Judging a book by its cover

A few weeks ago, my editor sent me a copy of the cover of my book—”Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant Cookbook: A Lifetime of Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley.” There have been three or four versions since then. Now, they have finally decided on this version, which I really like. (It is in the sidebar.)
I always wonder how much really we judge a book by its cover. Do we pick a cover that is pretty? Or striking? What does the cover say about the book inside, if anything?
When just looking at the two final versions of the cover, I think I preferred another one. It was green and brown and seemed to speak to Mrs. Rowe’s earthiness, if a cover actually can do that. I kept it and the new one on my computer screen for a whole weekend and this red, white, and blue cover is the one that kept popping out at me. After all, we want the book to pop out on those bookshelves, don’t we?
The choice was up to the professionals at Ten Speed, of course, and they chose the final cover because it has a Pan-American feel. Mrs. Rowe is definitely an American icon, so that fits. And I believe the marketing experts at the publishers know what they are doing. Getting that book into the hands of readers is a goal I share with them.
I want readers to pick up the book, love it, keep it on their bedside tables or kitchen counters, refer back to it continually. I want them feel like they are getting know Mrs. Rowe, her story, and her food. I also want them to tell all their friends about it.
I’d like to say my intentions are just that—to share her life and food with the world–and that the important thing is that my name is on the cover. I compiled and wrote it, along with finding an agent and a publisher. This should be enough. And in some way, it certainly is.
But the reality is that this is how I earn my keep. More than ever before, writers have this strange line to walk—that balance between writing and promoting, art and commercial interest. I want the book to sell and I think the cover is important, especially for a cookbook. What do you think?

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