UNWASTED WORDS

First Impressions

I want this book. I want this book for no other reason than, I love love love the cover. I don’t care that if’s not my usual fictional fare, I do read strays sometimes. No, I want it because I think the cover is exquisite. I want it because the cover sold me.

I know they say, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” but I’m in the business of bias. As a designer, image is everything and a good cover piques my interest. A striking, well designed cover says to me that the publisher cares about that initial first impression, that they believe and have confidence in the writing and want to give the book the best chance possible. Kind of like a parent ensuring their child in that elite preschool.

I would imagine that book facing is more competitive than say candy or food. Books don’t differ much in size and shape the way other shelved products are. Packaging design considers a lot of psychological factors that helps decide dimensions and form but books are already sub categorized by what a reader likes and in a sea of semi-sameness it’s the cover image that kicks off the sale.

One of my professors, a wise DeNiro-like Brooklynite, uses boxing as an analogy when designing posters, go with a one, two, knockout. Basically grab a viewer with a strong image, and convey the message quick and simple. I think of book covers like mini posters. Like their larger counterparts a cover should demand attention while you brush by, convey a general idea of the premise, then reel you into finding out more. An excellent image will stop you in your tracks and detour you right to the register.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not always this shallow and there are other reasons I buy certain books. I’m always on the lookout for a new book by a favorite author. Plus I do a lot of research looking for that next great read. A bad cover might turn me off or deter me, a good summary will change my mind. The sale just might take longer. But a good cover can really open a door, or level the reading field for new and upcoming authors trying to gain notice next to already established New York Times bestsellers.

So how does a cover affect your initial response?

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