They always say, don’t judge a book by its cover, but really, don’t we all? Even just for that first, fleeting moment, as we find ourselves drawn towards that book on the shelf?
In the mid-19th century, with the advent of the mechanical age, a book cover changed. Previously, it was a way to protect a book, while decorating it with ornate finishing touches, to show how important the information inside really was. Books were so expensive that they couldn’t just belong to the average Tom, Dick or Harry. They were archives of information so precious that they weren’t meant for general consumption.
As mechanical book binding began to take form, the process and materials began to change. First, bound in incredible covers made of natural treasures such as ivory, then, on to natural products that still involved the delicacy of the hand binding, such as leather. Moving forward, it became cloth, such as linen, and then eventually, there was paper. At this same time, the popularization of the printing press was coming up quickly, and together, this created a phenomenon. Suddenly, books weren’t just for museums, parliament, or the extremely rich. Suddenly, book topics weren’t just limited to important, historical notations. Suddenly, books could tell a story, and be readily available on the mass market for a reasonable price.
Now, the cover was an advertising piece. Something necessary to convince the common consumer to part ways with their hard earned money so that they could read the pages hidden inside. The more expensive the book, the more daunting this task can become. The synopsis plays an important role in cementing the sale, but the imagery on the cover itself becomes so important in even drawing the consumer to pick it up in the first place. Whether it be dramatic in its simplicity, or vibrant and captivating in its detail, your book cover HAS to make the reader want to pick it up.
Your book cover is your initial point of contact and impression, so make sure that you make it a good one. Local designers can be found via writers groups, word of mouth, sites like Kijiji and CraigsList, via colleges of art and design and through various other sources. As always, be sure to ask for a good look at an established portfolio, and that you get a good feel for the designer. You want to be sure that you have made the right choice. Find out what your printer will need in regards to the files, and create.
Don’t believe me that it is that important? For a great perspective from a book reviewer on the importance of a book cover, visit this article.
On a final note, this is one of my favorite comments that I have read in a long time. On this blog, one commenter wrote, “I think the cover should be the first promise to a reader…..” I wholeheartedly agree.