A while ago, I wrote about the importance of accuracy on book covers. I recently read an interesting article on the Huffington Post by Polly Courtney, where she discusses her decision to leave her publisher because she was unhappy with her covers.
Ms Courtney’s covers had a different issue to the one I discussed last time. The illustrations were accurate in and of themselves, but they didn’t match the contents of the books. The covers I used as examples in my last post were all from techno-thrillers, and they all looked like techno-thrillers. Ms Courtney’s covers, however, looked like “women’s commercial fiction” (or “chick-lit” as it’s more commonly known). The problem was that the contents weren’t chick-lit, so readers didn’t get what they expected, and consequently they left bad reviews. I imagine that if Andy McNab’s latest Nick Stone book had a cover with a long-legged women in a short skirt and high heels, it would also get lots of bad reviews from people that didn’t expect to be reading a gritty story about an ex-SAS trooper fighting Somali pirates.
As I said last time, book covers are a form of advertising. If you advertise a book as one thing when it’s actually something else, you might sell the book, but you’ll sell it to the wrong person. The person that would have enjoyed it will ignore it, assuming that it’s something it’s not. Meanwhile, the person that bought it will be unhappy. They won’t buy your next book. They won’t recommend you to their friends. They might tell their friends how bad your book is. In the modern world, they can instantly tell millions of people via Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads how bad your book is. What’s more, that indictment of your book will remain on the web forever, there for anyone to find whenever they search for your book’s title or your name.