Thursday, September 02, 2010

You Can't Tell A Book By Its Cover...Or Can You?

I've heard it numerous times at writer's conferences, the typical sequence of someone browsing at a book store. See a book, pick it up, read the back cover copy, read a few pages, make a decision. That's why we're encouraged to "hook the reader" with our first few pages. But why does the potential reader pick up the book in the first place?

Recently I was one of fifteen local authors gathered in the foyer of the Frisco Public Library for the annual "Texas Authors' Tea." Patrons entering the library had to run the gauntlet of our tables before they made it into the library proper, so there was a guaranteed amount of traffic. The idea was to let the folks know about the homegrown talent in our area, but authors were given the opportunity to not only display their books but to sell and sign copies as well. I had a great deal of interest in my books, sold a few copies, and in addition was able to observe firsthand the process I've described above. Here are my observations.

First, it seems to me that there are three major reasons why a browser might pick up a book: the name of the author, the title, or the cover. Once they do that, they go through the rest of the routine and make a decision.

I'm the first to admit that my name isn't a household word in the area. My medical practice was carried on quite a few miles away. A few members of my church stopped by. But by and large my name wasn't a big draw.

The titles of my two books, Code Blue and Medical Error, told people the work was medical and generally gave rise to the same question: "What's it about?" I was glad to use the tag line and back cover copy for each book to explain them.

But the traffic stopper in almost every case was the cover art for the two books. Of the two, Medical Error drew the most second looks. Kudos to the people at Abingdon Press for a bang-up job on the covers of my books, including the forthcoming third novel in the series, Diagnosis Death.

In my unofficial and very unscientific survey, book covers are an important factor in getting browsers to pick up a book. What about you? What influences you in choosing a book?




And, by the way, here's the cover for Diagnosis Death, which is due out next spring. What do you think?

23 comments:

Sandra Heska King said...

Having once been known around town as the "shot lady," I love it!

Of course if someone is afraid of needles . . .

But then again, a book cover can't hurt you. Or can it?

Anne Mateer said...

Great covers, Doc! Can't wait to read them!

Richard Mabry said...

Sandra, I wondered if the needle would turn people off or make them curious, but the scene is integral to the story and I think Abingdon's team did a great job.

Anne, thanks for being a faithful reader. Hope to see you soon.

Author Sandra D. Bricker said...

I think at Abingdon we are particularly blessed with the quality of our covers. I know for Baker, it's been a HUGE draw for readers and reviewers. And although I have a strong aversion to all things medical, the cover of Code Blue completely drew me in!

P.S. - looking forward to seeing you again in a couple of weeks!

Richard Mabry said...

Sandra, It's good to get the perspective of someone who's familiar with the covers of more than one publisher. Thanks.
And, yes, I'm looking forward to ACFW and seeing you and other publishing friends.

Erin MacPherson said...

I love your cover... it's superawesome. I think the "prescription for trouble" subtitle really compels me to want to read more.

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks Erin. I appreciate the vote of confidence for the series title, as well as the book covers.
Funny story--I had a couple of books to pitch, with a certain amount of commonality between them, although they were freestanding. I was asked if I had a series in mind. I mentioned "Prescription For Trouble." Thus are great phrases born.

Diana said...

I'm new here, having just discovered this blog. I'm a registered nurse and the medical aspect grabbed me. But your covers also grabbed me. I'd say the needle is a big grabber for me. But the biggest grabber on all three covers is the eyes. The eyes have it. The eyes along with the titles and the rest of the medical art. I know if I was browsing books on a table I'd go for them. I now want to read your books, but I've just blown my book budget for this paycheck, so I have to wait for a couple of weeks. I'll be back...

Diana

Richard Mabry said...

Diana, Always happy to have a new reader of this blog. Hope you'll come back often.
And I have to agree with you about the covers. The eyes haunt you, don't they?
Enjoy Code Blue and Medical Error, when the budget allows.

Carol J. Garvin said...

I'm always drawn to covers first (unless I'm hunting for a specific author, of course). If a cover doesn't appeal I rarely pick the book up. I really like yours... combined with the titles and the "Prescription for Trouble" they quickly identify the genre and catch my attention. I think Abingdon did a great job on all three.

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Carol. I'll be passing all these compliments on to the folks at Abingdon. And I agree--they did a good job on the series.

Terri Tiffany said...

I love the cover! I used to own a store and would often by the books from the cover and blurb but the cover had to be eye-catching and not cheapy looking or I would pass on it!

Richard Mabry said...

Terri, I'll be sure to tell the folks at Abingdon that all they need to do is design a great cover, add a good blurb, and they can send all their sales staff on vacation because book store owners would buy their books instantly! Seriously, thanks for your kind words.

Mocha with Linda said...

An enticing cover draws me, but what's inside does even more! I started reading Medical Error yesterday, and oh my! I'm not wanting to do anything but read it.

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Linda (or may I call you Mocha?)--If you think my writing in Medical Error lives up to the level set by the cover, I can hardly wait to see your review on Amazon and Christianbook.com.
By the way, folks, those reviews do help. And I appreciate every one of them.

Mocha with Linda said...

I am really tired today because I stayed up waaay too late last night because I just had to finish Medical Error. Wow! It was amazing. The ending where the bad guys were revealed was quite unexpected. I never suspected that person.

Richard Mabry said...

Linda, Glad you enjoyed it. Now you have to wait until next spring to read the next book. Mwaah haah haah.

Seriously, I'll tell you a secret. The reason the endings of my books always surprise people is that I don't know who the bad guy is until I start writing the last few chapters. Then I go back and make sure I've strewn a few clues (and red herrings) along the way.

Joel Anderson said...

as the Creative Director of the design firm that has done every Abingdon Fiction cover, I am pleased to know that our hard work is paying off! Anderson Design Group has been doing covers for publishers for over 17 years now. Sometimes it is hard to convince a publisher to spend enough $ on a cover to make it sing, but once they see how important good design is, they are always glad to have made the investment. The folks at Abingdon Press truly understand the value of excellent illustration and cover design. They give us great input and feedback, but best of all, they trust us to know the target audience and they allow us to push the envelope in our creative process. The results have been eye-popping! See more of our cover designs at: http://www.AndersonDesignGroup.com
Of course, the book has to live up to the cover, and in this series, the stories surpass the covers!

Read them all!
Joel Anderson,
owner & creative director at Anderson Design Group, Inc. Nashville, TN

Richard Mabry said...

Joel, Thanks for stopping by and giving us the name and firm behind those great designs. You did a great job, and I'm glad Abingdon entrusted the task to you. Well done.

Melissa (Books R Us) said...

I love the cover and I cannot wait to read it. I recently reviewed Medical Error and I loved it.

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Melissa. Glad you liked the cover and the book.

Richard Mabry said...

Linda, Glad you enjoyed it. Now you have to wait until next spring to read the next book. Mwaah haah haah.

Seriously, I'll tell you a secret. The reason the endings of my books always surprise people is that I don't know who the bad guy is until I start writing the last few chapters. Then I go back and make sure I've strewn a few clues (and red herrings) along the way.

Richard Mabry said...

Terri, I'll be sure to tell the folks at Abingdon that all they need to do is design a great cover, add a good blurb, and they can send all their sales staff on vacation because book store owners would buy their books instantly! Seriously, thanks for your kind words.