Voting on Book Jackets!
Elizabeth Bluemle - August 20, 2014
For YEARS now, I’ve wanted a way to give publishers feedback on book covers. As booksellers—who spend hours every single day handing books to customers and observing their reactions—we have a pretty good sense of what will and won’t move, at least in our own stores. Sometimes we receive a truly wonderful book with a cover we know children wouldn’t poke a stick at, much less pick up and buy, and it’s a shame.
I always find myself wishing that art directors and jacket designers would spend a week in a bookstore, shadowing booksellers, watching customer reactions to covers, and basically seeing how various cover treatments fare in the real world. (They’d discover that a whole lot of teenage readers are sick. to. death. of the photos-of-girls-and-parts-of-girls-book covers that have overwhelmed YA fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and dystopian novels.)
We do mention the more egregious covers to our sales reps, and they do their best to convey messages back through the channels, but until now, there hasn’t been any way to (for want of a less jargon-y term) crowdsource reaction to a book jacket.
Now, at long last, there is at least one place where this kind of feedback can be given. I’ve just noticed that NetGalley—a website that hosts digital review copies of books from a variety of publishers and makes them available to booksellers, librarians, bloggers, and other industry professionals—has instituted a button under every book jacket, inviting readers to weigh in on whether or not they like it. Granted, it’s just a thumbs-up/thumbs-down, no commentary, and only a fraction of a publisher’s catalog might be represented in NetGalley, but it’s a start.
What I also like about the idea is that bloggers use NetGalley, and some of those bloggers are avid teenage readers—you know, the primary audience for which many of these books are actually written. It seems to me that this is valuable feedback for publishers to have.
So now my questions for readers and publishers:
Readers with NetGalley accounts, do you use the thumbs-up thumbs-down buttons to vote on book jacket success?
Publishers, IS this useful information to you, and does anyone at your house pay attention to this feedback in a meaningful way? (You can comment anonymously; I’m really interested in the honest answer.)
In the meantime, happy reading and voting on book covers!
I noticed that, too, and I think it’s a great feature. Some of the publishers on NetGalley seem to be small imprints, and they have typical small imprint bad covers. I’m all too happy to share my opinion (although, to be fair, I like more covers there than I dislike). It does get boring to see the same old covers over and over again.
Having worked for a small publisher, I know it’s not difficult to turn out a good cover (a *great* one is another story). However, when you see boring or bad covers, know that it’s often the fault of the publisher’s sales team – they definitely judge books by their covers, and I recall lots of times when the sales team wanted a cover that was nothing but type – no image, even in the background, grayed out. That’s enough to crush any designer’s soul. 🙁
I noticed this on NetGalley,, too, but I haven’t used the feature yet. I’m going to start, though! THanks for the nudge.
I have no problem with covers showing girls, if the book is about girls. Generally, I like representational covers that show what the book is about, rather than abstract covers. Don’t be coy, publishers! Shoppers’ time, attention, and knowledge of new books are all limited.
Yes, I have been making use of the thumbs up/down buttons. Although, I do tend to use the thumbs up a lot–there are some fabulous covers out there.
I always use the feature, sometimes even with books I might not be asking for if they are great. Book covers are important. Color and design are so important. I am very interested if the results are used by the publishers in any way.
I’m an art director at a children’s book publishing house. What strikes me about this site is that the books are so close to publication that they’ve already been printed– so any comment is too late. I’ve worked at several major houses over the years. Advice about jackets comes first form the editor of the book then marketing. If we get really really stuck, we will email a bookseller or chain rep or some “expert” representative in that book’s market. All feedback is interesting and can be helpful, though one does en up picking an choosing, based on the house’s vision for the book’s audience and market. I personally look at books in bookstores, on-line and in the major houses’ catalogs every list, every year (so does my staff and every other art director I know). It’s all visual grist for the mill. One is constantly trying to see trends and balance them with creating a new and special look for each book. More discussion blogs would be great, but mostly I wish more reviewers would discuss the art.