If you see a book cover with half naked people on it, you assume it’s erotica. You assume it will have graphic descriptions of sexual acts and coarse language. My books have some of that. If you see a book cover with Police tape, hand cuffs or weapons, you can assume it’s a crime novel. My books have crime. If you see a book cover with beaches, palm trees, people holding hands, it might be romance. If it has an apparition or a scared face, maybe it’s paranormal. My books have romance and paranormal. If you see scary eyes, shocked faces, keyholes, then maybe horror? Horrible things happen in my books.
Does a book cover tell you everything you need to know? Of course not, but if it’s what you’re going to be drawn to, like you would a striking looking person or a colourful umbrella in a crowd of plain ones, then that’s where your interest will start (or stop, maybe). Many book covers just have words, a coloured background and words, they’re not telling you anything. Do you want to know what kind of book it is? Do you read the blurb?
As cliched as this sounds, it’s what’s inside that counts. The beauty of books is how they ignite your imagination, how they can trigger physical responses in you; tears, laughter, arousal. That doesn’t happen on the cover, it happens on the pages. It happens when you relate to the words and when your mind creates the images. You don’t need to see the same man on the cover of twelve different books by twelve different authors to know he’s not the guy in the book. You can create the characters in your own mind based on what you’re reading.
Lots of covers are awesome to look at and they do have an impact, but you already know there’s a lot more to the book than that.