Book covers, man.
Subjective, for one. In theory, book covers are art (or are supposed to be) — and everybody responds to art in different ways. We like certain colors, dislike other colors. We respond to images a certain way — with love, with attraction, with revulsion, with curiosity.
Then you add in the complexity that different genres have different “cover tropes” present. Sometimes paranormal romance or urban fantasy has the leather-clad heroine or hero (sometimes turning so as to demonstrate a leather-clad asscheek because, I dunno why — do they fight vampires and werewolves with their asses?). Space-driven science-fiction often has to have a spaceship on the cover or, I dunno, people freak out and burn down the bookstore.
Plus, covers are changing function. Digital books still have covers but Amazon’s demonstration of them is often as a thumbnail (though that appears to be changing, as my Amazon for print books now shows a cover on display that’s much bigger). Further, it’s interesting that digital books still have to have cover-shaped covers given the fact they never actually have to be printed out, but I guess if they don’t fit the Kindle screen, the world will explode.
(Then you add in super-extra-crazy-complexity once you add in gendered cover concerns like what Maureen Johnson was highlighting with Coverflip.)
So, I come to you readers and writers and ask:
What works for you on a book cover?
Have you bought a book based on the cover alone?
What covers have worked?
What doesn’t work? What weirds you out on covers? Have you ever been put off by a cover?
LET’S TALK THIS THROUGH, PEOPLE.