I walked to my neighborhood bookstore yesterday, the one that specializes in mysteries. I’d hoped to find a used copy of the latest Martha Grimes novel. I didn’t succeed, so I wandered over to the $1 shelf. Three titles caught my eye. One was by Patricia Cornwell, whom I’d discovered earlier at the Dollar Store. (See blog 10/2/12.) The remaining two were mysteries by authors unknown to me.
When I returned home, I spread out my purchases on the kitchen table and wondered why these three bargains had attracted me. Cornwell, I’ve already explained. I knew her work. But Anita Shreve and Mary Saums were complete strangers.
The appeal had to lie in the cover design of each book. Cornwell’s name appeared in bold letters above the fold — her name being the chief selling point. Shreve, a lesser known author but one of note, used a celebrity to attract buyers. The words “Oprah’s Book Club” appeared higher than that of the author’s name. The third novel, with its colorful graphics, shouted “look at me.” “Mary Saums” languished at the bottom of the page.
I began to wonder if the placement of the writer’s appellation revealed one’s standing in the publishing world. A bestselling author ranks top billing. A literary writer relies on viable critics. Someone building an audience uses color for its draw.
It was a viable theory and one worthy of further investigation. If my idea proves true, then, it may be possible to judge a book by its cover.
(Courtesy of Amazon.com)