May 23, 2012

Judging a book by its cover

by Emmie Dark

I recently bought a book absolutely wholly and solely because of the cover. In my defence, it was very pretty. I went to an online cover competition to vote for a friend's book and saw it there. The cover just called to me, and a minute later I was looking it up online. All I found out was that it was a paranormal YA romance -- not at all my usual thing -- and before I knew it, I placed an order with Book Depository.

I wanted to own it, just based on the cover. I've received it and read it now, and I'm pleased to say that the words inside actually did live up to the cover! It was a great story and I'm glad I'd bought it.

Die for Me
I suppose I should share it. Here you go, this is Die for Me, by Amy Plum. It's a fantastic book for older YA readers (or grown ups!).

It doesn't take much to make me buy a book (as my credit card statements will attest!) but it's not usual for me to buy something just based on the cover. In fact I buy a lot of e-books, and books that I've read reviews for, or just heard about by word of mouth on Facebook or similar, and for many of them I don't think I've even looked at the cover! So what was it about this one that intrigued me?

It's a few things. Paris, for one. One of my favourite cities. I have a little Eiffel Tower sitting next to me on my desk right now, and a calendar of vintage French travel posters on the wall. Set something in Paris, and you've already half-won me over.

The red dress, for another. I love the idea of a glamorous red dress like that. One day I will have to attend the Oscars so I can wear one! It speaks of power and fun and adventure and fairy tales. (As a side note, have you heard about "The Travelling Red Dress" project by The Bloggess? It's amazing. And it's all about not waiting for an invitation to the Oscars in order to wear a dress like that.)

And the black squiggly things. I don't know why I like them but I do. I don't think I'd ever be brave enough to get a tattoo in real life, but I'm always intrigued by other people's, especially when they're beautifully drawn black lines. And if I ever did, then it would be something like those pretty swirls and winding vines and leaves. In fact, when I draw doodles in the margins of notebooks, they tend to look something like that (although not nearly as pretty).

So for me, the reasons I like that cover are all incredibly personal. There will be plenty of people out there who don't like it, who have an objection to red dresses for some reason, who encountered a rude Frenchman on their trip to Paris and have less than fond memories of the city. For those people, this book won't be appealing on any of the same grounds as it was for me.

Covers are so subjective. Like any kind of art, I suppose -- beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. And in these days of ebooks, I wonder if covers are as important as they used to be? We've heard about the demise of album art in music now -- I wonder if book covers will go a similar way?

Pre-order at Amazon
While on the subject of covers, I can't finish without a shameless self-promotional plug for "In His Eyes" my new SuperRomance, which comes out in August in North America. I just received a copy of the cover for it a couple of weeks ago -- and how gorgeous is it??

I feel I have been blessed by the cover fairies (or just the Art Department at Harlequin -- thanks guys!). My cover for Cassie's Grand Plan was beautiful, and when I got to see it on the shelves in the US, the bright ocean and blue, blue sky made it stand out and it really drew the eye. (It wasn't just me -- other people said the same thing!) In His Eyes is set in a fictional winery area outside of Melbourne and my hero and heroine have competing vineyards and a complicated history. I just love the dark tones and sense of drama in this cover -- it's totally appropriate to the story. I hope you'll agree when you get a chance to read it. :)

Do you think book covers are less important these days? Have you ever bought a book just because of its cover?


  1. I buy books for all kinds of reasons, like you, Emmie, including covers. And there are some gorgeous YA covers out. Now I'll just have to pick up a copy of this one. =)
    And I don't think the visual aspect of choosing a book is an age related thing. My 10yo showed me her latest library book this morning and said, "I choose it because of the cover."
    Your latest Super cover is wonderful! Subtle but says so much.

  2. They say we shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I know I do. If it's an author I know and love and trust, the cover doesn't matter. If it's a new-to-me author, I look to the cover to give me some indication of the tone and style of the book. With self published books, I look for a professional cover that tells me the author understands the business and signals the inside of the book will be just as professional. I read on my Sony e-reader quite a bit now, too, but I still love covers. Getting mine from Harlequin still gives me a huge buzz. And your cover is GORGEOUS Emmie. Can't wait to read it.

  3. Hi Robyn, I hadn't considered the age thing. Obviously Die For Me is targeted to younger readers (well, younger than me) and yet it was just as appealing to someone in my age bracket, so I think you're right, it doesn't make much difference.

    And you won't regret buying this one. :)

  4. I'm with you Sarah. A known author and the cover is almost irrelevant. New authors and perhaps it becomes more important. Having said that, when it's an ebook and my Kindle automatically opens to page one (not the cover) there are definitely some new-to-me authors that I've bought and I don't think I've taken much notice of the cover at all.

  5. Great post :)

    I generally don't buy books based on covers but my eyes are definitely drawn to a cover I like which will entice me to read the blurb.

    BTW - love the cover of your new book, can't wait to read it :)

    **Sarah - interesting comments, I agree :)

  6. Hey Joanne, thanks! I agree, a great book cover can be an enticement, but for me usually isn't the main reason for purchasing (recent Die For Me experience excepted!)

  7. Hi Emmie

    I must admit to being a very visual person when it comes to books and covers. If I'm buying a book by a new author, the decision whether to buy or not is two-fold - does the cover entice me? Does the blurb capture me?

    Congrats on your lovely new book cover! Can't wait to read it.


  8. Hi Emmie,
    I can be turned OFF a book by cover art, especially the representation of the hero or heroine. I'm afraid people who look too real or too ordinary just don't do it for me. I look real and ordinary myself and I want to spend a little time in the shoes of someone younger/more glamorous/prettier. Someone to whom extraordinary things are about to happen.
    I love your cover for In His Eyes. Just perfect for this story :-)

  9. Emmie, I would have picked that gorgeous red dress cover up for a second look. The shade of red is beautiful, and, like you, I like the black swirly pattern.

    Side note: I followed your link to The Bloggess and got trapped there for ages reading entertaining posts!

    *Love* the cover for In His Eyes - so atmospheric. I'd totally pick that up off the shelf.

  10. Hi Michelle! I think the gist of comments this morning is that the back blurb is at least as important as the cover.

    Thanks for the lovely comment about my cover -- I'm very much looking forward to seeing it in hard copy, I must say!

  11. Hi Louise, I think you've hit on a good point. A bad cover can absolutely work against what might otherwise be an amazing story inside. I know a few authors who've been unhappy with the way their characters ended up looking (wrong hair colour, etc) and I agree -- there has to be some element of "aspiration" in the way they look.

  12. Rachel, the Bloggess is one of my favourite blogs ever -- I totally understand how you got stuck there. You must read her post about Beyonce the metal chicken -- the funniest piece of writing I think I've read, ever. (Big call, I know!) I'm reading her book "Let's pretend this never happened" right now and I'm loving it. (BTW, it has a great cover of a little stuffed mouse in a cape on the front. Quirky and slightly wrong, just like the Bloggess...)

  13. My daughter keeps getting mad at me because Iwill often judge a book by it's cover. Catch my attention & I will read the blurb & before you know it SOLD.

  14. I'm a sucker for a winery, Emmie, so I love your cover and I agree, a good cover really draws you in. I always feel for authors who get covers they don't like!

  15. Hi Marybelle, I don't think that's a bad thing! Hopefully it works out most of the time... ;)

  16. Hi Imelda, thanks for the kind words. I, too, am a sucker for a winery adventure. In fact in a couple of weekends, a friend and I are venturing on the "Winter Wine Weekend" -- and I think I've just decided what my post in June might be about. ;)

  17. Love the cover of Die for Me and have to confess I also am one to impulse buy a book by cover but I always check the blurb and read the first few paragraphs- cheeky I know.

    I usually check out the Mills and Boon Aus website and have my list ready but they've been slack updating the site recently and the current releases aren't always there.

    I've pre-ordered In his Eyes.

    Thanks for sharing,

  18. I do judge a book by its cover even though it's not the deciding factor for me in reading a book. It's the blurb that will help me make this decision. I think with so many books available to read a nice cover, and also appropriate to the genre/story helps since it's the first thing I see.

  19. Emmie, how wonderful that the book you bought on a whim turned out to be worth it. I'm a bit more cautious. I'll fall in love with a cover but I tend not to buy until I've at least read the back cover or had a recommendation from a friend.

  20. Hi Margaret -- thanks for pre-ordering! Die For Me is a very pretty cover. I don't think there's anything too cheeky about reading the first few pages before you buy -- at least you're going to know if it's your kind of style that way!

  21. Hi Na, I think you're with the majority of comments so far -- the blurb seems to be a key decision point in the buy/don't buy decision.

  22. Emmie, the Die For You cover really is very striking. I love covers -- and I love it when I get a gorgeous cover myself. :-) But I have to admit that I never buy books based on their covers alone. I am, however, a back-cover-blurb gal. Now if that tantalises me...


  23. Oh we pretend we don't judge a book by its cover, but I know I do.

  24. Love the cover of Die For Me. Think I'll have to peek inside the cover of this one. Tattoo's are lovely and I love mine. A red rose with black swirls. More filigree is yet to be added along with another rose.
    In His Eyes looks lovely. It reminds me of visiting Mitchelton Winery. How great would it be to stand gazing into Mr Gorgeous's eyes surrounded by the cool oak barrels filled with yummy wine. Very Intoxicating.