Cover Art – Does it Actually Matter?
After posting this yesterday about cover art (with several links to other discussions), I thought some more about it. As I’ve said before, I often take issue with the cover art, but does it actually matter to me anymore? Really, I know cover art can be terrible, I know that the cover art rarely reflects the quality of a book – so does it actually ever change my buying habits?
Since I’ve become more involved in the internet, message boards, blogs, etc., I generally know what books I want. I’ve read reviews or seen recommendations – in other words I’ve already judged the book in some limited way on something other than its cover. I’ve never picked up a book that I wanted to get and put it back because of the cover art – that wouldn’t make much sense to me.
I don’t browse at bookstores as much as I did in the past – though I do still buy books that aren’t on my ‘Waiting List’ when I find something that piques my curiosity. But it’s the title of a book that’s much more likely to catch my eye. The way books are shelved, you can’t see cover art – it’s the title that makes me pick up a book. Then I immediately read the synopsis and see who blurbed what. I may flip through the first chapter – notice I haven’t mentioned the cover art. It simply doesn’t matter to me.
While I still dislike cover art and can’t help feel a bit of shame when I’m reading a book in public with some cheesy, fantasy cover showing some amazon in armor with flowing hair. Or dragons – ugh dragons on a cover almost never work. Anyway, I digress – the point is that cover art does not matter to me in anyway when it comes to choosing a book. I know marketers will tell you different, as will many people, but for me it is not a factor.
So the take home message for me is that the title is the important factor in selection. I know authors don’t have near as much control over this as they’d like – so authors, publishers take my advice (like you need it) – pick good titles. Not some terribly cliché fantasy/sci-fi title The Heart of the Serpent or the like – something good, unique, catchy. City of Saints and Madmen or The Land of Laughs – these work, I’m already curious; I’m beginning to get sucked in and I haven’t even opened the book. And give me some credit – Temeraire is much more appealing than His Majesty’s Dragon – it’s insulting that a change was made because of perceived limitations in the American audience (it’s even more insulting because it’s probably true).
I’ll probably still rant from time to time, and I’ll appreciate cover art that I like, but the realization that it just doesn’t matter to me one way or another is comforting.