Judging a book by it’s cover
Judging a book by its cover IS what we do, despite the well-known adage, which is exactly why we spend a lot of time designing and illustrating the perfect cover.
Firstly I'm going to state this is nothing against Meghan. This has nothing to do with any opinions of her and nor should it. In a similar vein, I would just like to point out that Christian Robinson is an INCREDIBLY gifted illustrator. The inside of this book is beautiful, with sweet whimsical illustrations and a heartfelt poem.
This article rather is an insight into the importance of book covers, discussed through the lens of The Bench written by Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. This is especially pertinent when you are self-publishing and are therefore doing all of your own marketing.
Any self-publisher would struggle to successfully market a book with this cover.
I posted this cover as a discussion opener in a great group on Facebook (Children’s Book Cover Critique).
I saw this book several times while wearing my mum hat (Note: this is not a physical hat but may have to become one) and assumed it was about bereavement or loss, and immediately passed over it. It was only when I was presented with the fact that the book was written by the Duchess of Sussex was my interest piqued.
Once I'd actually brought it and presented it to my son, he was less than impressed and had no interest in reading or hearing the story. He said he "didn't care much for benches" (I will remind him of this when he demands to sit and rest at every bench on our next walk).
Looking down at the book in my hand I could completely understand his reticence; there was no character for him to connect with, no trace of adventure, nor any hints of humour.
What could possibly interest him in a book about benches?!
OK, I get it, it’s more of a memory book, an ode, written for Fathers. The aim is clearly to create a classic much loved by parents. Author and illustrator Nicole Filippone commented, surmising that many classic covers are odd, and this unique design will help cement it as a memorable classic. This hadn't occurred to me and brings to light that this could well have been intentional. Due to the big names attached to the book the publishers could afford to gamble with the cover in the secure knowledge that this would sell. This book was never NOT going to sell.
Most self-publishing authors can't afford to take this gamble so need to make sure their cover art is really selling their book. You need more than a beautiful illustration. You need good design. You need well placed, well-chosen fonts. More than anything though, your illustrations need to communicate your story and entice your reader.
You don't need bright colours, intense and involved illustrations, or flashy finishes, but you do need a pull, something to create intrigue and interest, and something to really draw your readers in. Poignant, touching stories marketed more to parents are great sellers too, but if your aim is to self publish you need to make sure your cover communicates your story to connect with your potential readers and buyers.
You need to look at your cover concept objectively, is it communicating your story? You want to be able to answer yes to at least one of these questions, based purely on the cover:
Would this excite and interest children?
Would I want to buy this for a child?
Would I want to share this with a child?
Because, yes, the world WILL judge your book by its cover.