Monday, January 12, 2015

Worth a thousand? Then I only need 49k more...

Well, now I feel like I've led you here under false pretenses. I'm sure that with a picture like that one, you were expecting something. Maybe something cute and funny, but what I'm actually going to discuss for a minute is cover designs.

Because, let's face it, covers sell books. I pick up books and buy them based on the covers all the time (okay, the blurb and title help, too), but this is a big problem for me. I always feel like my pitch is just shy of being a commercial for a used car salesman.

So covers sell books. Titles sell books.

But where does it end? Do covers raise false expectations that make readers turn on the writer? I'm familiar with the idea that a bad cover is the kiss of death, but can a cover make a reader never pick up a book by that writer ever again? There's a trope on TV tropes called For Instant Awesome Just Add Dragon (no I'm not linking, you'll have to use google--this is for your safety and productivity, TV tropes will eat your whole day). On that page, there are examples of times people have added a dragon for awesome, including a book with a dragon on the cover. No dragon in the book, no mention even, and there was a dragon on the cover.

I have bought books based on there being a dragon on the cover.

I have been disappointed in a book's lack of dragon (based on cover expectations) and blacklisted the author, and now I'm starting to wonder:

Do cover expectations lead readers to blacklist writers? Or was I a particularly snobish reader to blacklist writers who had dragons on their covers with books that had nothing to do with dragons (not even as Heraldry!)?


  1. I sorta came also because I loves ya's. and the pic, that was cute, and deceiving! I have read many books based on covers and slightly thrown off.

  2. I like dragons, but my daughter loves them. She'll check out anything with a dragon on it.

  3. It's tough, because in most cases the author had pretty much no say in that cover anyway. But would you have liked the book had you not been expecting dragons? Who knows.

  4. Another one for that Trope page: "Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz." No dragons... it's not even what I'd really call fantasy. More like paranormal horror/mystery.

  5. I never thought about that, but I suppose if a cover badly portrayed a book, and if the cover was the reason why I picked it up, I would be disappointed.

    And a dragon on the cover when there's no dragon in the story? What a rip off! That's false advertising for sure!

  6. Offering a dragon just to trick me is way worse than having a bad cover. Trick me and I will hold it against you. As for a good cover hiding an awful book? I'm very busy- if I realize an author isn't for me, no matter how fancy the cover, I probably won't buy again unless you wow me with the blurb.

  7. It's really what's inside that matters, but a cover's job is to get someone interested at looking at the title, and then the blurb. Judging a book by it's cover alone, and rating it, is ... no comment. :)

  8. Yikes! I have never blacklisted a book because of its cover, but I guess that could be a unique thing. I totally get why the bate & switch would make you upset though.

  9. I do feel a little ripped-off when the cover has nothing at all to do with the actual book. But I don't think I've ever let the cover art decide whether or not I read something. I have books on my shelves with truly uninspiring covers, yet the books themselves are great. So as a reader, I don't know how much of a difference it makes to me.

    As a writer, though, you can be damn sure I'm going to fight to get the best covers I can get. -_- If there's no dragon in the book, there better not be a dragon on my cover. Grr. Arg.


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