Cover Story: Do we actually need book covers? + new cover for The Innocent Assassins

TheInnocentAssassins4dThe Innocent Assassins has a new look! What do you think? It’s thanks to my amazing cover designer, Amanda Matthews. She’s insanely talented and incredibly patient. Thank you again, Amanda!

I love the new cover, but picking a new one had me thinking – are book covers necessary?

This is you right now:

SH Tags: what do you mean/john/what/confused/301</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Looking for a particular Sherlock reaction gif? This blog organizes them so you don’t have to deduce them out.

{Full article featured on Curiosity Quills}

“Never judge a book by its cover.” Yet you know it’s unavoidable. When you step into a bookstore or scroll through an online catalog, your first impression of the novel is the cover. Even I do it as an author myself. It’s scary to think a reader can judge my work in the blink of an eye, before even flipping the page. Authors spend a lot of energy worrying over whether readers will admire their book covers. But as a reader, I’ve also learned a great cover doesn’t make a great book.

In fact, I’ve even found favorite books from stories where I disliked the cover. All the judging makes a reader wonder if we need covers at all.

Wouldn’t it be easier for books to be judged on actual words – a blurb and a title and an author name? It’s the words that are important. Popular books have remained so over time whether or not the book covers are spectacular. Just take a look at authors/publishers who make the decision to change a book cover for the same story. Think of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. The original cover looked like this. While the illustration is lovely, it’s a far cry from the current cover featured on Gabaldon’s website.

While the exterior has changed, the new cover hasn’t changed the quality of the story. Books without covers would more or less put books at an equal playing field, allowing the reader to judge the story based on the actual content instead of the cover.

Still don’t see my point?

Book covers are also subjective – someone can love one cover, and someone else can hate the same one. Readers can be turned off from a book before even reading the first page. Graphic designers may design a brilliant cover, but it may not appeal to the novel’s target audience. Readers could miss out on their next favorite story (or at least an engrossing read) because they judged the book by its cover. Book covers can harm the reader’s perception just as much as they can help.

On the other hand, as readers we can’t help but gravitate toward what we find attractive. Covers help us choose what we like and narrow down our choices. Let’s face it – going into a bookstore can be an overwhelming experience, and it helps to have some sort of distinguishing factor to sort out what we’re seeing.

Covers also help us quickly determine the genre of a story. A thriller cover has a much different look than one for a historic romance. Covers allow fans of a certain genre to automatically associate the front of the book with whether or not they’d be interested in reading it. Beyond attractiveness, it’s a way for readers to figure out what the story would be like without even glancing at the summary.

It’s hard to imagine a world without book covers. Even for just aesthetic reasons, they fill bookshelves with color and Kindles with pictures. But since the value of the novel comes from the book’s words, are covers really necessary? How important are they for us as readers?

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5 thoughts on “Cover Story: Do we actually need book covers? + new cover for The Innocent Assassins

  1. Hmm, this is interesting. I guess without book covers, books definitely wouldn’t be as pretty. And (I feel terrible saying this as a reader), but they would not be pleasurable to look at. Also, how would that work? Would the “covers” just be white with the book’s title, author’s name, and blurb? I think we need covers… and THE INNOCENT ASSASSIN’s cover is gorgeous!

    1. Aw, thank you! Book covers are tricky things to choose. I’m in love with The Queen of the Tearling’s book cover, so that’s a major reason why I’d want to pick up a copy.

      You should look at this – https://twitter.com/jamesrollins/status/496329980079394817 It’s a picture of a bookstore where books don’t have covers, they’re just in packages with information written on them. Though I can’t for the life of me find the name of this bookstore!

      1. Yep. I actually didn’t get a chance to look at the cover before it arrived (I got a review copy from HarperCollins), and when it arrived I just stared at it and smelled it and stroked it for half an hour. (Don’t judge me because I smelled it.)

        Oh, wow! That’s so cool. I’d definitely want to visit there and pick up a coverless book. But how do they hold the books together? Are there covers inside the package? Or is it just bound together?

      2. I don’t know! I’ve been trying to Google “bookstore without covers” or something, but nothing shows up. That would be an awesome place to see.

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