I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately and the answer is, I don’t really know. For myself as a reader, I admit it’s quite often the cover that attracts me initially. For example, about a year ago, I saw a beautiful cover of a historical romance book being advertised on Twitter. I’d never heard of the author, Mary Wood, before. The cover in question was of a young woman wrapped in a shawl stood near a sea port, with ships in the distance. The cover yelled out to me, “This is your kind of book! It looks like a young woman maybe in Victorian times, who has to struggle but dreams large!”
I didn’t immediately purchase the book, but around six months later, I was shopping at my local Tesco store when I spotted another book by the same author on the shelf. This time the book was a WW1 historical romance. The previous cover had given me confidence that this book was one I’d definitely want to read. This cover was of a young nurse, in the distance was an army tent and a soldier. A very evocative image indeed.
I bought the book and loved it! In fact, I had trouble putting it down. The cover had helped significantly in making me purchase the book and had drawn me into the story.
We are after all, visual creatures. Have you noticed that sometimes you remember details of a particular photograph or your memories appear to you like a magic lantern show running through your mind?
Over the years, I’ve experimented with my book covers. When I was first published ten years ago, I didn’t have a lot of say in my covers as the publishers assigned me a cover artist, though to be fair, often if I suggested something, they’d do their best to replicate it. I’d been fairly lucky, that was until I encountered one publisher a couple of years ago, who gave me a terrible cover for one of my romance novels. That’s not entirely true, there were aspects l loved about it, like the hero and heroine’s faces, but the hero had man boobs! It totally put me off advertising that book as Dashing Dante looked as though he needed a Playtex twenty-four-hour brasserie! He had bigger boobs than my heroine!
Even though the publisher agreed with me that his pecs were overly large, nothing was done about it. I was told the ‘man boobs’ had been trimmed by the cover artist but they looked exactly the same to me! Anyhow, that particular publisher did little to promote my book, so I asked to be released from my contract and have sold far more copies since by myself using a much better cover!
Of course, book covers are often of their time. The old Mills & Boon covers were usually illustrations of the hero and heroine on the front cover, often doing something innocuous like picnicking on the beach or standing in a passionate clinch beneath a leafy tree. These days, though, M&B employ photographs of models on their covers, and some are very saucy to go with the comparative lines. Those ones often don’t show the face of either model and are very suggestive of what the book contains.
For myself, if I’m in a book shop, it’s the cover that draws me in initially, then the title and back cover blurb and then I read the first page, if the first page doesn’t grab me, then I don’t buy it.
What do you do when you purchase a book? Is it the cover you’re drawn to initially? Or something else?
Books by Mary Wood:
Mills and Boon Books: