Book Covers: friend or foe

Last week I went to a book signing up in Delray on the suggestion of a friend. Based on the cover, the book honestly wasn’t doing much for me. It looked like a cozy, and while I know those have some rapidly loyal fans, that’s not really my thing. The titles for the series made it sound like a cozy. And the whole package came across as VERY cozy. The description the author gave didn’t sound so cozy. It actually sounded like something I might read. I may even pull it out of the TBR pile and read it one of these days.

Which makes me wonder. Did the publisher decide to disguise it as a cozy because those sell well? Or did the cover designer just not get the right memo? Am I just not the target age group?

All this got me to thinking during my snot-infused week of sickness about what kinds of covers to attract me. What sorts of images draw me like a moth to a flame across a bookshop? What makes me click on a thumbnail online? What makes me want to know more? And what repels me?

I think it’s easier to say what automatically repels be because it’s maybe easier.

  • The old-school 80s black and blood splatter, colbalt blue and silver covers that scream “I’m the thriller you read in high school but with better technology” or “I’m the mystery with the serial killer who attacks pretty little blond girls for ‘reasons.'”
  • Bad clip art or badly compiled art. If it looks like a first grader made it with Pic Monkey, I’m probably not picking it up.
  • Anything that looks like a poster from a teenage boy’s bedroom — even erotica should leave me with the impression that the people involved are doing what they want and not having a seizure on the hood of a Trans Am.
  • Whimsical, cutesy stuff, curlicues, overly-fancy fonts, or anything that looks like it would make a good print on your grandmother’s favorite tote bag. Sorry. I may like the book, but you’re gonna have to talk me into it because the cover’s gonna work against it for me.

Things that tend to draw me in:

  • Grays or black and white photos accented with bold colors that aren’t blood red. Think teal or purple or that orange popsicle color that isn’t quite pastel and isn’t quite bright.¬†In fact, if you throw an artsy black and white or faded color photo on the cover — something that looks more like it belongs on an indie album or the pop up gallery in the warehouse district — I’m going to pick the damn thing up.
  • Bright colors or bold hand-drawn doodles on a bright white background. Literary books do this a lot and I will pick up every last one of them only to find most of them are naval-gazing stories about a dissatisfied boy who wishes the girl next door wasn’t moving to China so he stalks her and discovers himself triumphantly by having an existential¬†crisis after drinking too much gin with a woman who only exists in his head and may in fact be a tumor.
  • Thick academic tomes with good looking muted covers under their dust jackets. (This is not actually a selling device, it’s just what makes me leave the library with books about the intersection of neurophysics and geopolitical boundaries.

So, what attracts you cover wise?