The Great “Matte vs. Glossy” Cover Debate


CONFESSION: The first time I held a printed proof of Windchaser in my hands, I cried. And not the good kind of cry. The bad kind. The kind of cry that happens when you go, “OHMIGOSH. WHAT have I done?! I SPLIT my book in HALF. It’s too skinny. It’s too LIGHT. It…it just doesn’t feel like MY BOOK.”

Good thing the husband was there with a Cranberry Limeade in hand and lots of encouraging words like, “But it’s so much more marketable this way! Teens are gonna love this! The cover is so shiny and new and eye-catching!!” And after a couple of phone calls, a few emails, and one long drive with lots of loud music, I started to feel a little better.

Yes, indeed, the covers were shiny and very pretty and the format was much more marketable… but I’m not gonna lie. It was the FIRST time in this whole process of switching to a new publisher and new market with new opportunities that I freaked out about what I had done. I’m over that now, but there was still one thing I was unsure of in this whole process…

To preserve the gorgeous colors in these covers, my awesome designer had ordered the covers in glossy -and this was her preference on the basis of color. But the glossy just kept bothering me, so to make me feel better, my designer ordered a couple of matte-textured covers to see if I would prefer that. She gave me her preference, but said that she would go ahead and leave the final glossy/matte decision up to me. (She’s the BEST. Seriously.) When I got the matte in the mail, I immediately liked the feel of them better – and a LOT of YA books are done in matte. However, it dulled the color a bit… I really wasn’t sure what readers would prefer… bright, shiny glossy colors? Or matte, textured, slight muted colors?

So I put it to a vote among my biggest fans and supporters.

I took both glossy and matte proofs and, in two days, I polled about 20 adults and 104 teenagers. My middle school girls Bible Study class cast their vote. Some of my high schoolers at church chimed in. Then I brought the proofs to school and showed them to each of my 7th and 8th grade Advanced classes. I told my students at school that I wanted their honest opinion on what they preferred between the glossy (shiny) covers or the matte (soft/muted) covers – and I told them that whatever they chose by majority at the end of the day, I would be emailing my publisher and going with their choice. They were all allowed to hold the two proofs in their hands and discuss it openly for about five minutes and then they cast their vote. (At the warning of my husband, I withheld my opinions during all of this. He told me that teens tend to want to please me and that I should let them choose without giving any indication of which one was my favorite. He was so right. The kids kept asking me what I liked better before wanting to vote and I told them I would let them know the next day. SO HARD because I honestly didn’t know which way they would swing in their own young teenage opinions. Ha.)

So after all of that, here is how the votes turned out… (Keep in mind that I only took votes from people who could see and feel the differences in person…a picture cannot help this decision.)

GLOSSY – 25 votes
MATTE – 99 votes

Matte was a clear winner. Here were some of the comments made about why…

The negative comments about GLOSSY…
-It shows fingerprints and fingerprints drive me NUTS!
-It looks cheesy.
-I don’t like the glare when I’m trying to read the title or the back of the book.
-If it gets bent, the glossy sometimes peels off.
-It sticks to my leg when I read.

The positive comments about GLOSSY…

-The colors are more vivid
-Shiny things draw my attention on a shelf.

The negative comments about MATTE…
-The colors aren’t as bright.

The positive comments about MATTE…
-It feels better in my hands.
-It’s fun to scratch my fingers across.
-The muted colors make the book seem more mysterious, and it IS called PHANTOM Island.
-The matte looks more professional.
-It seems more durable.
-It won’t show my pencil marks and fingerprints.
-It looks more like other YA books we read.
-One girl wisely reminded me… “Most of our books are matte, Mrs. D, and since you’re kind of like a debut author again, you might want to stick with what’s popular.” SO SMART!!

So… with that kind of research, how could I NOT go with matte covers? It’s really cool that I got to listen to my audience’s preferences on this and was allowed to be in a position where I could choose based on what they said! Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with these covers because they are SO GORGEOUS. (Yall feel free to share some love for my cover designer, Kristen!) But I really enjoyed the conversation and I feel good about knowing that one option was way more popular than the other. It would have been harder if they had been more evenly matched…

For the record, my vote goes to the matte. Good to know my instincts are in line with my audience! And I know we made the right decision because at the end of the day, after being handled by tons of kids and rubbed in their hands (and, yes, even on their faces – ugh!), the matte covers looked as if they hadn’t even been touched while the glossy were extremely slimy and smudgy.

Ha.



Welcome to the Tour of Secrets! Metamorphosis of a Book – Stage 3…or 4? 5?
Welcome to the Tour of Secrets!
Metamorphosis of a Book – Stage 3…or 4? 5?

Comments to “The Great “Matte vs. Glossy” Cover Debate”


  1. I'm so glad I came across your post!

    I believe the matte costs more over the glossy which my publisher generally chooses. I've always liked matte on books, however, and would certainly love to have my debut novel with a classy, muted cover, and thanks to your wonderful poll takers, a much better choice. I'm calling them with the change this morning.

    Thanks so much!

    J.R. Mackenzie
    Author of the Temptation(of Christ) Parish series.
    Available Thanksgiving, 2011.


  2. 99 times out of a 100 I say go with your gut! Good call and great cover! 😀


  3. Not having them in my hands (so jealous of your poll takers!) I'd have to say matte finish. It feels better and I think generally looks better. Great choice all!


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