Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Cover Controversy

Two posts in one day, this has to be a record for me. But after reading Behler Blog about glossy book covers, and then the original blog written by the bookstore owner, I cannot resist posting about this topic.

Apparently, shoppers at bookstores are bypassing the glossy covers of trade paperbacks in favor of matte covers, because the glossy covers look suspiciously like POD or self-published books. And the matte says "traditional publisher." So the bookstore owner/blogger is asking publishers to please not print their trade paperbacks in glossy covers any longer as it makes them harder to sell.

There are so many things wrong with this that I barely know where to begin. First, very few POD offerings ever make it to the bookstores. They are sold through publisher websites and online stores like Amazon and B& Same with self-published books that are printed digitally or offset.

So why all of a sudden are bookstore customers feeling threatened by the possibility of accidentally purchasing what they apparently believe to be an inferior product? Could it be because there are too many inferior books being published overall? The books could be inferior due to any number of reasons (poor editing, sloppy design, amateurish writing), and then when a reader buys one, maybe they assume it came from a self-publisher. Just a thought.

And here's another strange thing about this whole concept. Don't most people pick up a book and read the back cover summary, maybe the first paragraph or two, and thumb through it a bit before deciding to purchase? Who buys a book based on whether or not the cover is matte or glossy? Why not read a few pages first?

But the absolute worst bit about this bookstore owner's request--"Please, publishers, don't print your titles glossy anymore!"-- is the idiocy of the whole idea. Has the entire industry degenerated now into quality = book cover format?

What ever happened to plain ol' good writing? The great story? Appealing, identifiable characters? Of course, a cover is crucial for visual appeal. But come on, People! Glossy vs. matte? Glossy is simply more practical and durable, doesn't scratch, tear or show wear like the matte covers. And if people want a book, then cover, price or publisher won't matter--they will buy the book. If they don't want it, any excuse will do--price, artwork, glossy cover, author name--you name it.

The decision to purchase a book is subjective. So to suggest to publishers that they need to avoid the glossy covers for better sales is simply ridiculous. You might as well say, lower the price for better sales. Only print books by Dan Brown and Stephen King for better sales. Publish YA fantasy and vampire stories for better sales.

This whole issue seems like one more sign of the final gasps of the dying bookstore, and this particular bookseller is grasping at her last straw as she watches yet another customer walk out without a purchase. Amazon is doing better than ever, and it is crowded with self-published and POD titles. It hasn't seemed to hurt them at all.

I hope no publishers will take this seriously. How to get better sales? Publish better books.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Yeesh. I have to agree, this certainly seems like grasping at straws. I have heard of the public at large being drawn in by cover ART, but not the texture of the cover. If people are buying fewer trade paperbacks, glossy covers aren't the reason. I seriously doubt that most readers even consider whether any books in a bookstore are self-published.

  3. Hi

    How strange is all this?!? Bizzare!

    I've just read blog post from the link above from the book store owner. And worse, the commentators who agree that they do this very thing when buying a book. I'd think that because you invest so much time and brain effort reading a book that you would look to the blurb/genre/summary perhaps browse a few reviews first before buying the book rather than going by the gloss or matt feel of the book covers. I mean according to the book store owner it's not even the design of the book that put his costumers off,but whether it's matt or gloss.

    That's just too bizarre. I now want to contact Waterstones or Foyles to see if this observation is a glitch, a one-off and confined to that particular bookstore owner's customers.

    And good point about people buying books online.

    Take care

  4. Hi

    Sorry I just spotted a few spelling mistakes in my recent blog = I meant "customers" not "costumers"

    Oh dear. I need my coffee!


  5. Maybe genius-- And maybe this particular bookstore owner just took a few random events and blew it out of proportion in order to get a new angle on her blog.

    Kitty-- who ever notices misspelled words lol? That's why blogging is so fun!

  6. I thought it was a weird thing to say, until I was at Costco looking at the books. I automatically picked up the glossy books because I associate that cover with an adventure book. I never even look at the matte because I think they are chick books about women who spend a summer rediscovering themselves in art.