I stumbled across an interesting post by Seth Godin on The Purpose of a Book Cover. This is a question you may not think about (or maybe you do), however, it's something I discuss with colleagues, authors and agents often.
The conversation usually arises around a particular cover, as in, what is the purpose of this specific book cover? Does this design or image achieve the goal we set out for this book? Will this particularly design style appeal to the primary target audience of this book?
This discussion happens regularly and many different opinions inevitably fly around the room.
But I am interested in your opinion—what is the purpose of a book cover? Godin tackles this question generally, offering three options and singling out one as the key purpose of a book cover. His three options are: (1) to sell books, (2) to accurately describe the book, or (3) to, as he says, "tee up the reader so the book has maximum impact." Of course, he says that the purpose of the book cover is #3.
I would argue, however, that the actual purpose of the book cover is #1, to sell books through intriguing design, imagery or placement of information. My reason? I think #3 is cheating first of all (#3 sounds an awful lot like #1 with better words), but also, I think "maximum impact" is determined more by internal design, endorsements, and ultimately, the content of the book itself. Maximum impact has very little to do with the Book Cover in my mind.
After all, if you picked up a book because you loved the cover, read page one and found the book itself to be horribly dull, you would put the book down immediately.
The Book Cover is only responsible for the initial impact a book will have on a potential reader.
However, as we all know, most of us judge our books by their covers and oftentimes a poor cover can result in far less interest in a work that we might otherwise read (I know we're a shallow lot - unless it's just me!). Apparently, the average book buyer spends about eight seconds looking over a potential book purchase in abook store before putting the book down. The cover certainly is important in the final purchase decision!
So this is a question that is certainly up for debate. What do you think?