Saturday, August 03, 2013

You can't tell a book by its cover - or can you?

Continuing as I am with my own blog a day challenge (I'll do it as long as I can muster up the inspiration!), I was inspired by the comments on covers made by Christina James and Carol Hedges on my last post, so I thought it would be interesting to explore this subject further. 

I think it's safe to say, and it goes without too much saying, we are all influenced by book covers when we are looking to buy. But it doesn't matter who we are, we all have specific tastes that are not always met by the cover trends of the day.

When I look at old book covers from the last century, I tend to think everything has become very brash these days. I loved the old penguin book covers, and also many of the other covers designed in the fifties and sixties too. There was something truly artistic in their formulation and it was easy to see that real artists had created them and not computer programmes. 

So maybe that makes me biased. Okay, not maybe. I should say it definitely affects my taste because I have to admit that these days, I tend to prefer 'art' covers to the sort of covers that are churned out by handy computer programmes to provide drama, glamour or sensation. I also like covers to express a bit of humour probably because I tend to like humorous books too.  However, when it comes to the specific genres that I favour, detective fiction seems to produce a wide range of cover art, some of which I like and some not. Those which trade on the 'blood and guts' aspect of a novel will often have me shoving them back on the shelves, whereas a more subtle, artistic cover will draw me immediately, but who's to say whether I am being fair? Marketers and graphic designers can't know everything about people's tastes so they go for safety in trends and majorities. Unfortunately, if your taste falls outside of those trends, then they may well lose a sale, because in the end, I imagine many of us browsing in bookshops really do judge books firstly by the cover. It has to grab our attention, before we even start to read the blurb or the 'praise for this book' parts. Without skimming through every book on the shelf, there is no other way of deciding quickly whether we are likely to enjoy a book or not.

So yes, much hangs on the cover, and as writers, we probably choose covers for our books that we personally think will reflect our work in the best way, but again, are we right? Is our taste what will sell the book? Should we listen to the designers even if we don't like what they have done? 

Here are a few covers I have personally really liked. I have bought all three books because of their covers, so I'd be very interested to know what book covers you have found appealing?






17 comments:

  1. I love color, so I like the top cover best. And it has what appears to be a boat in a canal :)

    Enjoy the weekend!

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  2. I really don't go by the cover, so I often don't notice what is on the front (I promise to look more now). I usually go by recommendation, either personal or I will read the recommendations on Amazon. I do read the blurb on the back of a book before I start reading to give me an idea of what I am letting myself in for. Xxx

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  3. I think that covers say a lot - not always what you want to know, though. You can run your eye along a shelf of books now and pick out the ones you are unlikely to like - with me, that includes the ones with dark colours and lots of silver - more vampire tales, groan! The trouble is that sometimes the publishers get it wrong and market something as what it isn't, and then you miss it.
    There was a lot to be said for the old Penguin covers. I wonder if that could be done today - I suspect it would be hard. they came at the right time.

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  4. You are rightly proud of your covers, which are lovely, and I especially like the quality of the photograph on 'Watery Ways'; I have to admit that I'm also very proud of the DI Yates covers, which Chris Hamilton-Emery produced without any discussion with the author, who just gasped and accepted. ;)
    I honestly think we have similar tastes, as I also like art covers and the old Penguins!

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  5. I agree - covers can tell you so much about a book. I recently read Cold Eye of Heaven by Christine Dwyer Hickey - the cover makes it look like chicklit (not my thing), but I'd read the blurb and reviews so knew it to be literary. The first time I've come across a cover that was quite so wrong!

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  6. Thanks so much for the comments everyone!

    Carol, you are right about the boat on the canal and the narrow dog is sitting on the top of the narrow boat :-)

    Fran, the blurb is important too, isn't it? But I must say that like Jenny, Christina and Jo, I am quite negatively influenced by the garish ones with lots of gold and silver on them.

    Why thank you, Christina! I love the covers of your books. They are quite stunning. For me they are perfect for detective fiction because they suggest mystery and intrigue!

    Jo, you have illustrated my point precisely. That was probably a case where the publishers were trying to appeal to a wide audience, but sadly the wrong one for the book! I really need to find out what Chic Lit really is…

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  7. Yes Val you have to be attracted to the cover especially in places like a supermarket where your eyes just scan the shelves.The title of a book usually attracts me,if it has secrets in the title I have to investigate.The bok I'm reading is called Book of Secrets and the cover is books so what's not to like? I don't like covers with real people posed on them unless it's an autobiography.Yes,Val food for thought.

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  8. Despite the maxim 'don't judge a book by its cover' almost everyone does don't they? I think it's a crucial thing to get right. I was discussing this with my publisher recently - they set great store in having quality covers for their books and they do believe it affects sales.

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  9. Anne, you made me smile there - a book about a book with books on its cover. That was playing it safe wasn't it?

    Chris, it must be very very difficult for publishers to know if they are striking the right note and appealing to the right audience. As Jo has said, sometimes they get it wrong. I remember the first suggestions for my Watery Ways memoir made it look like a Mills and Boon romance. I must admit I vetoed that very quickly, but who knows, maybe it would have been more successful!

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  10. I take great note of book covers and their designs. If they attract me, I will lift the book off the shelf and peruse what is written inside before deciding whether to purchase or not.

    According to graphic artists: a brown covered book will attract very few readers, unless it is a bible.

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  11. What never fails to amaze me is the way that publishers will often select a front cover that they think will sell a book rather than a cover that truly represents what is inside the book. A well-published friend of mine has had numerous disagreements with her publishers over book covers. I much prefer arty ones to ones with models posing.

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  12. Funny Val I looked again and it doesn't have books on cover its one called The Bookstore that has books on the cover,funny because Book ofSecrets is about a bookstore too, confused? Lol

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  13. Ros, thanks! That's you and me both about arty covers! I hope your friend has won her fights. I do sometimes think the people commissioned with designing the covers don't know what the books are about at all!

    Anne, what does Book of Secrets have on the cover then? Now I'm intrigued! But then I can also stop being lazy and go and look it up…lol too :-)

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  14. Oh I remember the old penguin books, from when I lived in London. So I suppose I did read a bit. My favorite read was the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. I read it many times. Whoa, you are waking up this old noggin , and I am remembering now I did have some books that I favored. In fact when I visited my brother we went through some old boxes and found some books we saved from when we were kids.
    Thank you Val, for your blog posts, it gets me to remember things I have forgot.

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  15. Oh, I think the title is more of a calling to me than the actual cover.

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  16. Thanks Grace! I'm so glad it's revived some memories for you! I also loved the Narnia stories!

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  17. Val, it just has a patterned cover with the title. I was quite disappointed when I looked at it again but the story is kind of based on classic books so I suppose the cover is apt. I find when I'm reading a book on kindle I forget what the cover is like because I never see it.

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