Sounds odd when it’s written down like that but there is a very solid link between Book Covers and Food on a Plate. It’s called ‘Presentation’ and like most things in life, how something looks may be a indicator on how it tastes, feels, or reads.
Painters have it easy, their ‘Presentation’ is their art. WYSIWYG. What you see is what you get. The rest is interpretation, and art critics, like book critics can offer wild speculation as to the painters motives. Book critics too.
With Books and Food, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. But the ‘Presentation’ is all important for you the reader to actually choose and then taste a diligently prepared dish or book.
Cover art is different for printed books and eBooks. With printed books they are tangible, pick-off-the-shelf, turn around in your hand and take your time before flipping the pages.
With eBooks it’s a much more ‘in-your-face’ cover, because there are so many books online and yours must stand out even as a tiny thumbnail graphic. The content of the print or eBook is the same, but it comes down to how long does a potential buyer want to spend staring at the cover to see what it’s about. I never realised this until my wife brought it to my attention, and even then I argued strenuously, resisted changing the covers of the printed books to reflect the eBook revolution, until, like St. Paul on the road to Damascus I saw what she was saying. Finally.
She took the afternoon off resting from the struggle and wondering why she married me, and I, suitably chastened, diligently changed the book covers. They’re not right yet, but I’m trying.
With Food, a similar set of rules apply to gourmet meals and portable fast food. One promises a long, usually expensive meal in a setting that may or may not be conducive to easy digestion, and the other promises a quick tasty meal because-I’m-hungry-and-in-hurry and don’t need the other BS.
But is a fast food meal worse than a gourmet meal just because one looks better than the other?
Here’s a case in point.
One night my wife and I decided to dine out close to where we live (no names no pack drill). Expensive food, seemingly gourmet, slightly annoying musak playing a little too loudly, dim lighting so it is difficult to see the food, and arrogant young servers who didn’t seem to care about anything. The result, a steak served black on the outside and raw on the inside. Not rare. Raw. A health hazard. Looked good on the plate but disgusting to taste.
Then there was this euphemistically named ‘Motel Resort’ we stayed at for a week near Death Valley, the only place that accepted dogs. The menu was Pizza and Burgers. We could sit on the veranda with our dog and be served fresh Angus Beef burgers, or Vegetarian Burgers, or freshly made Pizza as we watched shooting stars streak across the night sky. The food was delicious and perfectly prepared, the servers pandered to our dog, bringing her bowls of ice filled water in the 90 degree heat and generally making us all feel at home (I’ve taken the liberty of writing about that motel in my next book THE VENUS CONSPIRACY due out next month). What a difference care and attention to taste and great service make, no matter that there was no ‘drizzled reduction’ on the plate.
Now I’m not suggesting that all fast food is fantastic, it’s not, but you can find jewels in a desert of mediocrity that are reasonably priced and surprisingly delicious.
So with Book covers as with Food, presentation is not the whole story.
The real test of any book or any meal is the taste test.
I have read books that have the worst covers and yet contain great stories and extraordinary writing, and I have had meals that belie their presentation. Don’t get me wrong, the cover and presentation are extremely important, and it is a balance between the presentation, the cover, and the content, the taste. The trick is to urge all would-be readers to take a look inside. Read a few pages, which is so much easier to do with eBooks, as you can read at least three chapters depending on the size of the books.
To authors I’d say be careful of over selling the cover at the expense of the writing, because at the end of the day Books, as with Food, rely upon the content and the taste, not just the look.
To readers I’d say, if the cover catches your attention, take a few minutes read the ‘blurb’ and then use the ‘look inside’ feature to taste the contents. It’s painless and it’s free. If you like buy the eBook. Nothing to weight down a shopping bag, stored electronically and you never lose your place.