Often the adage "Never judge a book by its cover" is merely an admonishment to look on the inside before one makes a decision. This advice might work when talking about relationships with people. But if you try to follow that advice to the letter in a bookstore, you might be in there a long, long, LONG time.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The truth is, when discussing works of fiction, most readers admit that the cover of the book is what draws their attention. It might be because their favorite author's name is on the cover, but many times, when one is wandering through a bookstore trying to pick out their next read, it's the book's cover that will draw the eye and pull a prospective reader to the shelf to pick the book up.
Many times the artwork on the cover gives an idea of what the book will be about. If you look at a cover of a cozy mystery and the cover of a police procedural, you'll be able to tell right away that the stories may be about the same thing--a murder mystery--but the way the story is told will be very different. A cozy will have an ordinary person, usually a woman, who has an ordinary job find herself mixed up in a murder and trying to solve it despite opposition from the police. And the cover art will reflect that: it will usually show an otherwise peaceful scene from the protagonist's daily life with perhaps a hint of the crime being shown. You won't see that on the cover of a police procedural, of which the artwork will often leave no doubt that the story of the investigation is being told from an official viewpoint: weapons, handcuffs, a badge. Certainly not balls of yarn, teapots, or a cute cat!
In my Black Horse Campground mystery series, the cover pictures of all three books were photos that I took myself. The first for "End of the Road" was taken of the road that leads to my home... essentially, at the end of the work day, it was the "end of the road" for me! I wanted to convey a feeling of coming home, which many readers have told me is how they felt once they got into the book and learned about the characters that populate Bonney County and the Black Horse Campground.
The next book, "No Lifeguard on Duty", revolved around a murder taking place in the campground swimming pool. Here is where having a connection to the city pool (my husband worked pool maintenance for the city rec center) allowed me to be there in the wee hours of the morning which helped with the overall "feel" of the book cover:
For the third book, "No Vacancy", I toyed around with the idea of finding a (wait for it) No Vacancy sign hanging outside a campground or other lodging. My husband and I drove for miles through the mountains one Sunday afternoon, looking for just the right scene and never finding it. Finally I decided that was a little too obvious. So how about a scene from the book? But where could I set the stage? I wanted it to look like a cabin in a campground....
Just then we drove by the local KOA Kampground. The owners, Kelly and Sandy Rodwick, were nothing short of lots of fun and good sports. I mean, why would they humor an unknown who shows up on their doorstep and asks to take a picture of one of their cabins for the cover of a murder mystery?
One thing that's given me great satisfaction and a feeling of pride is how many compliments I get on my covers. It means more to me knowing that the artwork is something I created myself to fit the story inside the book. I have yet to find the picture that will grace the cover of Book Four, but I'm already looking for it. I'll know it when I see it. And I hope my readers will enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it!