by Joelle Charbonneau

I love walking through bookstores. To me it's like a room full of chocolate coated pretzels without the calories. Or maybe kettle corn. I’m a sucker for kettle corn. And by the number of titles stuffed in my shelves, it’s clear I can’t resist buying books. I love browsing the front tables to see what's new. More often than not, I go into a bookstore intending to purchase one or two specific books and end up walking out with a bag full.

Lately, I’m been considering why that is…aside from my obvious book addiction. Yes, I read the inside flap or the back of the book blurb to see if the book is up my alley. I flip to the first page and see if the book captures my interest immediately. If the book passes those two tests I head for the checkout counter.

But why did I pick up those books in the first pace? The cover, of course. We always hear that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Still, unless it's an author you already know and love, how else is a book supposed to get a potential reader’s attention? Russell McLean led a great discussion on the DoSomeDamage blog not too long ago about how covers affect the way he thinks about a book. Which makes sense. The cover is the first impression for most readers. It’s a lot like dating. While the outside package isn’t as important as the inside, it is the first thing you see. If the person has a multi-colored mullet and smells of garlic, you might not be inclined to get to know them further no matter how smart or funny they are.

And everyone’s first impression is different. One reader’s perfect cover is another reader’s automatic ‘no way’. Sue Grimshaw, Borders romance buyer and all around fabulous person, tells us that romance covers showing bare-chested men fly off the shelves. And I believe her, but those covers don’t speak to me. I don’t know why. I’m not opposed to fantastically sculpted male chests. In fact, I highly approve of them. I just don’t pick up books because of them. Now I’m just guessing, but I’m pretty sure lots of male readers think a sexy woman in a low cut top is interesting, but those guys won’t pick up novels featuring that same thing on the cover.

I guess what I'm saying is each person’s first impression of a book is different. As authors, we hope the cover that wraps around our words speaks to as many readers as possible. I know I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed that my cover does. After much nail biting, I finally have one. The question is: what impression do you think Skating Around the Law’s cover coveys to a browsing reader? And please, tell me: what kind of covers you are drawn to in the book store? I’ll be taking notes.

Yes...even Phineas and Ferb tackle this issue. It's about 35 seconds into the video. Sorry, I'm not technically savvy enough to edit. And let's face it, Phineas, Ferb and the gang are fun. So please enjoy.


  1. Barbara Monajem // March 19, 2010 at 5:26 AM  

    Sigh. I'm not enthusiastic about covers dominated by male torsos, either, mostly because I don't feel they really *say* anything. Most romances have sexy heroes, so I don't need that image on the cover. I want to know what else is inside.

    Bright colors appeal to me most. Usually, I turn to the back cover blurb (although sometimes that's misleading, sigh). If that's interesting, I try the first few pages. In the end, it's the writing that hooks me.

    To me, the cover (yay!) of Skating Around the Law says... humor, first of all. Next... action. I love the way she's skating off the page. Third... that the heroine isn't doing things by the book. I guess I would expect some serious issues treated in a lighthearted way. I'm looking forward to finding out!

  2. Judy // March 19, 2010 at 8:25 AM  

    Pictures on the cover (mostly for women's fiction and romance) intrigue me. But the title is very important to me too. If all I see is a guy's bare chest, I'm not so intrigued. I want to know HER story. Your cover (congrats!)tells me that it takes place in a small town in either New England or the mid-west and it's a mystery(it says so) and it involves a girl who skates. The bright orange tights confused me because I'm wondering why she isn't wearing something less noticeable. Love the picture combined with the title!

  3. Chris // March 19, 2010 at 11:04 AM  

    Covers don't make it or break it for me, they're more like a bonus. I'm usually after something specific when I go to the store, but a good cover with a snappy title will at least get me to pick up a book.

    Hard to judge your cover, Joelle, because it's something I'd buy anyway because I "know" you, but it did make me grin. It promises humor, like Barbara said, and it also suggests that this mystery may be a little quirky and different from the norm.

    I like it!

  4. Jennifer // March 19, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

    I tend to go for covers that match the mood of what I want to read -- which I suspect is true for everyone : ) But, for instance, Joelle's FAB cover for SKATING AROUND THE LAW absolutely appeals when I'm in search of a fun read - whether I'm in a cheery mood or I'm blue and need cheering, I'd grab it. For rainy days or snow days or long, dark, winter evenings, I tend to go for more subdued covers -- the ones with classic art or say, a soft florentine pattern. Like the other ladies mentioned, I'm not drawn to male torsos on book covers (which is not to say that real-life male torsos no longer appeal *s*), and I'm kind of over the whole face above a building, too. Hmmmm... all this seems to say: I'm picky!! (and now eager to stop by the bookstore and see what catches my eye *s*)

  5. Anonymous // March 19, 2010 at 11:16 AM  

    Love the cover. Particularly the skull and crossbones on the skates!!!

    Thank for the Phineas and Ferb blurb. I laughed and laughed.

    Deb G.

  6. Donnell // March 19, 2010 at 11:28 AM  

    Joelle, love the cover, and love the analogy about picking up the cover, first page, blurb etc. is a lot like dating. How true.

    I'll put in a qualifier in here, how's that. Depends on what mood I'm in.... If I'm in a so-so mood and need a pick me up, Skating Around the Law is just what I need (Note: I cannot wait to read it).

    If I'm looking for a romantic read, I'm not opposed to a male torso and a sexy heroine on the cover, particularly if it has an author like Barbara Monajem, who I know writes fantastic sexual tension.

    If I'm in my blood-thirsty mode and in need of a thriller, a serrated knife etc. will attract me to the book.

    So I guess I'm a fickle kind of dater, and two timing at that... You'll find me all over that bookstore! Congrats on Skating around the Law. I cannot wait to celebrate your success with you!

  7. Morgan Mandel // March 19, 2010 at 11:34 AM  

    Great cover, Joelle! As great as the author of the book.

    Morgan Mandel

  8. Mary Ricksen // March 19, 2010 at 12:08 PM  

    I got such a kick out of your cute comic video!

    I love the book jacket!! Thanks for the blog, great stuff today!!

  9. Joelle Charbonneau // March 19, 2010 at 1:11 PM  

    Barbara and Judy - thanks for being with me on which romance covers I pick up. I thought I would get lynched when I said I wasn't into the male torso thing!

    And thanks Chris and Deb for stopping by. Your support means a lot!

    Donnell and Jennifer - I agree that my mood impacts which covers appeal to me. And Jennifer, let me know if you find something cool at the bookstore that I need to pick up!

  10. Beth Trissel // March 19, 2010 at 1:26 PM  

    Covers are vital. I've been very fortunate in the cover artists who've done mine at The Wild Rose Press. I am allowed input and then they take it from there. I'm particularly drawn to lovely gardening books and historicals. :)

  11. Beth Trissel // March 19, 2010 at 1:27 PM  

    Oh, and I like the cover for Skating Around the Law.

  12. Nancy J. Parra // March 19, 2010 at 1:47 PM  

    Love this cover- the skull and cross bones with pink ponpons is fabulous!

  13. Pamela Varnado // March 19, 2010 at 1:51 PM  

    I guess I'm vain, but I usually pick up a book with a sexy guy on the cover to see what it's about. If the back cover blurb isn't interesting I won't buy the book but it's that sizzle I get from seeing a handsome face that draws me in initially. Which is another point, because what's attractive to me might not be to another reader. So while the front cover is important the back cover has to be just as intriquing.

  14. Sara Daniel // March 19, 2010 at 1:54 PM  

    Hi Joelle,

    Love your cover! I personally judge a book (whether I'll buy it or not) by its back cover copy. I'm definitely a word person instead of a visual. It drives me nuts though when the hook on the back cover (ie pregnant heroine) isn't a real element of the story plot (i.e. she finds out she's pregnant on the second to last page after everything is resolved!).

    I love the untied laces on the skates on your cover, along with the police car in the background. Nice touches!


  15. Debra St. John // March 19, 2010 at 1:58 PM  

    Love the cover, Joelle! This one really stands should fly off the shelves!


  16. Mary Marvella // March 19, 2010 at 10:36 PM  

    Both the title and the cover totally rock, Joelle! Can't wait read this one! I love your bogging voice, so the book must be cool.

  17. Scarlet Pumpernickel // March 20, 2010 at 8:41 PM  

    Joelle, you cover rocks! It puts me in the mind of Deb McComber and that's good company to keep. I would buy this book because it looks like a fast paced (she's on skates) read. The title and the picture are a play on words that draws my attention. You should have a winner on your hands girl.

  18. Joanne // March 23, 2010 at 8:17 PM  

    Interesting post, Joelle. I don't particularly purchase books solely based on their covers. I purchase books based on my favorite authors or friends' recommendations. But, I love your book cover! It's colorful and eye-catching. Sincere congratulations!