Book Covers

For better or worse, the cover may be the most important element in getting a book into readers’ hands.  They’ve done studies, I’ve been told, and have concluded that if you, as a reader, walk into a bookstore to browse, I, as the author, have about thirty seconds to convince you to buy my book.  But the clock won’t even start ticking unless your eye is captured by the book cover.

A cover ought to work on many levels.  Eye-catching, of course—the cover absolutely has to draw a reader’s attention.  A really great cover does much more, however.  In a way, it can tell part of the story.  It can, for example, signal setting.  It can indicate tone and atmosphere.  It can evoke emotion even though you haven’t read a single line of text yet.

Take as an example, the cover of Northwest Angle, the next book in the Cork O’Connor series.  I love this cover.  Why?  It does all the things I’ve indicated.  The color scheme is stunning, absolutely an eye-grabber.  The whole scene is suggestive of the kind of story the book will tell: The menacing sky (a storm plays an important role in the story); the tiny, isolated island and the solitary cabin lit against the approaching dark of the storm.  The image evokes an emotional response.  Concern, maybe, or even dread.  But of what?  The threat is unclear, but clearly present—in the sky, in the isolation, in the bravely lit cabin.  And there’s another element at work, very important and very subtle.  Because what the reader sees is a small normal lake dwelling, and in the warm light inside is someone the reader might care about.  And that’s the kicker: Someone we might care about may be in great danger.  What more compelling call is there to a reader’s emotion and imagination?

There are books whose covers are notoriously unimaginative, but the author is so well known and beloved that readers don’t give a damn about the drabness.  The covers of many of the books in the Dick Francis series, which I’ve always found rather dull, come readily to mind.  But the Dick Francis name is, of course, all that’s necessary to sell the book. We lesser known authors have to hope that our publisher’s art people will create a look that will accomplish that first necessity in bookselling—grabbing the attention of the casual book browser.

A good cover won’t sell a bad book.  But a good book can be sunk by a bad cover.  Me, I’ve been fortunate.  The folks in the art department at Atria have time and again created stellar artwork for the Cork O’Connor series.  They even, on occasion, have asked for my input.  And, miracle of miracles, they’ve listened to my ideas.

6 thoughts on “Book Covers”

  1. Hi Kent!

    Needless to say, I am eagerly awaiting Northwest Angle. May I just way “Way. To. GO!!!” ?

    I hope this finds you well. To your continued success!
    ~ E

  2. Dear Mr. Krueger, My three favorite authors are Jack London, John Steinbeck, and yourself. I discovered the writing of London and Steinbeck way earlier in my 65 year old life, but as with the other two, once I read one work I had to read them all. Like you say about covers, the one on “Thunder Bay” enticed me in to buying it. The fact that the price had been reduced also figured into the equation. Your writing keeps getting better and better. Cork flows much better as the series goes on. At the end of each book I am saddened to leave behind old friends. Keep us informed of what is going on up North as long as you like. You write well enough to tackle any other project you would wish to begin, so if you fell like it do it.

  3. I have to say I’ve always loved the covers of your books. Especially the most recent ones like Red Knife and Heaven’s Keep. At first glance I felt this cover seemed too different from the rest. But looking at it a little bit longer (something like 10 seconds) I was blown away by how good of a cover it is. My compliments to the artist.

  4. Hi Kent, I’m one of those lucky booksellers that get “advanced reader copies” and have read your new book and I’ll just say WOW! Your description of the wicked storm was so real and so gut-wrenching I held my breath all the way through.
    Love the cover and know we’ll sell many, many copies.

  5. Anxiously awaiting the new book “Northwest Angel” to come out. I hope you do a book signing in Superior Kent. The friends of the Superior Public Library will welcome you to the library and I assure you, you will have a good group of your fans there.

  6. Kent,

    Needless to say, I am excited to read the “Northwest Angle” as well as all the Angle Inlet people. Everyone is looking forward to the Booksigning and I’m inviting other local Lake of the Woods authors. The “William Kent Krueger Library Fundraiser” is going well..1 of the most popular prizes is………”Be Adventurous…Be Daring…Be a Character in William Kent Krueger’s next novel.”

    ” A Northern Librarian” , Thank you.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.