Judging Books by Their Covers

I have spent the last two days making a final decision for my book cover. Sorry, I can't post it but imagine the coolest cover EVER! That's my cover. (*smile*)

Here's the story. Last March, I selected two images to use as the cover art for my forthcoming book, Underlife. I settled on two of the 20 options my friend, a graphic designer, created for me. One I loved (cover A), and one I liked a lot (cover B).

For months, I've lived knowing that cover A was my rock-solid choice. But when someone I trusted mentioned that cover B was a better option, I really had to think about it. So I did a little "market research." I asked for second, third, and fourth opinions from coworkers, sent the covers to other poets, went to Borders and B&N to see what other poetry books look like on the shelves, and laid out books by contemporary poets. In reviewing cover art, I looked at the cover art (photography vs. illustration vs. works of art vs. type treatments) and I wanted to see how well the cover image matched the title/subject matter.

Let me just say that if your name is Frost, Yeats, Ginsberg, Whitman, or Dickinson, your picture is probably on the front cover. I also saw lots of dull covers with heavy type. We all know that major booksellers do not carry many contemporary poets, but if you're female, you have to fight for shelf space.

So I'm comfortable with cover B because both are great designs. I'm glad I put myself through the process. I really care about how the book will translate to market, small market that it is. I have to live with it for years to come so I want to be happy with my choice. And I am. Guess I'm just having trouble letting go.

Again, I know this story would resonate if I posted both covers. When Underlife is closer to release, I'll have a big reveal on the blog. I will say that the cover falls somewhere between Philip Schultz's Failure and Mariko Nagai's History of Bodies (both are excellent reads, BTW).

Q of the Day: What attracts you to a poetry book cover, and does it influence your choice?


Anonymous said…
can't wait to see it!!!!
January said…
I'm waiting to see the cover art for your book, Carolee!
Catherine said…
To answer your question, the cover doesn't influence my choice at all. What causes me to buy a poetry book is that I already know some of the poet's work and know that I really want to read more. A beautiful cover is a bonus, though. I have glanced through some of my collection and I think that I like an unusual cover that is fairly simple and striking, and in some way relates to the title and contents.
Can't wait to see yours - but I want to buy the book, whatever the cover is :)
Collin Kelley said…
Yay, black and white photography!
Goodnight, Mom said…
WAIT! Which one did you choose? Send me an email!
Maya Ganesan said…
Failure had a lovely cover, so if yours is similar, I can't wait to see it.

I'll have to pick up a copy when it's out! ;)

In response to your q:

I tend to prefer covers that are striking and have an interesting, catch-your-eye image on the front. Something with a lot of black and the image as a focus = perfect for me.

I do judge books by their covers *blush* I tend to consider only books that have interesting covers, interesting titles, and an overall appeal. May I add that I think Underlife is one of the coolest poetry book titles ever?
Liz said…
Hi January,

I think the cover does matter, initially, especially if you don't know the author...it's tricky choosing...but even trickier is
choosing a title - this is where I am stuck just now!
January said…
Thanks for the feedback.

I'm with you, Liz. I think the cover art matters, especially if you're a first-time author.

Catherine, I wish I could always say that the work was my #1 reason for buying a new title. But I've been known pick up a new title based solely on the cover.

Maya, your cover is terrific, so no worries there.
Kay said…
I am fortunate to have an artist son who will paint me covers for my books. I love a poetry book to have an attractive, appealing cover and have been known, when faced with a choice, to go for the book with the nicest cover - call me shallow!
Anonymous said…
Can't wait for your book! TIME FLIES, huh!!!! Terrific.

As for book covers: I am a harsh judge of books covers and if I don't totally love the cover I will have a hard time picking up the book. That said, as long as the cover is very well-done and very high quality, then it works for me!
Anonymous said…
I prefer poetry-book covers that pack a punch. That make me think, "Who is that!" Particularly, ones who photos of people on them.

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