I am totally unaware of why I like or don't like a book's cover. When my publishers send me a cover proposal, I immediately show it to my husband, my daughter-in-law, or my website designer, all of whom have a WAY better sense of what makes a good cover than I do.
That said, I am smart enough to see when a book cover attracts people and when it doesn't. I've published books that people merely glance at and books that "call out" to readers. I watch their hands reach out for them subconsciously. KILLING SILENCE is in the latter category.
"That looks good," readers tell me when I hand out bookmarks. "Ooh, what's this about?" they ask, taking the book into their hands.
Exactly the kind of thing a writer wants to hear.
Amazon and other on-line bookstores have changed cover art, because a lot of detail is lost when a book is shrunk to the size readers see when they get little hints like "People who bought this book also bought..." Print books might still have beautiful colors and images, but they fade into blurs in those tiny squares.
Simpler is the trend, but a cover shouldn't look naked. I've set up at book fairs next to people who so obviously designed their own covers that it's almost painful. Yeah, they think it's "stark" and "evocative." Too often, it looks cheap.
I tried the less expensive route once, hiring an art student to design a cover. It turned out that "student" was a relative term. This one had no sense of perspective, no real interest in making a cover that popped. Luckily for me, my web guy saw it (he almost choked) and offered to work on it. Using the same images, he made the cover you see below, a vast improvement on the flat offering from the student.
I recently recovered the rights to a book published with a cover that always made me a little uncomfortable. At the time, I thought, "The publisher knows what will sell," but it turned out that particular publisher didn't know much at all. I've contracted with a professional artist to do a new cover for the book, one whose work I saw through a fellow author's website. She's been wonderful, and I'll post her cover here as soon as it's finalized, early next week.
So what's my cover recommendation for those planning to publish their backlists and more? Unless you've got experience in graphic arts AND an artist's eye, pay someone to design your covers.