What makes the appeal of a book? Part One: Covers.

In this foray into the blogosphere, I’ve run across passionate opinions about book preferences.  There are debates about what makes a good “Christian” novel, debates about whether novels should even be considered Christian or not.  There are debates about plot structure, characterization, and even topics such as design and editing.

So I’m left pondering the question:  What makes a book appealing?  Are there universal appeals, or is it all preference?  For today’s discussion, I want to take a look at the most obvious side of a book – one that’s visible to everyone who comes into contact with it:

The Cover.

A good cover can make all the difference between someone passing a book by on the shelves (or on the screen) and having a reader take a look at it.  It’s also useful in “freshening up” a previously released title, in order to (hopefully) gain new readership.

Hearkening back to Kristin Billerbeck, her Ashley Stockingdale series had a transformation.  Book one, for instance, went from this:


To This:


One of my favorite series, Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion Trilogy, has had more than one alteration.


As with anything stylistic, there are also fads and patterns that happen.  Take, for instance, DeeAnne Gist’s A Bride Most Begrudging, which was one of the first to use a behind-the-back shot of a dress.


In the end, it’s important for a cover to do a couple of things:

  1. It needs to be appealing.  No one wants an ugly cover.
  2. It needs to match the feel of the book.  No one wants a whimsical cover on a murder-laden, edge-of-your-seat suspense novel.
  3. It needs to look professional – do it yourself graphics leave much to be desired.

The Cover Reveal

Do you subscribe to author newsletters?  One of my favorite parts of these newsletters are cover reveals – or, better yet, newsletters that share a bit about the cover choices and/or ask for opinions on them.

A couple months ago Denise Hunter sent one out that offered a link to a survey that asked for opinions on various covers for her upcoming books.  In the end, not a one of my preferences was chosen (either I have horrible taste or just a unique taste…) but it was still a blast to get to see some of the decisions that are made.

Tamara Leigh offers some of my favorite info in her newsletters that offer her “evolution of a cover.”  In these she (as a self-published author) chronicles the step-by-step choices and tweaks she and her cover designer make.  It’s such fun to see what details grab her attention and then how the designer addresses those concerns.  If you want to take a look, she has a page on her website dedicated to her love of the cover evolution.  Find it here.

What about You?

So my question is:  what draws you to a cover?  Do you like the ones with faces and clear depictions of the character(s)?  Maybe you like the ones that leave something to the imagination.

Or, perhaps, your opinions change drastically depending on the book and when it releases?

In the end – how much of a decision does the cover play in your decision to read or not to read?




10 thoughts on “What makes the appeal of a book? Part One: Covers.

  1. Paula says:

    A cover draws me in. But I gravitate toward my favorite genre which is Historical Christian. Also I have about twelve favorite authors, so it’s a bonus when their covers catch my eye.
    Sarah Sundin had some behind the scene cover shoots that were very interesting, too. I like the whys behind the choices on the cover. I , too was in on the covers for Denise Hunter and like you, my favorite was not chosen soooooo you are in my corner!
    I tend to notice also that the same dress or model is on multiple covers.
    Happy choosing and reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kate says:

    🙂 Glad I’m not the only one with different tastes than Hunter and her publisher. 🙂

    So, Paula, would you say that if you’re looking at a historical fiction book the cover matters less to you? What about if you’re looking outside that genre? Does it help you feel more or less inclined to try out that other genre? Just curious. 🙂


  3. Paula says:

    I’m not real fond of contemporary woman’s fiction and there are a couple out there that have very new looking covers.Lots of people say ” I love the cover” but they just don’t resonate with me. Now I have the books and the back cover blurb was more important to me than the cover in these instances.
    I really haven’t found fault with the covers of the historical books I have.but more important is that they are by established authors.


    • Kate says:

      Ah, so what kind of established authors do you enjoy? You mentioned you have a few of them! 😉
      (I’d also agree with you on the new-looking covers that are coming out. They don’t do anything for me, but it takes a lot for a cover to truly appeal to me, anyway).


  4. Paula says:

    My favorite authors list is twelve but may be growing.
    Dee Henderson, Irene Hannon, Dani Pettrey, Roseanna White, Beth White, Lynette Eason, Sarah Sundin, Colleen Coble, Tamera Alexander, Kristi Ann Hunter, Julianna Deering.


  5. Paula says:

    More: Jody Hedlund, Bonnie Leon, Elizabeth Camden, Julie Klassen, Sarah E. Ladd., Jessica Dotta. To name a few! I did read Kristy Cambron ‘s Butterfly and the Violin and marveled that that book was her debut! It seems so well written for a first effort, however I don’t know how long she had it done before it got published,
    I like Deanne Gist, too. And I love the humor of Kristen Billerbeck.
    Thanks for the interesting post. Nice chatting with you, Kate!


    • Kate says:

      You’ve got a few of my favorites on that list. I’m dying for Jessica Dotta to write something else. Her Price of Privilege series was incredible.

      I’m going to have to check out a few of the ones on your list that I haven’t read yet!


  6. Cordially Barbara says:

    I absolutely judge a book by its cover. I used to try to be all non-judgy and stuff, but then I realized I was just lying to myself. So I admit it now.

    I also use the cover as my first clue as to whether the book has been self-published or not. Many self-published novels lack the professionalism and strong writing that traditionally published books have. I’ve read some stellar self-published books, but I’ve read more terrible ones…so the cover is usually my first clue to the quality of the overall book.


    • Kate says:

      Lots of truth in there. Self-publishing takes a lot of work if you want it to look (and read) professionally. I get what you’re saying there. That’s one of the reasons I’m usually so impressed with Tamara Leigh. Especially now that I’m following her on social media. The number of edits and cover tweaks that woman does is amazing. And it’s definitely worthwhile.

      Liked by 1 person

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