What’s in a cover?

Do you pick up a book because you like the cover? I do. I suspect most of us do. Likewise, we may be put off so much by a cover that we don’t pick up the book at all. If you are an indie author, one of the first pieces of advice you’ll be given is, ‘Hire a good cover designer’.

Covers have to be genre appropriate. Just look at the covers on our header here on Take Five Authors. Ellie Campbell has a smart, sassy cover that’s absolutely right for the tone and feel of her book. Mary Smith’s No More Mulberries is intriguing, exotic, a little dark, absolutely real. Janet Gover’s cover puts her book immediately into the right setting – and boy, can you feel the heat!

withoutAs we’ve had two cover reveals this week (Sue Moorcroft’s wintry delight for The Christmas Promise and my own summery and reflective Mistakes We Make), it seemed like a good time to think about this question. Oh – and it was prompted, too, by blogger Joanne Baird (Portobello Book Blog), who reviewed a new book, to be published by Hodder. It seems that Hodder are trying to do something rather different – get us to read a book with no preconceptions whatsoever. There’s no clue about the author and very little about the content. Joanne loved it – but she was sent a copy by the publisher. Would you pick it up in a shop? It’s a great gimmick, sure. With a Twitter hashtag #readwithoutprejudice there’s sure to be a buzz of interest around the title. It’s got me thinking, hasn’t it? But, let’s face it, it can only be done once. A few hundred completely anonymous covers would be extremely confusing – how would we find anything?

PWL+MWMWhich brings me back to where I started. Covers in today’s market – even for the digital marketplace – have to be attention-grabbing, attractive, genre-specific, give a feeling for content and setting and right for the local culture. This last point is interesting, and probably a science in itself. I haven’t yet seen the covers of my Turkish translations, for example, but I can guess they’ll be completely different from the existing ones. What might a reader in Turkey make of my gorgeous but rather mysterious People We Love cover, for example? And I adore my latest, Mistakes We Make, but I wonder how it will fare in America, where covers tend to be bolder and brasher?

Jojo compositeHere are a few examples of covers from different countries. Jojo Moyes is a great writer, and I thought After You was even better than Me Before You. Here are her covers from (l-r) the UK, USA and Germany.

HMB compositeAnd here’s a title I picked at random, The first is the cover for the UK edition (published by Mills & Boon) and the second for the US edition (published by Harlequin). Obviously, each has been designed to fit with the imprint’s branding – but I still found the differences intriguing.

So come on, do tell – what makes you pick up a book? Does it need a hunky hero or a gorgeous bride? A couple embracing? Is the typography the most important thing? Or scene? A drawing? Pink shoes? Be honest now!


16 thoughts on “What’s in a cover?

  1. Enjoyed this post thank you Jenny, and I’m definitely attracted by the cover. A good cover artist can convey the whole sense of the book in the cover….sweet, raunchy, clever, mysterious, feel-good etc. So depending on my mood, I’ll go for the hunky male, the bright sunny colours, the dramatic single image – or the pink shoes 🙂


  2. Really good article Jenny. The imagery and colour of the cover will either draw me to a book or not. From there, I’ll read the blurb. I particularly like when authors use similar imagery for their books which helps to establish that author’s brand. I think that your covers are a good example of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting question, Jenny. I tend not to choose a book by its cover mainly, like Christina above, because I mostly buy ebooks. If I’m in a bookshop, I’ll gravitate to the shelves which hold the genre I’m looking for and read the blurb. I do buy quite a few books in charity shops and I suppose there I am more likely to pick up a book because I’m attracted by the cover but it would still be the blurb and a look at the opening which would make me decide to buy or not. Having said all that I suspect our subconscious is manipulated in some way by book designers!

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    • Interesting. I think I’d be attracted by the cover first, then the title and blurb. However, ebooks are a bit different, I agree. I buy around 20 books a year (or more) on Audible, where you only get a smallish cover. There’s another element in that choice – the voice.

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  4. The cover is a way of instantly “reading” a book & knowing if it is for you. And people are very clever at doing that. The black & white gimmick will be self limiting, I suspect. Good post.


  5. For me, it’s all about the colours. If they are bright and happy then I’ll pick up the book and read the back cover. Then again, if it’s a horror, ghost story, or mystery and suspense then a cover that gets me thinking about the mystery inside will get me to pick up the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Colour and image go together, don’t they? I keep remembering the excellent V&A exhibition, Hollywood Costume, where one of the things I remember most was about colour palette in a film. I think of it every time I look at a film or TV series now. Thanks for dropping by.

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  6. Interesting post. I find the whole cover thing intriguing as I hardly ever look at covers (I mostly buy ebooks and I buy based on blurb) and the only effect covers seem to have on me are negative marketing ones in that I get turned off books rather than drawn to them… Funny, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aha, yes, the ebook thing. We’re told you need a strong and very simple cover, because it will be seen very small (i.e. on Amazon). Most ebooks direct you straight to the beginning of the story, though you can scroll back through prelims to the cover if you wish to. Therefore, most readers of ebooks never see the cover. On the other hand, I find I forget both the book’s title and the author very quickly. I tend to describe a book as, ‘You know, the one where the sister has an affair with the husband and …’ . Thanks for your contribution!


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