A book cover experiment

Locus is featuring a gallery of science fiction artwork from books and magazines published in 2006 – 528 works in total. Since we had a recent discussion on the blog here about what makes up an effective cover, I’d be interested in doing a little experiment with you folks (if you can spare ten minutes).

Take a good hard look at the list from top to bottom, and make a note of any cover that makes you want to lift the book off the shelf to find out more (the quickest way to do this is to right-click on the image and save it to your computer). You will be impatient and quick; that’s okay (it’s the artist’s fault for failing to grab your attention). I want this to feel just like it would if these were all titles clamouring for attention on a bookshelf. When you’ve finished, narrow your list down to the ten most likely to make you lift the book/magazine, and email this to me privately (address on sidebar). I’ll correlate the results and see if there’s anything to be learned.

Having done the experiment myself, I tried to make my choices on my gut reaction of the artwork. The book title can also be a factor in your choice, but don’t choose based on author; try to pretend you don’t know who wrote the books. That’s essentially the position we indie authors are in. We can’t sell based on fame.

3 thoughts on “A book cover experiment

  1. James Maxon

    Do you know of a good place that gives examples of the back side of the book? Or samples of both the front and back?

  2. Darryl Sloan

    No. Although one of my pet peeves is how little attention is usually given to the back cover of the book. Often it’s just a plain text blurb with little else. You’ll see from Chion and Ulterior that I go the extra mile, lavishing the cover with atmospheric photos that complement the story. If my front cover catches the attention of a reader to the degree that he lifts the book off the shelf, my aim is to surprise him as soon as he flips the book over.

    It is, however, much much important to have a carefully crafted written teaser on the back.

  3. James Maxon

    I agree. The front gets me to pick it up–the back gets me to buy it. The design can really help the teaser both to stand out better and to complement the content.

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