The BBC ran an interesting article today: "Book design has become more important than ever – but what makes an iconic jacket, asks Clare Thorp." The piece discusses the importance of a cover that catches the reader's eye. Two thoughts come to mind, both relevant to the industry today:
(1) << The emergence of ebooks posed a threat to physical books a decade or so ago. But publishers fought back, making books that were more beautiful to look at and to hold than ever before. Fonts got bolder, colours brighter, paper more tactile. There was embossing, foil, cloth bindings and elaborate end papers. Bookshops also became spaces to spend time in, not just to shop, with books presented as objects of desire on curated table and window displays. >>
Of course, one must ask how much the perceived "threat" of digital publishing actually influenced the developments discussed below. That point aside, we must also concede that while ebooks can similarly utilize striking covers, only hard copy can address the other concerns.
(2) The apparent need for a "great" cover also emerges as yet another obstacle for the self-publisher. There was certainly a time when people might procure something "decent" at a reasonable cost through sites like https://www.fiverr.com/. However, it seems as though writers may need to budget considerably more money for artwork in the years ahead.
It has become increasingly difficult for new authors to break through to the "Big Five," and many now self-publish via Amazon, Ingram, Lulu, or other such services. Moreover, the more successful writers must reportedly spend up to half their working time on "marketing and promotion," often paying hefty fees along the way. Overall prospects for many have become more and more bleak, and an article like this, stressing the apparent importance of a powerful, eye-catching cover, offers no hope for relief in near future.