What Is The Purpose Of A Book Cover? A Discussion

Alexander Field's Blog
Seth Godin's Blog

This post is in response to Alexander Field and his blog post over at The Mystery & The Magic, which in turn is in response to Seth Godin’s blog post.

The whole discussion is about “What is a book cover’s purpose?” So here we go.


I agree with Jared, who commented on your blog, that for online books the reviews are very important. But if the cover of the book just stinks, I doubt I’d even look at the reviews.


Keep in mind, though, that the small size of the covers on Amazon is in direct relationship to the bandwidth that we currently have on the internet.

As speeds increase, we can expect that cover to get larger and more important until…

…maybe ten years from now, the speed will increase until every single professional book on Amazon will begin with its own high-res flash animation / book trailer.

The download will be so fast you will begin to expect it on every book. If a book doesn’t have something like that, the publisher will have trouble selling it:


My point: What we think of as “The Cover” today will change.

BUT… that Amazon book trailer should be based on the same themes presented in the cover of the book … the two will be in sync.

SO… the cover will still be important thematically, it will just be a smaller part of what I would call the “First Impression”.

And the Amazon reviews are part of that.

As to the purpose of a book cover? The purpose will always be, like you said, Alex, to sell books. What publisher doesn’t want to sell books?

If, as Seth Godin says, this also “Tee[s] up the reader so the book has maximum impact” all the better, especially for future sales.

Anyway, there is my two cents on the topic. Everyone: visit Alex’s and Seth’s blog and chime in!

And here’s a question for my blog readers. I have created the cover for book 2 of the Merlin Spiral, and this is neither a professional image, nor is it necessarily what a publisher would choose, but here’s my question:

Is this too scary of a cover? Do I need to tone this down?

What do you think? Would you buy a book with a cover like this?

Merlin's Shadow, Book 2 of the Merlin Spiral

Note: I have updated this image after the comments came back that it gave the impression that my book was a horror novel. Thanks for the help, everyone!

Any comments on the new image are welcome!

6 thoughts on “What Is The Purpose Of A Book Cover? A Discussion

  1. Thanks for the feedback, Jacob … you pointed out my very concern, because Merlin’s Shadow is not a horror book.

    In fact, the man whom this image represents is rather normal looking. The image is representative of his spiritual nature.

  2. I would not have bought the book with this cover because it is frightening! I do not think that it would be a lot of buyers!

  3. Thanks, everyone for commenting. I have toned down the ‘horror factor’ of the image, but also added some mystery.

    In the process, the person in the picture is actually someone different from whom it had been the first time. Yes, I have two men who have some similar traits, and they become interlinked in the book.

    And the term “Merlin’s Shadow” applies to them both. Anyway, the image now depicts the primary enemy from book 1, so it has better continuity.

    Any thoughts on this new image?

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