We’ve probably all done it. Browsing through masses of books, one suddenly stands out. Why? The cover is attractive, enticing. We may have even gone further and trusted the cover illustration so much that we’ve bought the book knowing nothing about the contents. Of course, there’s the possibility that we may even enjoy the contents, if and when we get around to reading it. Equally, we may be bitterly disappointed!
There’s one thing I hate. Covers that have very little, if anything, to do with the actual contents of the book. There is nothing so disappointing, especially when the cover is spectacularly good. If I enjoy the book despite the inaccuracy of the cover, I often feel the temptation to hide the cover in a wrapping. I won’t name them, but I’ve got several books in my collection where I seem to have acquired two entirely unconnected pieces of art – the cover illustration and the content of the book. I can only assume that these gross misrepresentations are the work of publishers. Why would an author commit an error of such magnitude? It equates with blurb that has been written by somebody who hasn’t truly read the book and cobbles together a totally misleading precis.
Covers are important, of course. At least, they are until a book has achieved classic status. There are many of the classics which may be found in very plain covers, amounting to little more than the title and author’s name. If that helps reduce the cost of the book for buyers, then I’m all for it. I see no reason why a paperback, or ebook, need have a colourful, evocative, exciting cover when it has achieved immortality. Classics in hardback form often come in very plain style, maybe embellished by the use of gold on the minimalistic text of title plus author. Unfortunately, achieving such notoriety is difficult, to say the least! Most of us have to live with the need to package our works attractively, even if we’re giving them away.
As an author, I sometimes wish that people would remember that you’re supposed to buy books for their contents rather than for the quality of the packaging. Sadly, though it shouldn’t be the case, we’re seen to be in a competitive market. We have to obey the rules of product impact as much as a lamp manufacturer! Avid readers will, in all likelihood, read almost everything in their favourite genre, regardless of the packaging. What we’re really competing for are the less avid readers, who make choices based only partly on content. These rely on the packaging first and foremost, unless they are given books as gifts. They may establish favoured authors over a period of time, too, but the first hook is, all too often, the quality of the packaging.
As the title of this post hints, perhaps we need a visual impact box on book covers, warning potential buyers that covers do indeed contain books.