Actually, we do judge books by their covers. They are my, “Ooh, Shiny!” moment.
Walking into a bookstore is my adult version of walking into a candy shop. Books!!! Books!!! Books!!! Everywhere!!! Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, graphic novels, biographies, novels, essays. I am there, to discover them, yet mostly to discover myself.
I regularly walk to the Fiction Section first, where stories lie patiently among the truest of words, draped in artistic seduction. My plan is simple: one book, no more. Sometimes I succeed. More often I break down, finishing at the register with an armload of books.
I admit that I judge books by their cover. I love the colors, the tone they set, and the designs. They are my distraction, a welcome distraction at at that. Even online I get distracted by them, regularly visiting BookCoverArchive, and The Casual Optimist. Purchasing books is a privilege I cherish. There is more competition for your attention, and your money, however.
“For every available bookstore shelf space, there are 100 to 1,000 or more titles competing for that shelf space. For example, the number of business titles stocked ranges from less than 100 (smaller bookstores) to approximately 1,500 (superstores). Yet there are 250,000-plus business books in print that are fighting for that limited shelf space.” via Huffington Post Blog, 2012.
Although those numbers are five years old, and the example is for business books, you see the issue. In addition, space is even more limited by the number of physical bookstores. In 2004, there were 38,000 bookstores, there were 10,000 less by 2012, and about 24,000 in 2016 (stats via Statista). Superstores, like online retailers, can only provide so many access channels. Consumers are left to navigate, successfully and unsuccessfully at times, electronic platforms that may not truly reflect their preferences in spite of state-of-the-art advances in algorithms. I am optimistic that we will find better “discovery” solutions for online book shopping as technology advances and as consumers are more comfortable utilizing those technologies.
What is a book to do…?????
Book covers are, rightfully so I argue, the public relations team for the work between the pages. They promote and persuade. Let’s visit the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) agreed upon definition:
Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.
If the book is the client, then the book cover is the image shaper and wrangler. To argue that book covers are no more than advertising misses the point. Advertising, you pay for. Publicity is a different form of communication and relationship building. Robert Wynne, one of my favorite contributors to Forbes, posted an article that is well worth exploring: “The Real Difference Between PR And Advertising.”