Never judge a book by its cover . . .

That old chestnut – never judge a book by its cover – yes, two clichés in the first few words of this article, has been brought to my attention again recently. One of our interns sent me a link to the (debatable) best 22 book covers ever (why 22?). There were many great covers, yes, but, and it’s a big but – they were all bestsellers. So, do we take from this list that a book is judged by its cover? Were the authors lucky in their publisher’s choice of cover? Was the illustrator fantastically attuned to the book? Who knows? As a small publisher with limited funds, Fledgling have to be innovative with their cover commissioning. We have a great relationship with the ECA and run a cover competition every year but apart from using one other illustrator regularly, we rack our brains over book covers every time we produce a new title. We agonise over the market the book is aimed at and whether those potential buyers will be attracted by the cover we choose. The truth is, who can tell? A cover that one person loves, another person will hate. Even Fledgling, with our small collection of novels and other titles, has found this to be true. One of our very popular books last year, shortlisted for the Saltire Scottish First Book Prize, The Incomers, divided opinion on a very large scale. We loved the cover, as did the author, and in our limited market research everyone we showed it to, liked it. But, when the book went out to the wider market, small booksellers, in particular, were sceptical – we thought it was edgy and modern, they just said ‘don’t like it’. And at that point what can you do? You’ve already published the book so realistically, there’s not much can be done. We can’t afford the luxury of printing reader’s proofs or producing two covers for the market, so we go with our gut feeling. And lately, this has been working quite well – our latest teen novel, Crow Boy, has a cover that we can genuinely say readers love – we’ve sold a lot of books and the author tells us he gets great feedback at events. We have just judged and picked the winner of this year’s design competition, run in conjunction with ECA, and we hope that here too, our gut feeling will be correct! Who knows? Perhaps, like the 22 book covers on that list, our latest book – the short story anthology, The Red Man Turns to Green by Dickson Telfer – may turn out to be a bestseller too. We can but dream!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *