The Pretty Package

I love wrapping presents. Once a year I take out my glue gun, find all kinds of three-dimensional objects to affix and go to town. If I did my job right, the inside of the package will meet the expectations the outside created.

But honestly, once I jazz up the outside I lose interest (a little) in what’s on the inside. Will my husband appreciate the golf shirt as much as he appreciated the awesome ribbon and pinecones glued to the perfect wrapping paper? Suddenly what’s inside doesn’t seem as important as what’s on the outside.

It is not that way with books.

Right now I’m working through manuscript revisions based on feedback from beta readers. For this story I have seven readers: four successful authors in my genre; one who could be an editor if she didn’t manage a small real estate empire; and two readers who practically begged me to allow them to participate in this process. As of now, I’ve completed just one set of revisions. That means I have six potential revisions to go before I send it to my editor… and get involved on an even larger scale.

Soon it will be time to get on the schedule for my cover designer. I’ll give her a couple of highlights about the story and she’ll get out her glue gun. We’ll go back and forth until I have a cover I love.  With luck it will fairly depict the story and be good enough to attract readers who aren’t already supporters.

With books it’s what’s behind the wrapping that counts. But the wrapping can make the discovery of the gift easier.

Readers, what attracts you to a cover? Have you been disappointed because the “wrapping” was better than the “gift”? Have you read a book you liked that had a so-so cover? If so, what in the world made you read it in the first place?

It’s all better with friends.


Author: Peg Brantley

With the intent to lend her stories credibility, Peg is a graduate of the Aurora Citizens’ Police Academy, attended the Writers’ Police Academy conference, has interviewed crime scene investigators, FBI agents, human trafficking experts, obtained her Concealed Carry Permit, studied diverse topics from arson dogs to Santeria, and hunted down real life locations that show up in her stories.

17 thoughts on “The Pretty Package”

  1. First off, Peg – your wrapping skills far outweigh mine. LOL

    I can’t think of a title off-hand, but usually if I read a book with a so-so cover, it’s because it was written by an author I love or recommended to me by someone I trust. I’m reading one now that has an intriguing cover and premise, but I’m not into it as much as I had hoped. I like covers that accurately reflect the genre and give me a teaser of the story inside.


  2. I can’t remember a time when I’ve simply browsed for a book to read. For so many years now, I’ve chosen books because they were written by friends, or because I’m introducing the author at an event, or moderating a panel of authors, or it’s “assigned” by my book club, or it’s on my horrifyingly lengthy “Must Read” list based on reviews and buzz. Cover doesn’t deter or sway me one iota as to whether I’ll read or not, but I often study covers to see what I like and what I don’t.

    I also don’t care about wrapping paper. One Christmas, maybe two, I solely used newsprint. And now that the kids are grown, we don’t even exchange gifts. (But I do make donations in their names.)

    Bah humbug. Get off my lawn.


  3. Great post, Peg! Like you, I love wrapping Christmas gifts. I have so much fun tying each package with ribbon and creatively thinking of things to stick to them, although it’s never crossed my mind to get out the glue gun!! I don’t pay as much attention to book covers these days, perhaps a reflection of reading so much digitally. But Liane Moriarty comes to mind as an author who always has super intriguing covers. I mean, how evocative was that crushed lollypop on Big Little Lies?!


  4. Mary, will you continue to read the book you’re not enjoying as you’d hoped? Just curious.

    I know what you mean, Becky… I don’t have time to read the books I have, or that are on my list, let alone have the luxury to browse for one! We’re doing a lot of the donation stuff this year. I like it and I don’t.

    You sent me to Amazon, Kate, to look at that wonderful cover again. I also read a lot digitally but have to force my Kindle to page backward so I can see the cover and read all the front matter. I can be a real nerd.


  5. I’m a reader, as you all know. Usually my first “interaction” with a book is the cover. Even when I go searching for books from my favorite authors, the covers are my first connection. When I go to hear authors speak, I almost always ask about the covers, and many, many times authors reply that they have little, if any, input on the content of covers. The cover is the first marketing opportunity of a book for many readers. I want cover art that reflects in some way the content of the book. I want an uncluttered cover, but one with a message. That message can be as simple as a stark silhouette,or a jarring color with bold words, or it can be as detailed as a photograph of a setting in the book — beach, woods, city, and so forth.

    The most important thing to me is that the cover MUST in some way reflect the content of the book, the location. the characters, the plot, the “something.” And, if I buy a book with a “compelling” cover and the book does not live up to the cover’s promise, I think twice about buying the next book by that author.

    For me, it all starts with the cover. I hope you authors try to give more input to publishers about your covers and their importance.


  6. Mary, I’m often disappointed in books with a lot of buzz. I’ve even wondered if somehow I picked up the wrong book. Ugh.

    3 no 7, the amount of input an author has on his/her cover depends on the publisher. Obviously independent authors have full control, while others are allowed zero input, even as far as the title is concerned. Authors who signed with Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer inprint a few years ago were pleasantly surprised with the collaberative nature of the cover design team.


  7. I pick up most books because of the buzz, and I too am sometimes disappointed. It’s been years since I bought a book because of its cover. You wrapped all your presents already? I haven’t looked for my Xmas wrapping paper, yet.


  8. Peg, One of my “pet peeves” about my Kindle is that I have to force it to show the cover when I read a book. It (mine’s name in Barbie’s Ken Doll by the way) wants to just start in on Chapter 1. I make it a point to go to the cover.


  9. Heh, heh, heh. Keenan, you must not have to mail many gifts. I have presents in various stages of “wrapped” and am seriously concerned about my inventory of nice wrapping paper. I will be hitting the holiday aisle for next year. Not sure if it’s worth battling the crowds on the 26th though.


  10. What a fun post. I used to love wrapping, but I got too wrapped up in it. Seriously. My sister-in-law brought my brother a guitar one year, and I made it into a pyramid under construction, complete with people hauling stones up the side…when he tore that open, I felt betrayed, and I gave up creative wrapping. Sigh….

    My favorite covers are stylized deco type covers. Think early PD James. They rarely reflect the books inside (usually contemporary), but they are a joy to look at. Now that I know more about cover design, I know that no matter what, the design has to look good and be legible at all sizes from thumbprint Kindle to hardback. Even though I don’t always like the spare design necessary, I know it’s the Kindle that rules.

    3 no 7 – me too! I want to see that cover.


  11. I generally choose new books to read based on the author and blurb description, not the cover. For new authors, I get a lot of titles recommended by mystery bloggers I follow daily (e,g, BOLO Books, Dru’s Book Musings, Lesa’s Book Critiques), and/or other regular mystery blogs such as Jungle Red Writers or Wicked Cozy Authors.


  12. Thanks, Peg for that directory link. The three bloggers I mentioned have been blogging for over a decade, and are acknowledged leaders in the field. Oddly, none of them are listed in the mystery/thriller blogs subcategory in bookblogger. Dru Ann Love (Dru’s book musings) has just been announced as the 2017 Raven Award winner by Mystery Writers of America for significant contributions to the mystery fiction field.


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