I know the old saying says not to, but I do it all the time – I pick books by their cover.  My friends have laughed at me when I am utterly surprised by the content of the book because instead of reading the synopsis on the back, I came up with a storyline in my own head based on the cover.  That’s not to say the cover design was incongruent with the story, but moreso, my interpretation was.  For instance, when I picked up Water for Elephants, I was sure it was going to be about elephant keepers in India.  I was wondering how the Cornell-educated veterinarian who runs away and joins the circus fit in.  Apparently, what I took for a sari-like material on the cover was a circus tent.  In the end, I loved the book, even if it didn’t take place in India.  Another friend refused to read a book because she thought the cover was spooky and she didn’t want to look at it.  I had no idea what was so scary, as I had read the book and enjoyed it.  Turns out, we had different copies and she happened to get the spookier cover. Despite my suggestions to cover the book or borrow mine,  she still refuses to read it (Tananarive Due’s The Living Blood).

Given all that, I feel like cover design is important to what we think of books.  It’s the first thing we see and in a quick moment, decide whether we even want to read the back cover.  Which, by the way, I rarely do.  But of those I have read, Chris Cleave’s summary on the back of Little Bee is my favorite (the yellow, paperback version).  This week, I’ve been reviewing designers’ submissions for my new novel, Life in Spades.  I never imagined I’d have so much fun looking at book covers – it’s quite a high to see my name on a (virtual) cover.  There’s been a number of “wow, great!” submissions and some “really, did you even read the summary of the book?” entries, too.   But they’ve all shown talent and creativity, and I appreciate the time and effort the designers put into their covers.  Just as I pick the definite one, another one rolls in that I really like, too.  I think I have narrowed it down to about 10 options.  Yes, I know – still a long way to go.  We should have a cover in the next few days.  It’s getting exciting, this publishing a new book thing!