We all do it.
When walking through a bookstore, do we look through the descriptions of all the books we pass by? Of course not, that would take far too much time out of our already increasingly busy lives. The old phrase “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover” works well when talking about people, but ironically not for books. Don’t misunderstand me though, there may be some books out there that are wonderfully written but have horrendous book covers.
As I was on my morning commute to University, I was reading a new novel I had bought from Chapters recently when this thought had occurred to me. Originally I had planned on buying two other books from universes that I was already familiar with. What I mean by that is that these were books were I could almost guarantee I would enjoy them. However I walked past one novel, Stormdancer, by Jay Kristoff, which had a very eye-catching cover. It was beautifully done, with the protagonist in a strong pose with a beautifully artistic background that fit with the stories East Asian Steampunk feel. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I can already say I am thoroughly enjoying it.
This leads me to the point that I wish to argue, that a book’s cover is an essential part of selling the book to potential readers. The first thing the reader will know about the novel is simply what it looks like. Does the cover depict an epic scene in the novel? Is it colorful and eye-catching? But what might be most important, does it look like a novel worth your time as a reader.
As shallow as it may sound, I fear that at times a good cover may be as important as a good story. But this is no excuse to focus on the art of the cover without building up a substantial story. An eye-catching cover comes from a strong story, a well-developed world, and characters that have meaningful interactions. Although it is entirely possible to create a beautiful work of art for a book cover, a shallow story would only disappoint the reader.
Please do not take what I have said to be discouraging in any way. The book cover is, after all, only part of the book.