I'd Rather Have Fabio than a Petunia

(Or - Judging a Book By the Cover)

Part 2

June 2008

Who would have thought? Last month, I attended my first Romantic Times Convention. I had an absolute blast. The highlight, however, was when I slipped into the SOS halfway through the event. There was a crowd, and I soon realized why. Fabio was there, front and center. I absolutely couldn't believe it. The majority of the first romance novels I owned had him on the cover, and now, here I was able to snap a picture of him. Then they said we could get a picture with him. I was one of the first in line.

Now guess who will be on the Cover of my RT 2008 Scrapbook.

My last article I mentioned that I had asked readers and writers 6 questions. They were...

1) Do you like People/Places/Things on Covers, or Flowers?

2) For unknown/new to you authors, does the cover influence you to read the blurb?

3) Do you hide covers of books easily recognizable as romance novels?

4) Do you like the trend of "branding" an author's book covers?

5) Do you mind when a cover is changed when the book is reissued?

6) Has there ever been a cover so bad that it prevented you from buying/reading the book?

I addressed first three questions in Part 1. Now I will address the last three.

On the issue of branding, generally speaking, people were either ambivalent or vehemently against branding. I was actually somewhat surprised that there weren't but a couple positive responses. Typically, branding for a series (from the initial release) was overwhelmingly approved. Personally, I think Leigh Greenwood's Cowboys series is an excellent example of branding done well. Each cover has unique qualities, but they are all easily identifiable as part of the series.

Some negative feelings for branding were that since it tends to happen for reissues, a dedicated reader will have a series part with an old style cover, part with a new. Also, if an author is branded across all titles, it may not work well if that author writes different genres. If the branding is applied solely to the font size and color of the title and author name, this was considered acceptable.

Reissued covers had similar responses to the branding. Typcially, readers do not like the covers to be changed. So, they don't like when the covers for a series becomes branded. Readers have limited time when shopping, and they don't want to have to pick up each book to see if it is something that they have read before. Many readers commented on how they've repurchased titles without realizing that the cover had simply been changed.

However, the importance of good covers is still an issue, and if an original cover basically stunk, then a new cover was acceptable. However, many commented that having "reprint" or "new cover" stamped on the cover was highly recommended - even by authors.

I used to think that I alone had such strong feeling about covers. The tremendous response to these questions proved me wrong, particularly with the last question. Surprisingly, several people responded yes, they have not bought a book based on its cover. They had been so turned off by it, that they either didn't read the blurb, or simply kept putting off the purchase. Sometimes they'd buy the book, but couldn't bring themselves to read it. They wouldn't mind that these covers be changed with a reprint, although keeping the basic premise of the cover, and somehow noting that it was a "reprint" would be appreciated.

I also receive many comments on issues that I didn't ask.

For instance, many noted that although there can be some creative licensing for the cover, the main features/setting should match the story. Hair color, length, setting, clothing should all match the book. Also, significant physical traits, such as needing to wear an eye batch, needs to be included.

The importance of covers could be summed by the following. One author stated that when a book was republished with a better cover, it outsold the previous publication.

So, yes, covers are important. People do judge books, at least to some extent, by their covers.

I would be interested in learning your opinions about covers or your answers to my six questions. Feel free to e-mail me also with questions or topics you might like to have addressed in future columns. Although I do not make any guarantees, I will take all e-mails into consideration.