I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the cover is probably the most important marketing material for the book, along with its title. A nice-looking cover is going to make readers open the book, read a few of the pages, or read the jacket blurb. The cover should also reveal the main vibe of the book. A dark cover with gloomy cover art tells the reader that the book might be a Southern Gothic or horror novel. A lesser concern is when the character on the cover doesn’t look anything like the way the character is described in the book.
It’s even more distressing when it’s a major New York City publisher that does this. I can understand if a new self-published author chooses the wrong cover for his book, but somehow it’s less forgivable when a big-name does it.
The publishers shouldn’t choose the cover just to draw attention to the book. If the cover design looks really neat and it’s the main basis for someone to choose the book, then the content of the book has to be even more awesome. In other words, the cover design shouldn’t be a gimmick.
The same theory holds with the title. Titles ought to match what the book is about and hint at the vibe and themes of the book. A really cool title is nice, but the story has to be even more cool to meet the reader’s expectations. There have been some books I’ve read where I’ve wondered what the heck the title had to do with the book. But I don’t ever recall reading a book simply for the title or the cover art.
How about you? Ever been misled by a book cover or title?