Friday, 16 September 2011

Book Covers

Do you judge a book by its cover?  I must confess I've bought books in the past based on the cover art alone.  An interesting and intriguing image can affect sales as it's the book's billboard after all.  The initial point of contact between reader and writer.

So it's surprising to find that the writer often has very little say in the cover art as shown by the story of Polly Courtney who has parted company from her publisher over the style of her book covers and now intends to self-publish.

The issue has spawned much debate among writers.  Do covers matter?  Well, apparently so.  When you have one chance to make an impression on a potential buyer you want to get it right.

But so many covers these days are generic and unoriginal.  You know the ones I mean - you can scarcely browse the Net without a few of them popping up around the margins.  Slick waxed torso of scantily clad young man with an equally scantily clad female draped provocatively over him, a hand lingering on his trouser belt as if to suggest they're coming off sometime soon.  Then there are the sci-fi/fantasy covers with metallic babes wrestling phallic space creatures.

The trouble with this kind of cover is it lumps all these books together in popular perception. If you write an original story shouldn't the cover reflect that originality?  Wouldn't something a bit different get more attention?

And not all books slide easily into the chosen genre.  Women's fiction isn't always about boyfriends and shopping.  Should the covers of chick-lit always feature ditzy thin women in high heels?

There is nothing more annoying than purchasing a book on the basis of the cover and finding it isn't at all what you thought it was going to be.  So Ms Courtney has a point.


Sophie Playle said...

Ooh, I saw this story too. Both shocking and unsurprising at the same time. I must admit I do like a good cover - and it does factor into my decision about the book.

A good cover should be eye-catching and fit with the theme and style of the novel. This one clearly doesn't fit with the novel.

I hear a lot of talk about publishers knowing what's best for the market they are trying to tap into... But I find myself doubting their abilities to really know the kind of thing people go for. I'd love to see some evidence of these studies. Publishers are often so incredibly busy, their resources stretched so thinly, that I wonder how much time and effort goes into aspects such as book covers a lot of the time.

Scott M Patterson said...

I often think most books would benefit by having blank cover art, just a black side with the title in white or red, or vice-versa. I also don't like it when a book later has an adaptation of it made, and the covers are updated to portray images from the film.

It doesn't surprise me that somebody has simply lost patience with a publisher for mis-representing their novel that way. If one of my books ended up going to stores with a cover that made it look like a Roger Corman movie, I'd be pissed off too.