According to a Times Online article, the story you slaved over for years, and then waited two years for it to be published and hit the shelves, has about the same time it takes to sneeze once or twice to make an impression. The article, You Can Tell a Book By Its Cover, points out that “Studies show that a book on a three-for-two table has about one and a half seconds to catch a reader’s eye. If it is picked up, it is on average glanced at for only three to four seconds. ” The quickness of reader evaluation makes the cover design so much more important.
Patrick Janson-Smith, literary agent and former publishing director of Transworld, told the paper that “I can’t think of a jacket that has transformed the fortunes of a book, but I have seen books absolutely die on the back of a jacket.” But the reporter, Hellen Rumbelow did manage to find some tangible examples of how a book cover affects sales. “Take Georgette Heyer, the slightly frumpy historical novelist. When her publishers changed all her cover art last year, the classy new Jane Austen-ish look doubled her sales,” Rumbelow writes.
The article also presents opinions from various publishing experts about the cover design for books such as Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, and You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggars. When you’re reading over their discussion of these books, keep in mind they’re talking about the British versions.
Interesting article so be sure to check it out. And any discussion of book cover design is incomplete without at least mentioning the fantastic Foreward: A Book Design Blog.