Guest Post: Why Book Covers Are Important

I am pleased to be hosting Margaret George, author of six epic biography novels, including her latest, Elizabeth I: A Novel that I will be reviewing and hosting a giveaway of tomorrow.  Margaret is guest posting as part of her Pump Up Your Book blog tour.  

Why Book Covers Are Important

Everyone knows that old saying, You can’t tell a book by its cover.  Maybe not, but almost everyone has bought a book simply because of its cover.  So covers are very important.  They are your book’s calling card to the world. Like that old ad for a perfume, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” the cover is your book’s first impression and if it gives a bad or misleading one, then it’s stumbled right out of the starting gate.

There are fads in covers.  You can date a book’s publication pretty accurately by the type of cover it has. Presently the fad is for what I call partial bodies.  A couple of feet dangling off a dock.  A bust in which the picture stops at the neckline.  A head turned away, with a twisted swan-like neck.  A part of an arm.  I hope this fad fades away soon because…I don’t like it.  It doesn’t make me want to read the book, which is the objective---and the only objective---of a cover.

Another fad that seems to be creeping up is using a photograph of a model rather than a drawing or art work.  It makes the book look like a movie poster, although maybe that’s the point.  If it crowds out the partial body cover then it will have done its duty.

Covers serve as shorthand to signal what sort of book they cover.  A house with a porch (sometimes with a rocker or a swing or potted plants) means a domestic drama.  Enormous, plain print means a thriller, usually of the political type.  A muscular man clinching a peasant-bloused woman (the main variation being whether the man was on the left or the right) used to identify a romance novel, but that’s changing somewhat.  Crime novels often feature large print and a misty figure in the background, or maybe bare-branched trees.  Chick lit has cartoon-like line drawings. 

It’s a disaster to have an inappropriate cover on a book.  If the cover looks like a romance book, but it isn’t, then whoever buys it will be disappointed, while those who would have enjoyed it will have passed it by.

Certain authors have their own ‘brand’ covers, which are recognized by their ardent fans. Janet Evanovich has a multi-color cover with big letters and no art work. In general, the bigger the author, the larger the name and the smaller the title, because what people are looking for is the author’s name and they couldn’t care less about the actual title.  Sidney Sheldon once said, in answer to a question about the title of his new book, “What difference does it make?  Just call it ‘Sidney Sheldon’s New Novel.’”

Authors have very little say about their covers, unfortunately.  But sometimes we can sway the publisher, especially if we provide a good alternative suggestion.  So, be vigilant and always ask yourself: If I knew nothing about this book, what would I expect on the basis of this cover?  Does it say what I want it to? 

About the Author:
Margaret George is the author of six epic biographical novels, all New York Times bestsellers, featuring larger than life characters like Henry VIII and Cleopatra.  Although painstakingly accurate historically, their real focus is the psychology of the characters.  We know what they did, we want to know why. Her latest release is Elizabeth I.

Margaret’s research has taken her from the islands of Scotland to the temples of Upper Egypt, with experiences that include snake-keeping and gladiatorial training.
She lives in Wisconsin and Washington DC.  Interests include reptile conservation efforts, Middle Eastern dance (aka bellydancing), and archeology.

You can visit Margaret George’s website at