Book covers, just like any other form of marketing, needs to grab the attention of a potential buyer (or reader) within seconds. Walking through the aisles of your favorite bookstore (or library), you will of course notice what catches your eye, either by bold design, bright color, or both. Many publishing companies have learned that traditional marketing strategies no longer work in a time when competition presents what can seem like insurmountable obstacles. Not only are there discount stores, mail order businesses, and e-stores to contend with, but the kindle, touchpad/PDF, and similar new technologies have forced book marketers to reinvent ways to grab a buyer’s attention.
Book covers have the additional duty to not only grab a potential buyer’s attention, but to convince him to make the purchase. Book covers of the past, with simple softback or hardback bindings rarely exist anymore. Many current book covers are the product of intricate and artistic detailing, sometimes even consisting of a 3D work of art or an embellishment, such as a charm or collector’s tin. By making these covers more ornate, many times even creating an artificial demand (such as a limited edition to commemorate a high profile book or movie), the cover is actually the selling point (not simply the story).
Consider this: if you have the choice to purchase a plain/flat paperback of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone versus a gold leafed, collector’s limited edition, leather bound with beautiful art work, which would you choose? Of course the content of the story is the same, but if you are a fan of the story, the version with the more attractive cover will catch your eye and entice you to pick it up, examine it, and seriously think about adding it to your personal library.
Additionally, book covers serve the mundane purpose of providing information about the content. The front cover provides the title, author, and many times an illustration to represent the story or subject matter. The back cover may supply a description of the tale (if a work of fiction). Many publishing houses actually employ marketers to create an image and write a description, which may talk about the story, but the emphasis is placed on “hooking” the consumer, to elicit an emotion or interest (leading to a sale).
Publishers, in an attempt to reinvent the wheel, may need to update the classics (or pseudo classics), such as the Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie series. Book covers, redesigned to make the books easily recognizable (visually), by graphically displaying the author’s name in a more updated manner have been proven to increase sales and popularity of these timeless stories.
Many recent authors (J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and Suzanne Collins: The Hunger Games) have achieved success by writing books in a series. Book covers serve as a map, informing the reader about the entire series, as well as which book, chronologically, he is reading.
Covers are extremely important as they are in fact, a way for the book to wave and motion for someone to pick them up, and take them home.