric Beetner says:

    Interesting. I can’t say I’ve ever gotten a bait and switch like that. I have certainly seen books with better either international covers or the cover for the HC was better than the paperback (The Sisters Brothers springs to mind)
    That is a strong reaction in both cases. Your association with the pleasant memory that made you want to read UK version and the distaste for the US version that made you reverse course.
    The taste thing is an apt comparison. There are some books I won’t consider based on look much in the same way I won’t try a dish that looks unappetizing. Then again, I’m a food wimp. But hey, I ate snake in China. And even picked the live one out of a cage before they cooked it up.
    Hmmm, maybe I should try a few books with covers I purposely don’t like and see if they go down any easier?

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I need a moment to recover from your admission of eating snake, and picking out a live one. I might have to run to the bathroom. Be right back.

      OK. Where were we? That’s not a bad idea—reading a book with an ugly-ass cover to see if you like it. I might try that. Though I’m not trying snake. EVER.

  • Carol Wong says:

    I have won books from giveaways that had a beautiful cover and when I received it, the cover was different-ugly! Thank goodness this just happens sometimes!

  • le0pard13 says:

    A great cover is always an attractant when it comes to books, I admit. I will pick it up if at a book store (I remember these), or look at it at Amazon’s or other online site. I won’t buy purely for the artwork, but it’ll be enough for me to check out. A bad cover may not attract my eye, but if you or other friends recommend it, it won’t prevent me from buying or reading the book.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I’m like you—I rarely buy something only because of a nice cover, but things in attractive packaging have a better chance of being purchased by me. And I’m flattered you consider me someone who can convince you to a read a book with a cover you don’t like!

  • Wow–what a difference. They telegraph two very different books: one rather playful, whimsical and feminine, the other slightly edgy and genre-less. Makes me think the different markets have different marketing plans on the way.

    I had very strong reactions to the various covers of my novels. The UK covers of Isabella Moon and Calling Mr Lonely Hearts were absolutely lovely and played up the paranormal possibilities inside. The American versions were colorful and definitely aimed at a women’s fiction (whatever that is…) audience. A lot of American readers were angry when they realized the, uh, graphic nature of the books. While I liked them all, the UK versions were my favorites.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I like edgy but the US cover on this is just ugly to me.

      It’s too bad that readers got angry at you because they felt misled by your covers. I read a blog post recently by an author who said her fans got mad at her because her new book will be published in hardcover for the first time (her past titles have been trade paperbacks). Her readers accuse her of selling out, trying to make more money off them because hardcovers cost more. I think people should realize what authors do and don’t have control over before getting up in arms.

  • Covers make a huge difference to me. That’s one of the hard things about receiving pitches. If the cover is on the email, and it sucks? I’m less inclined to want to read the book or even know what it’s about.

    If it’s not particularly awful, no big deal, but there are so many really awful covers out there.

  • I’m all for an attractive cover! And I thought of your fondness for Greece as soon as I saw the first cover ~ it’s the epitome of the idyllic Greek holiday. They do convey vastly different impressions, don’t they. If I’m picking up a book intentionally based on a review {usually yours!}, I’m not concerned about the cover, but if browsing, I’m definitely more drawn to books with cover art that appeals.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      If a friend highly recommends a book, I’d still read it if it comes to me with the cover torn off. (Thank you for considering me such a friend!)

      I just had a thought—you should be designing cover art!

  • Eddy says:

    I guess that I’m the oddball here. Often I’m over halfway through a book before I give a cover more than a glance. And then, I usually end up nitpicking that the cover art misrepresents the actual story line.

    And, I know that we’re discussing cover art and not dust jackets, but I make a point not to read the synopsis on the flap. Too often they give away a major plot point that I’d rather discover for myself.

    For authors that I’m not familiar with, a clever title will get my attention. I have one book that I bought called “Nibbled to Death by Ducks” (by Robert Cambell). The funny thing is, I’ve had the book since the ‘90s, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      That title would make me peek inside, as well. And I don’t read dust jackets, either, because of the dang spoilers. A long time ago, before I learned this lesson, I read a dust jacket that revealed a death that didn’t happen until more than halfway through the book. I was SO mad.

  • Lauren says:

    I’m hugely influenced by covers. Eric mentioned Sisters Brothers before I got a chance, but the hardcover was incredible. I even nominated it for best cover for a Stalker Award. But the paperback? Eeek, creeped me out so much I wouldn’t have even picked it up off the shelf. That may be the biggest spectrum spread for one book I’ve ever seen.

    It’s stilly to be influenced so much by covers, but they get me in all forms: books, music, movies. A good one will make me pick something up, a bad one I will gloss over. But the great thing is that, like the innards, the covers are all subjective. One gal’s creepy cover photograph is another’s “wow, what hot cowboys” moment.

    The problem is when the cover leads you astray. Had I seen the paperback of Sisters Brothers first I would have missed out on one of my favorite reads of the year. But haven’t figured a way around that issue yet. I’m still influenced.

  • Leanne says:

    If I like the author already, I don’t care what the cover looks like! But yeah, I suppose if I was to be hooked in to reading a new author, the cover would play a big part. Nice and bright and ‘catchy’.

    • Lauren says:

      This is a very good point and got me thinking/wondering about my series authors and what their covers look like. Trying to think of an author I read who has had a cover that made me think “If this were my first time out of the gate with this person, I wouldn’t buy this book.” Can’t think of one (which obviously doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist). Makes me wonder if I’ve just been incredibly lucky or if I’m missing out on some great authors because a cover turned me off at some point. I’m sure the latter is true somewhere down the line.

  • stacybuckeye says:

    Yuck! Covers do matter. I received a book for a tour and the cover was so disturning I couldn’t make myself pick it up. Luckily, I could take it off and finally did so I could start reading it! Time will tell if the cover was right in scaring me away.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I’m deathly afraid of snakes. When I was sent an ARC with snakes all over the cover, I couldn’t even touch it, much less read it. They were all shiny and nasty-looking!

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