You cannot judge a book by its cover. This tiresome cliché is nonsense, as most people in the book trade know. Readers do judge books by their covers and, more importantly, often make buying decisions based on a visceral reaction to jacket design.
Like most publishers, I am keenly interested in what factors draw people to book covers. As a publisher of children's books, the question is also: do children look at book covers in the same way as adults?
Cover design and blurb remain two of the most influential factors in any book marketing campaign, yet publishers often spend most of their time and marketing budgets on advertising rather than cover design. Much of the selection process is based on design aesthetic, with heavy use of the so-called "hunch". If a sizeable chunk of money is spent on design it is often as part of a rebranding exercise. These changes, again, tend to stem from aesthetic whims rather than market research.
A book's cover is a strong marketing opportunity, yet its possibilities have been remarkably under-researched. There is the question of whether such a creative industry as publishing should be focus-grouped to death, as has happened with so many other industries. Some argue that a more scientific approach could create homogeneity, as creativity and innovation are sacrificed at the altar of increased sales. However, even in the current climate homogeneity already rules, as cover style fads spread virus-like from publisher to publisher.
Emphasis added by me.
It's about children's books, but contains some fascinating research I've never encountered.
This is very clever:
Given that 52.8% of respondents replied that they had a look in some way (browsing, reading the first page, or reading at random) at the inside of a book before choosing, the approach taken by Chicken House—one of those ideas that seem blindingly obvious in hindsight but that hardly anyone had thought of before—makes a lot of sense. Chicken House children's books carry a tag-line on the back cover saying "Try it! Read page X".
And don't forget, until the time we all have 32-bit color OLED device displays, eBook covers will be in 4- (Kindle) or 8- (Sony Reader) shades of gray.
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They Don’t Write These Anymore