By Starr Gardinier Reina
Never judge a book by its cover. It is said of people and of written material. Perhaps in a perfect world, we wouldn’t do that. But really, if we were all honest at least with ourselves, we would admit that yes, we do judge that book by its cover. Which is one of the reasons why book covers are so important.
You’ve written a thriller and the premise is how your protagonist falls in love with a serial killer. The artist working on your cover portrays a young woman in the arms of a man. What is your first thought if you can visualize this book cover? Romance? Romantic suspense at best? Perhaps. Thriller? More than likely not. Genre readers are very picky. If they want to read a good thriller, it’s highly doubtful they’ll pick this one up based on the harlequin-looking cover.
Another trap I believe many early authors fall into is they want a cover to literally portray some piece of a scene from the pages. In your suspense book, you have a man being chased down the train tracks near an old broken-down mill that has an old washing machine sitting next to it. It’s the only scene in the entire four hundred page novel that railroad tracks, the old mill and for some reason, an old washer, even come into play. It’s really unmemorable because it has nothing to do with the scene or your book’s foundation. Yet, you decide to place a picture of washing machine on the front cover. Too literal? Absolutely. The old appliance has no bearing on the book.
I’m not an artist, nor do I create book covers for a living, but if there’s one thing my publicist has drilled into my head is it’s best to portray in general terms, not literal ones. Readers are not stupid in the least, but yes, I believe we all fall prey to judging books by their covers.