Book Covers and Marketing

As an aspiring writer I have to confess, I can have a half-baked idea stewing in my brain and already have the cover for the story in my mind. This doesn’t always happen, but it does happen. Something I never really considered until reading various blog posts on the subject (unfortunately I didn’t take note of which ones they were so I don’t have links), was how important the book’s cover is for marketing your target audience. I have certainly taken notice of covers I like and covers I don’t, but a lot of the covers I like are girly, and I never considered the obvious: that a guy is most likely not going to want to pick a book that looks like these:

girlycoversAnd even though these

neutralcoversare also dystopias told from a female POV, the covers are a lot more gender neutral. And while I have to admit the first three book covers catch my eye in the bookstore more than the latter three, what matters is the story inside. And if it’s a good story that guys and girls alike would enjoy, I think marketing it as such is important.

I have to admit though, I can’t imagine a better cover for Cinder. And honestly, guys probably don’t want to read Matched or The Selection anyway. And that’s OK, not every book has to be for everyone. But it made me think of think back to one of my girly cover ideas for one of my dystopia stories, and how sometimes I tend to dominate plots with romance (which I have seen bloggers complain about), and what kind of stories I truly want to tell. And I want to tell stories that can resonate with anyone; I don’t want to market to only one sex. But I know that all my stories have quite a lot of reworking and rewriting ahead of them before they see the light of day anyway, so story can be worked on. And a cover is certainly far, far away. Still, it’s important to consider the audience I would want to market to, and it’s fun to think about covers.

I don’t really LOVE the covers for The Hunger Games, Divergent, or The Testing. They’re fine, but as I said before, they don’t make me want to reach for the book off the shelf when I have no knowledge of the story. I tend to prefer people, a la these covers:

dystopiacovers2But as I was considering what actually makes a cover gender neutral I wondered, What kind of books do guys actually gravitate towards?

So I asked my husband if he was browsing in a bookstore for fun, not looking for anything in particular, what kind of cover would catch his eye?

startrekbookHe said something with a cool spaceship on it. I assume this qualifies. So while he might not be repelled against some of these gender-neutral book covers, they probably wouldn’t draw him in. Several of them don’t draw me in either. So I wondered… can pretty dresses and spaceships be combined for maximum draw to a book cover?


This was the best real-life example I could find; sci-fi look plus romance but not too swoony for  the guys. But let’s face it, no one cover is going to speak to us all. And not all books can put spaceships on their covers. But I do think it’s important to consider the target audience when creating a cover. What can you say about the story with the cover, that you might not even have to read the story to at least somewhat understand? Or at the very least, what emotion can your cover evoke just by its picture and coloring? I think the psychology behind creating a cover for a story can be fascinating!

What do you think? What covers do you gravitate towards? What covers do you feel are properly marketed towards their target audience?