Mar 4, 2010

Go Ahead, Judge a Book By It’s Cover!

Posted by Kirsten at 3/04/2010 03:32:00 AM

We’ve all heard the old saying “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover”. I can even understand why its such a prolific saying. I would even apply it to life in general, but when it comes to choosing actual books to read I say go ahead and choose your book by the cover. Publishers spend lots of time and money trying to come up with just the right cover to represent a book.  There are people who’s entire job is just to create covers for books. Why shouldn’t we trust in those people to accurately represent the books we read?

We have become a very visual society and choose many of our possessions, from our clothing to our homes and hairstyles by surface looks. Why should we choose the books we read any differently. We expect that the covers are representative of the content. Just look at the anger that was aroused when Bloomsbury USA Children's Books published Liar by Justine Larbalestier with the original cover portraying a Caucasian girl rather than an African American girl which the book describes it’s main character as being. 


We have basic expectations when it comes to what the covers of the books we read look like and if the cover  doesn’t represent the contents well, it most likely will be overlooked. Meghan Dietsche Goel, children’s book buyer for BookPeople in Austin, Texas said in an article in Publishers Weekly that  “Covers matter. No matter how much we’re behind the book, if the cover isn’t appealing it isn’t going to do well.” In other words, if the audience doesn’t like the book cover, then they’re not going to buy the book. 

When I walk into my local bookstore or library, I know that its the titles and cover art that I’m drawn to. Interesting titles such as Don't Talk Back To Your Vampire, The Crepes of Wrath, We'll Always Have Parrots, Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon or Jackie Collin’s new book Poor Little Bitch Girl catch my interest just a much as interesting cover art. But even the title won’t entice me to read a book who’s cover art doesn’t interest me. On a recent trip to the bookstore a variety of books caught my eye.

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None of them are really the same, but each one has its own appeal. Of course, what appeals to me may not appeal to you. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. However there are some universal elements to a book cover that you can look at that will give you a better idea as to the quality of a book. There is more to a book cover than the artwork.

According to Rose Halas and her tips for How To Choose a Good Book To Read “The front typically offers a visible lure with a titillating graphic, compelling statistics, or an editor's blurb that will prompt readers to start reading. On the back you may find author information, reviewers' excerpts, and a brief summary of the book's contents. Sometimes sales information is included.”(2)

According to Jessa Crispin from the Bookslut Blog says there are six areas to look at when you examine a book cover.

  • The cover art
  • The cover font
  • Back Blurbs
  • The Description
  • The Spine
  • Author photo (if there is one)

Each area offers information about the book that can be valuable when choosing a book. Good cover art can give you an idea of the theme, sub-genre and mood of a book. We know, just from looking, that a book with a dark cover will most likely have a dark theme. If there are dragons and wizards, we know that it is more than likely a fantasy novel.  The Font can serve a similar purpose. Font style can indicate information such as book genre or even popularity of the author with its size and type of font.

Blurbs and the description of the book can provide you with a good description of the books contents and an idea as to whether you might be interested in reading it. Take a good look at who wrote the blurb and whether they write blurbs for just anything or have written blurbs for other books that you have enjoyed. Don’t forget to read that description though. If the description doesn’t sound interesting, chances are the book won’t be either.

The books spine can hold important information such as the publisher. It’s possible that a particular publisher has a history of publishing books that you’ve enjoyed and you can look to see if they’ve published other books you might enjoy. As for the author’s photo. Many books don’t have them anymore and even if they do, the author’s photo doesn’t necessarily indicate the quality of the book. I can’t tell you how many times I was surprised by an author looking nothing like what I’d imagined them to be. So, I personally don’t look at the author’s photo’s when I make my decisions.

Taken together, the various bits and pieces that make up a book cover offer up plenty of information to help with your reading choices. Use what you’re given and learn all of the many ways that a book cover can be used to determine whether a book will fit your own personal definition of good. Go ahead. Choose your book by it’s cover!


Heather Bowman on March 5, 2010 at 3:17 PM said...

I'm glad you posted this, Kirsten. When we talked about this in class, your opinion opened my eyes. I promise to spread the word that it's okay to judge a book by its cover.

Andrea Japzon on March 22, 2010 at 9:51 PM said...

What are you doing awake at 3 a.m. thinking about these things. :)

This class continues to amaze me, you all could collectively write a book on the culture of reading.

This post could be the introduction.

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