From Publishers Weekly:
We all know how the saying goes: never judge a book by its cover. As broad-stroke life advice, it works. But readers rarely follow it when deciding which books to buy.
If a book’s cover art involves human models, the author may be on especially slippery ground. The perfect-looking people speak to someone, but to whom? Common wisdom advises authors to broadcast genre and win new readers through halting visuals. Yet the fact that we are not all intrigued by the same kinds of people makes the use of humans on covers problematic. If cover models alienate me, I won’t buy the book.
I’m not kidding. I don’t care how many people are talking about a book. I don’t care about five-star reviews. I don’t care if I love the blurbs, or how badly I’m dying for a great romance read—I won’t buy it.
I swear, I’m not a narcissist. It’s not about needing to see some mirror image of me. It’s not about me being black and wanting to find more African-American fiction. I dislike full-face images of humans on covers, no matter their ethnicities, genders, or body types. Stories hold greater appeal if I’m given the leeway to interpret characters through my own imagination. Seeing cover images that are highly specific limit a story’s potential for me.
. . . .
I’ll stop long enough to acknowledge that there’s a market for model-heavy covers, and for stories with correspondingly idealized worlds. Among a certain demographic, these books are popular. But how many more copies could be sold without fully visible cover models? How many readers care more about compelling characters who form in their minds than about defined, idealized character images?
. . . .
Even in my genre (romance), in which cover models are pervasive, some of the most iconic books avoid full faces, and people, altogether. Christina Lauren’s Beautiful Bastard, Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger, and even E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey signal genre without being overly specific.
Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly