|Pic courtesy Morris Bookshop|
When an author writes a book, the mind's eye comes into the equation, and there are scenes and faces, artifacts and props that seem obvious. But will they be imagined in exactly the same way by a reader? Rarely. Ask six readers to describe a written scene, and you will have six different versions: "Oh - I saw the woman as slim and mean-looking!"
"Oh, no - she struck me as tall, over-powering, but essentially warm."
Even places and things can be 'felt' differently by readers: "The notebook was big, I think - one of those hard cover jobs in sleek black or blue."
"No - I kept imagining this dented, much-used spiral notebook!"
Or: "That place gave me the creeps: it echoed and smelled musty."
"Really? The inside of the church was the epitome of grandeur, and the smell of incence made me feel the gravity of the moment."
If readers of the same thing can feel so differently, the same can be said for the person who wrote the book, and the person assigned the task of designing the cover. Some startling surprises can happen. Seeing how a designer interprets a book, a blurb, or a description can be a lesson in visual significance. The writer wonders: is that how my book can be seen? Felt? Considered? Liked? ... Bought?
No matter how artistic the author, they are not an expert on what catches a book-buyer's eye. Designers know all about warmth, depth, sentiment, attraction... items that intrigue, and the ineffable qualities that make a person pick up one book rather than another, from the very same shelf.
A reader can only read the blurb and description, or critics' praise printed on the back... or the first few pages of the story, if they actually pick up the book or click on the cover. They absolutely need to be attracted by the cover first. Rather than a judgement (which it cannot be yet, at such an early stage) it is a choice. And it is an emotional choice, a visceral choice. No one knows more about visual art and emotion, choices and selections and how a picture can trigger an action, than book designers.
So authors put themselves in the hands of someone whose art comes from a totally different place, someone who might very well ensure their words are read. Someone who cleverly attracts a reader to an image that represents something undefinable in words. A few seconds that make a world of difference.