Compelling Covers: Would You Buy These Books by Their Covers?

The first draft of my dark fantasy novel The Last Bonekeeper is done. I’ve drawn maps of the forest and the fortress city where the story takes place. I’ve written over a dozen short stories in the same universe as an exercise to learn more about how the society works. So while I procrastinate wait for my draft to finish steeping and give a whistle when it’s ready for editing, I’m shifting my focus to another important component of my novel – the front cover.

The Write Practice published a post by Carlos Cooper about breaking writer’s block by looking at book covers. I can see how this could work – the visual is stimulating, after all. So it’s no wonder we humans are drawn to all kinds of pretty, shiny things, as well as dark, eerie, scary, other-worldly images. A book cover’s job is to draw a reader’s eye, create curiosity, and provide a sense of what the story is about – which should then compel the reader to find out more and then buy.

In my research to help create my own book cover, I’ve collected sample covers that catch my eye. I’m also trying to become more aware of my own book-choosing habits, which include being sucked in by an intriguing cover and a good blurb. What is it about certain books that makes me feel compelled to push the “buy this” button (and curse the ease of Amazon’s one-click buying feature)?

Here are three books on my digital or physical to-be-read piles that I’ve already felt compelled to purchase, and why I bought in to the commitment.

velvetdogmaVelvet Dogma by Weston Ochse
The cover: A simple background as a foundation for a graphic that “oozes” with movement and dimension. The subtitle “A Science Fiction Novel” leaves no question as to the genre.

Summary: Things changed during the 20 years Rebecca Mines lived in solitary confinement for her work as a cyber-terrorist. Organ theft is now sanctioned, and the world has achieved the perfect merging of human and machine through the use of personal ocular devices. Rebecca just wants to live in peace after leaving prison, but all of her organs have been levied to the highest bidder.

Everything worked for me. I give this a five-star compulsion rating.

DarwinElevatorThe Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough
The cover: A man/soldier takes up the bulk of the cover with buildings and an “elevator” going into the sky in the background. Not the sharpest cover images but good enough to give this a military feel, and a title that made me curious how it fit together.

Summary: Darwin, Australia is the last human city on an Earth ravaged by an alien plague. When the alien-made space elevator that suppresses the plague in Darwin starts to malfunction, Sklyer Luiken must solve the mystery of the failing off-world technology and save what’s left of humanity.

I was pretty much hooked with the blurb, but (to be honest) here’s what probably made the sale for me: “[This] pulse-pounding debut combines the drama, swagger, and vivid characters of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with the talent of sci-fi author John Scalzi.”

A grainy cover, but the premise got me: 4 stars.

BroodofBonesBrood of Bones by A.E. Marling
The cover is gorgeous with color – almost too pretty – but balanced with a title that tells me this story will hold an edge (or more) of darkness.

Summary: Enchantress Hiresha, cursed with endless drowsiness, sleeps more than she lives. She’s never  raised a family – now every woman in her city is pregnant, except for her. The only one who can help her stop a sorcerer from draining power from the unnatural pregnancies might also destroy the city.

The cover is eye-catching, the premise is iffy (for me), but the author’s style/voice on the first pages told me to take a chance: 4 star compulsion.

What do you think? Would these covers compel you to buy the books?

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Speculative Fiction Writer

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