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!