How important is that e-book cover?

A screen shot of Amazon coversFollowers of this blog would be aware I’m searching for a new book cover for my novel Starheart. During that process, I was sent a link where well-credentialed book cover designer Chip Kidd said “People don’t buy a book on the Web because of the cover….They’ll buy a book on the Web because they’ve read a review or it’s word of mouth or some combination of the two.” (Read the whole article here.)

Sorry, Mr Kidd, I beg to differ, and the discussion over the cover for Starheart is a case in point. (See the last blog post and read the comments.) I think the cover is still a very important selling tool. Get it wrong and you’ll miss out on sales.

Quite some time ago I wrote an article about covers for Book Wenches, where I described my experience when I first put a set of abs on the cover of The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy. In a nutshell, sales took off on Omnilit when I introduced a new cover. Covers is a corollary of audience. First, establish who your audience is, and then design a cover to suit them. In my case, where most of my audience is likely to be women who enjoy science fiction, a picture of a ripped guy is always going to attract the eye. Have a look at the SF section on Omnilit.

I had come to the conclusion that Starheart has the wrong cover. This is what reviewer AB Shepherd had to say. “I don’t like the cover on this one and had I judged the book by it, I would never have read it. The cover makes it look like a cheesy Harlequin Romance on a space station. That is NOT what this book is.” Here’s her full review.

Mind you, the new cover of Starheart won’t have rippling abs on the front. While I guess The Iron Admiral is a romance in that the romance sub-plot is an essential part of the storyline, that’s not true of Starheart – andhaving asked readers which cover they prefer, the kick-ass heroine won hands down. We shall see.

So am I right that even for an e-book we judge a book by its cover? What do folks think? I know quite a few of my readers are fellow writers – but put on your reader hat. What causes you to pick up an e-book and look a little further?



About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 7 August 2012, in On writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. There are three ways that I buy e-books. First, I do read a few review blogs and follow a few chat groups erratically. I often note books that may interest me and may even buy based on the review (more likely to check the library though if the book is in print).
    The second is by author when an author is an auto-buy and these days I try to subscribe to the author’s newletter to know when a book is coming out. (this is what I do for your books)
    The third way is by browsing. This is a perilous undertaking because most e-book sites are a pain in the neck to navigate. The best by far in my opinion is Fictionwise (check out their advance search – no one else has more useful options) but they don’t carry many publishers any more. You usually have to drill down to read a synopsis (except on Fictionwise) and this takes a long time for efficient browsing. If a site displays a cover, that it going to influence the decision to drill down. Cover art is a signal to the content of the book. Between that and the title, I’m going to make a decision to drill down for a synopsis. If I see the romantic image with a space ship in the background, that is a signal that the book is sci-fi romance. A space ship tells me that it is sci-fi without romance. I haven’t read Starheart yet but if it is sci-fi adventure/mystery with romantic element then I would suggest keeping the space ship but put an action or mystery scene with the lead romance characters instead of the romantic image. That would send the right signal about the book.

  2. I’m sure you’re right about matching the cover to a target audience Greta, but I have to say, with total honesty, that I’ve never bought a book because of its cover. Really bad ones may put me off buying but that’s because I assume that the lousy taste or lack of professionalism might extend to the actual writing. I’d have a contoured ab-revealing cover on every one of mine if I thought it would help but I don’t think it would.

  3. I agree with Carver. I don’t buy books based on covers. I use Covers to rule out certain genres.
    Most importantly, and I think this is what you’re saying in the blog, a cover HAS TO be representative of the book’s genre. I’ll pass up books whose covers look like they are not in the mystery/suspense genre. So it the cover is misleading, yes, the author will lose book buyers.
    One last point; cover needs to look professional.

  4. Oh, definitely! The cover image is still what I look at first to give me a clue of what the book will contain. Then I look at the detailed description. Even as thumbnails, the cover image is still important and still worth fussing over.

  5. I have to agree with both Doug and Marla. The cover is what first catches my eye. It’s the first impression. I won’t buy a book because of the cover, but I may pass up step 2, which is reading the description and some of the reviews, if I’m turned off by the cover. If I know something about the author, I cover isn’t as important.

  6. A good cover always makes a difference because it is the first thing people will see. Take for instance, the book “Lady Lawbreaker” by G.J. Fuller, one of the best books I ever read (You can see it’s cover on; that book’s cover hooked me instantly. It’s simple, but really gets your attention. So yes, the cover makes a big difference.

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