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Here is a piece about book cover reveals, and how we find them to be overrated.
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Book Cover Reveals Are Overrated - Op-Ed Piece
My criticism of book cover reveals a topic that is not the most uplifting or optimistic for a Friday afternoon and is probably not what you or any other reader expected to read when you stumbled upon this page. If I had to guess what you actually wanted, I guess that perhaps you craved a literary meme featuring characters from The Office or a short poem that is easy to understand and won’t take up too much of your time. Nobody wakes up in the morning, has a cup of coffee, and in the middle of having breakfast, thinks, “You know what? I want to hear about book covers. To be more specific, book cover reveals. I… I need to read an article about it. Maybe there is a site I can find that has that to offer.” You are not doing that; I get it. And if you were doing that, then frankly, that is a little strange.
I will admit this topic is one that I thought of while taking out the trash (you’d be surprised how much you think when you do housework), and that thought hasn’t faded. Like the trash, it stayed there until it had to be taken out.
Okay, I may have stretched that analogy a little, but the point is still the same: I don’t get the appeal of a book cover reveal.
First off, what is a book cover reveal? Heck, we might as well start at the letter A and work our way down the alphabet. A book cover reveal is a reveal of a cover of a book. You are welcome for the obvious definition that I provide. Would you believe that I am a writer and my job requires my recording of descriptions for various items, events, and people? I know; neither would I. The reveal is the image of the cover that a reader would find in the bookstore. The image is not a draft of an image that the freelance artist only took a few hours to make, but it is the actual thing that you would search for if you went to buy the book. There is no product sale involved with a book cover reveal. You are not expected to buy the book then since it is not available, and although the cover is a piece of art, it is not treated as such. You don’t go to book cover reveals hoping to find a new picture to put up in the office. I had never heard of monthly calendars that feature book covers. That would be an interesting twist on a calendar that “reveals” everything. I’d like to think that a naïve teenager, who wanted to have some pretty women for a calendar, would be disappointed when he learned of the actual product he bought, “This calendar doesn’t reveal anything!” Poor boy wanted boobs and butts, and he got books and bios.
The closest I ever saw to book covers getting their own mention was a puzzle. I am not kidding, either. I stumbled upon a puzzle of classic book covers while grocery shopping. I don’t know why someone in their right mind would ever make a puzzle out of classic book covers, like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Black Beauty (it must have been the same person who pondered about book cover reveals as they drank their coffee) For all the notoriety and affect that a book cover can have on a book, we don’t seem to like them that much, as compared to the actual words in the book. And let’s face it, we can both name a bunch of things off the top of our heads that we would rather look at than book covers. The coffee drinker would rather stare at the TV. The kid would rather stare at ladies. And I’d rather stare off into space.
The more pressing question concerning our curiosity about the book cover reveal, since we obviously know what they are and some traits about them, is why people like them. Why are they accepted in our writing community as a necessary, useful tool that writers should consider on their journey?
What do book cover reveals do but push a book upon people while possibly embarrassing the author with the lack of any book? There is no plot being revealed, no characters, or anything… only a cover… In my opinion, that lacks any substance, and I am not in favor of those particular shallow things that, upon closer inspection, are not of high quality. The reveal seems more style and flashy, and I don’t like that since the presenter of the cover can fool the audience. When you don’t have anything to present to a consumer, you are trying to convince them that the product is worth buying without showing them any reason it is worth buying. If you went to a car dealership and were shown only a picture of a car, you wouldn’t be convinced to buy it then and there. You’d want to see it for yourself before you make a final decision. (And if you do not make car purchases this way, and allow car salesmen to sell you a car without showing you the car, then you have to change that, now) Why, then, does literature make a big to-do about a book cover reveal when there is nothing to it?
What I mean when I say that an author can be embarrassed is that the author can leave the audience wanting more; if there is an audience, which let’s face it unless you are a popular author, there isn’t. You are happy if a few relatives or friends skip their lunch breaks and show up to see about this book of yours. Most authors are barely popular enough to sell a book; to draw a crowd for a book cover reveal would require a level of interest from the masses that many authors couldn’t dream of. The author could have the people saying, “Where is the book? Why can’t I read it now?” Instead of the expected response, “Oh, that is great. I can’t wait!” We live in a right-now-I-have-no-time society, where our red blood is becoming brown from all the coffee we are drinking. Our eyes are becoming black from the lack of sleep we are getting trying to make up for the time we think we need. Still, for this particular book, this particular item, this particular situation, everyone will slow down and smell the roses. I don’t see that happening for anything anytime soon.
I said it before, and I believe it has some level of truth: Literature is a niche field, and in denial of this fact. Authors are not household names that can be easily identified and are spoken about as if their opinion holds weight. There aren’t even five living authors that the average person can name. When you see a book cover reveal, you are actually being notified of an event by someone you don’t follow.
Did I just say that literature is a niche field? But how? That doesn’t make sense! Everyone can read! I know that. I am not questioning the literacy of our modern society filled with caffeine drinks and silent nepotism. Relative to other cultures in history, we are surprisingly as well read as any of them in that we can all read. It is weird to think about it, but there was a certain point in our history when being a well-read individual made you an exception in the world. Now, sure most people are still intimidated by magazines like The New Yorker with their long forms pieces that seem to be written by that really smart professor in school that you wished wouldn’t grade your paper, and even when you tried your best, he’d fail you. You caught on to his games. If you try your best, you get an F. If you don’t try, you get an F. So cut your losses and don’t try. You see it as the only reasonable thing to do. Who knew that the true lesson the pretentious snobby teacher was teaching his class was to deal with failure? This whole time you thought you were learning about Modern Art in the 21 century. I am not intimidated by the old magazine and their classy writing; they just reject me. (It’s my vocabulary. At least, that is what I tell myself. I simply don’t put enough smart words into my pieces that can make you feel stupid and uneducated. I leave that for all the words I write.) That fear of the sophistication that a reader should have is better than a society that is even impressed that someone can read. We are all complaining about a magazine being too hard to read when everyone in the Middle Ages, aside from the priests couldn’t form a sentence properly. My favorite example of this confusion about literacy throughout history is how historians are unsure if Charlemagne The Great, one of the greatest people who ever lived, the founder of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Father of Modern Europe, could even read. Yeah, consider that the next time you are afraid to pick up a new issue of The New Yorker, or you are convinced that reading Ulysses is a bad idea. (which it is, by the way. You only have so much time on this Earth. You don’t have to put yourself through the hell of reading Ulysses) It could be worse, you could be a peasant in the Middle Ages making piles out of the mud.
Although everyone can read, albeit, under some questionable standards, books have been replaced by movies and television, and music as the must-know media at the dinner table. Ask someone what their favorite book is, and then ask if they have binge-watched any shows lately, and I can guarantee you that the person will be more enthused talking about whatever show they watched than the book they read. You may even get a few who won’t remember the last time they sat down and read a book. Can they name what episode they are on in their favorite show, though? You bet they can! If movies, television, music, and literature, were the Big Four American Sports of basketball, baseball, football, and hockey, then literature is clearly hockey. Popular amongst its fans, but never to truly challenge the other three in influence.
There is another problem here concerning book cover reveals: the popular authors, the household names, which seem to be getting smaller and smaller with each passing day, don’t need to have them! The most popular authors have enough of a fanbase that showing a book cover only engages that audience, who would most likely buy the book without the reveal.
Could it be that the goal of a writer is to get to the point in their career where they no longer have to worry about including the marketing ploy of displaying an image with a character from their book for their readers to see? You use it to get popular, so you are so popular that you don’t have to use it.
I could be wrong here, but a book cover reveal feels like an internet invention made by the book publishers in order to add a few dates on the book tour for their authors. And hey, I get it; you need all the attention for your book that you can get, and if that includes showing an image to a bunch of unsuspecting trolls on the internet, then so be it. I have done book tours and settled with whatever I could. I didn’t have the option of choosing where I wanted to go or who I wanted to talk with. Whatever person is even remotely interested in an author’s book will create interest in an author. Unfortunately, most writers are in the same boat as I was in, and they continue to be in that boat. As much as the indie book scene likes to make it out to be this grand revelation for the readers and that the tradition is gone, a book tour by an indie author is hell. No one knows who you are. The interviewer is asking you nonsense questions. The whole thing is a joke, but what are you, the unknown, barely-read author going to do, turn down the only people who are giving you time? If the local newspaper, an unknown blog, or a rarely seen youtube channel about books decides they want to feature your new book, you will take it since you don’t have many who even want to. Basically, if you are undrafted, you are happy trying out for any team that will look at you.
Imagine going to your local library and the scene as you enter through the usual walk-in entrance. You could have sworn that they changed the tiling on the floor by the door. They may have changed the coloring to a darker shade of gray, or maybe they changed the pattern to be more symmetrical. Regardless your lack of knowledge in that field stops any progress that insight may have had. Inside, passed the newly made floor, you notice a few signs on the bulletin board and make a mental note of an event you saw. “Tuesday – 8 PM – How Titanic Sank” You may go to see that lecture. Then again, you may have other plans. If anything, you can always drop by to listen for a few seconds. It’s not like you don’t know what happened to the ship in 1912. No other signs interest you so skip the bathroom and the water fountain and look into the room next to the librarian’s desk. You know it is the librarian’s desk, not for her senior presence of hair like the floor tiles, but you have been to the local library enough to know where the librarian sits. The room is no larger than an average high school classroom, fitting no more than five rows of seats, and you recall a few class trips you made in which this room was as prominent as anything the teacher said to their ignorant yet attentive children. One trip involved frogs and other wildlife animals being set up around the room. The library made the room into an exhibit where the kids, could touch the frogs, reptiles, and other animals. Who or what the animals were in terms of their species or any other technical information about the environment is far removed from your adult mind, filled with concerns about gas prices and plans you don’t have time to make. At that time, that room in the library filled with green frogs in a small pool, snakes, and lizards behind glass, and the walls covered with green, brown, and other forest-related colors, made the experience of going to the library quite memorable. I didn’t buy a frog after that or become the Crocodile Hunter, but it was fun for a kid.
An unknown author stands at a table in the front of the now frogless room. And behind them is a frame covered by a sheet. The author has a sign next to the covered frame that reads “Book Cover Reveal!” You are confused by the sign since you could have sworn you saw this guy before. Did he work at the library? Is it from school? Maybe you saw him at a local football game? Since you can’t place a name on the author, you stand there as a crowd gathers and sits in the rows of chairs leading up to the frame.
It doesn’t take you long to figure out that the picture not shown yet, is the book cover of this unknown man. That was some real Sherlock Holmes thinking done right there. Next time you go to the library, you will learn that the place is quiet because no one talks.
You sit in one of the chairs and say nothing to the strangers around you since you’d feel strange asking about what the hell is going on. You know what is happening since the term on the frame is fairly self-explanatory, but the identity of this author is what keeps you occupied. Why is the guy from the deli gathering people? Or is he the guy from Dunkin Donuts? You know this guy, you definitely know this guy, but from where or how eludes you.
“Everyone, I’d like to thank you all for being here, and now for the big reveal….”
For a second, you think that it would be really cool if a cute girl popped out of a cake, but then you realize that there is no cake or cute girl, so that trick would be difficult to pull off. Plus, the library doesn’t allow those types of parties in their facilities. Instead, they are more inclined to put blown-up pools with frogs and let kids pet them.
After the picture is revealed, which I must confess was rather generic with its contrast of dark and light colors and the placement of the author’s name, the crowd acknowledges the image of the brunette woman in a pose as if she is walking towards you. She is dressed in a peasant outfit, and in her right hand is a bow and arrow. It is a nice picture, but one that I have seen so many times that I am not interested in the story, for I feel that I know it already. It’s amazing how much we really judge a book by its cover. I am passing on a book I know nothing about because of a bias against it.
A voice that sounds like an older obnoxious uncle of the author calls out, “Like a magician.” Apparently, this overweight retired janitor finds himself hysterical as some in the room awkwardly laugh.
The room then applauded seeing the picture out of respect for the author, more than any interest they have in the book, and because they didn’t want to have a wiseass remark being the last impression of the image. If you were to ask those in the room at that time if they knew what the book was even about, I am not sure if they could tell you.
An overly hyped woman then calls out, “Bestseller! Bestseller!” You assume that she is somehow related to the man of the book reveal, but you can’t tell. The uncle who spoke earlier had the same jawline and hairline as the revealer, whereas the woman didn’t resemble him in any fashion with her larger mouth, longer nose, and smaller frame. Therefore, she must be a co-worker or a far removed relative.
Lo and behold, your diagnosis of the mystery of the frogless room frame is correct; this guy at the front of the room was telling everyone, who is mostly family, what his new book would look like. He didn’t have a book to hand out. He wasn’t reading anything from it: Nope, just the cover.
You quickly leave the scene of people congratulating this man on his new book as if he wrote a classic and just got accepted into the Hall of Fame. When you get to your car, you remember a fact about the author: Your neighbor…. This man is your neighbor.
In real life, a book cover reveal is out of place. But online, like many things, it fits right in.
Is there a good side to the book cover reveal? Perhaps I am being too harsh on this event? The plus side is that the internet audience is different from the in-person one. Anyone can tell you that the people they see in their daily life, and the people they see online, are not the same people. If a book cover reveal does anything, it showcases the book to an audience the author would have never met anywhere else. The question of whether the online or in-person audience is a more useful audience for an author is debatable.
Now, this is the part of the article where I am forced to eat my words, shut up, and stop this madness at once because if I am to make a good case for the hype behind a reveal to be unworthy of a mention, or utterance from the masses, then I am to present an alternative that can replace it. Therefore, I cannot go on and on about the problems with book cover reveals, and yet, when the time comes for me to tell you of something better, I stop, turn around, and pretend like I never made an argument at all. I didn’t say anything about book covers or reveals or book cover reveals. Nope, that wasn’t me.
I am still in favor of the points I told you about; I don’t think I made bad points all of a sudden. Book cover reveals don’t really seem needed for a popular author. They don’t really help grow the book. They appear useless. But I have to retract my statement of them being overrated since I can’t think of any other cheap marketing trick that can be used instead of it. I can say that I don’t like them or that they are not my cup of tea, but I can’t say that they are overrated.
If you are an author and you want a cheap, easy way for people to know that you exist and that you wrote a book, a book cover reveal is the best way to go.
Is it what you should be aiming for as a writer? Probably not. It doesn’t give the readers any true sense of the story, and if you are a reader and you like the author, you are probably better off waiting for the author to release a book preview, but if you want a quick update, then yeah, go with a book cover reveal. If not, just wait on the content from the book.
Book cover reveals are so overrated, but I am still willing to use them in my marketing campaign for my own books. That about sums everything up.
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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