Saturday, 20 October 2007

Judging a Book by its Cover

When my first book appeared in paperback, I had lunch with the sales rep from Bantam. A good salesman, working for a good publisher. He shocked the (relatively) young and innocent Martin Edwards by saying that in his opinion, the cover of a book was more important than the content. His argument was that he only had a few seconds to market each title in his catalogue to booksellers, and their judgments were based on whether or not they liked the covers.

So much for the creative artist, then.

I still cling to the belief that in the long run, what matters most is what is inside the book. But covers are definitely important. Publishers are usually kind enough to consult me for my views, but it’s not always easy for an author to judge what sort of artwork will attract readers.

I’ve just been sent the cover of the German translation of The Cipher Garden, due to appear next year (the German title means ‘Those who are without sin’.) This artwork really appeals to me. It’s in the same style as that for the German edition of The Coffin Trail, which has done extremely well. So perhaps there’s a lot of truth in what the salesman told me all those years ago…

1 comment:

Arabella McIntyre-Brown said...

Hi Martin - blog reads well, looks good. Will enjoy keeping up with it.

With my publisher's hat on, I must protest on the part of the many creatives who are involved in the production of the books which carry your name... Once you have done your bit, there are many and various skilled and experienced folk who make your words readable, presentable, desirable and endurable through their choices of paper stock, typography, layout, print and binding quality, and - crucially - cover design. Every time I speak to designers, printers, booksellers, other publishers, and readers, the more I learn about the importance of everything BUT the words. An author might think the words are all, but for the reader, poor production values can destroy the value of the content, however brilliant. Content that doesn't get read is dead. Murder by mediocrity.
If you have a publisher who believes in quality of production as well as content, cry hosanna for all those helpful creative people who support your writing talents.
I say nothing about marketing departments and the bean counters, however. They work on different criteria which I find much harder to fathom...