Readers rule: Elizabeth Gilbert and the crowdsourced cover

The readers weigh in
In my last installment, I warned against clinging too tightly to your one and only book cover idea. It’s dangerous to be so invested in your own aesthetic preferences that you lose sight of what will sell your book. It’s good to keep an open mind and ask for your friendly cover designer’s input.

But … BUT …

That doesn’t mean you should unthinkingly go with your designer’s choices either.

Back in March, Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame was battling her publisher over the design of her latest book, The Signature of All Things. The situation was somewhat unusual. While traditional publishers have final say over book design, Gilbert has a bit of leverage as a bestselling author. They wouldn’t want her running to another publishing company as soon as her contract was up. Still, they didn’t think Gilbert’s first choice would compel readers to buy, and that was a problem.

With three covers up for consideration and no resolution in sight, Gilbert and Viking Press agreed to let the masses decide. From Gilbert’s Facebook page, March 21, 2013:

I got so tired of debating over “what the reader wants” that I decided instead to just try asking you guys directly.

So tell me, valued readers … what do you want?

Which one of these three beautiful book jackets do you most like?

Which design would most draw you in, if you were browsing a bookstore?

Which is the one that makes you say, “My goodness, I will certainly have to buy THAT book!”?

You can see the choices here.

Gilbert preferred the beige cover in the middle. So, as it turned out, did most of the 8,500 people who voted. By a ridiculously wide margin.

The takeaway: It doesn’t matter what I think. It doesn’t matter what you think. It matters very much what your readers think. Find out, and everybody wins.

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One Response to Readers rule: Elizabeth Gilbert and the crowdsourced cover

  1. susansayings says:

    I totally agree.
    Writing and designing can be interactive–what an exciting development!
    This, of course, doesn’t mean we write and design only to please the audience, but it does mean we consider them, as performing artists consider their audience’s response. Creativity is not simply a solo endeavor.