Brian Austin worked in a Christian book store (Hanover Bible Book Music & Video Store in Hanover, Ont) for twelve years as a "Frontliner." That means he dealt directly with customers and processed sales, along with other chores around the store (he retired in 2009). His response to the question about covers was so insightful, I asked his permission to quote what he said. Here's the lowdown about covers from a bookstore "Frontliner":
"Covers make an incredible difference. Twelve years in a Bible Book Store showed me mediocre books with great covers outselling great books with mediocre covers almost without exception. Enough publicity could tip the balance the other way. An attractive cover gets the book picked up. Then the back cover copy becomes critical. But you have to get it picked up first.
Something else to be aware of in any bookstore: Many of their titles will be spine out, so that may be all you get to catch people's attention except during special promotions. Unless your are one of the few universally known authors, your title has to grab attention. If you are fortunate enough to have your book displayed face out, be aware that many face-out shelves stagger books, with the bottom 1/3 covered by the title below it. I see many very attractive book covers designed by professionals with all the critical information in that bottom 1/3. In many stores in their premium display place, that critical information becomes invisible. Those can be stunning covers, but still fail in moving your book if the critical information is hidden.
Good cover design is pretty time sensitive. Many excellent book covers from 10 years ago look old today on our church library shelves. If you can find something that captures some key element of your story, but that won't become dated (good luck) you will have something extra going for you.
Be aware also of an aging population. I personally like the appearance of many of the fancy fonts and of some colours of text. But more and more often I give up on a book before completing the back cover, even when the appearance pleases me, because it's too difficult for me to read. I don't think I'm the only one getting older.
One cover design bothered me--until after I had read the book. Then it made perfect sense. "Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds" by Tom Davis is a cover design that made me very hesitant to pick up the book, yet the book itself is outstanding and the cover fits it exceptionally well. Does it help market the book? I doubt it. You can see it on Amazon.ca and I highly recommend it." - Brian C. AustinI'm wondering:
- Does the cover of a book affect your book buying decision?
- Which books, in your opinion, have effective covers?
- Which covers turn you off?