Wednesday, March 26, 2008

You Do Judge a Book by Its Cover

In my post on Is Good Writing Really Enough, many of you were wonderfully honest about what leads you to buy a new book by an unknown author. I have to admit, I was surprised by how many said that the title of a book and/or its cover were two of the leading reasons why you bought a book. I don’t know why I should be, maybe it’s because I’m so frequently criticized for looking at things too narrowly that I assumed you would have bigger answers. I guess I assumed that because you harp on agents for judging from a simple query letter that you would judge from more. But there it is. I think you proved to all that whether we want to or not we do in fact judge a book by its cover.

This discussion reminded me of when I heard a Borders Romance Buyer speak at last year’s RWA. One of her key points was that when it comes to erotic romance, a naked or semi-naked man on the cover works every single time. And personally I think titles that are short and snappy usually work the best because, let’s face it, they are easier to remember.

From our own list I’ve always loved the titles Knit One, Kill Two and Red Hot Reunion. And of course I’ve already told you the story of The Accidental Demon Slayer, a title that had me from the subject line. As for covers, I remember very specifically the moment I saw the cover for Mystic River. I bought the book without even reading the back-cover copy.

And of course I spend hours, sometimes days, slaving away with authors over title ideas. I know that for some we’ve gone round after round after round trying to find that one perfect title that will grab a reader, while for other books the titles come naturally, fluidly. For some reason we hardly need to think about it because the perfect title is just there.

But what about you? What titles and which covers have spoken to you over the years? And let’s be honest here. Which titles and/or covers have you seen that turned you off, no matter how much the book was recommended?