Thursday, March 25, 2010

What's the deal with book covers?

Posted by Simcha 4:14 PM, under | 10 comments

I managed to squeeze in a bit of time today to catch up on some of the blogs I follow and I came across this article at SF Signal about what makes a good book cover. I found this post particularly interesting because I've personally never paid too much attention to book covers before and I admit to being rather baffled by all the sudden attention that cover art is receiving lately from the book blogging community.

It's true that when I browse in a book store certain covers attract my attention more then others, often leading me to pick up the book and read the blurb, but I've never given any thought as to why I was attracted to those covers, and I've never really cared. It's the content that interests me, not what encases it. In addition, most of my book purchases are now done online where I don't even get a good look at the book cover. So what is it about book covers that is garnering so much attention?

While it's common now to see bloggers post book covers that they particularly like, there is usually no explanation as to why this cover caught the blogger's attention enough to post about it. That's why I appreciated SF Signal's post in which various illustrators, and one blogger, listed a few of their recent favorite book covers and described in detail what aspects of each cover appealed to them.

Aidan Moher, from A Dribble of Ink, admits to being drawn to the green color of the Walking the Tree cover and illustrator, Lauren Panepinto, was attracted by the lighting and spare background of Graceling. The Red Claw cover, with its photo of toy spacemen and dead roaches, received a couple of mentions, though I doubt I would pick up this book if I saw it in a store.

But while I found this article to be very illuminating, almost all of the responses were given by artists, leaving me to wonder what the average book buyer has in mind when they gravitate towards certain book covers. And I'm still unclear as to why so many bloggers are suddenly focusing on the book covers as much as the stories inside of them.

10 comments:

On this note, you may enjoy this site I recently found: Good Show Sir

Pretty hilarious. I think covers play a big role though. Especially if it has some half naked person I will more often then not refuse to read it. :)

I do enjoy a good cover because I'm interested in art. Although I find some of the discussions that have taken place in the blogosphere around cover art a little tedious, overall the appreciation of art is a good thing I think.

I pick up a book when browsing them at the bookstore based on title and cover. If fact, I've gotten to the point where unless the book was recommend, if the cover doesn't catch me, I may never read it. I think covers play an important part in initially getting someone to pick up the book, but after they open it up, that is all on the author. I also rarely read the back of books anymore...I do skim them sometimes, but I've found that I've gotten pretty good and finding books that appeal to me based on cover art.

I am not an artist, but I am drawn to striking covers and will most definitely pick up a book if it visually entices me. I am just shallow that way.

Bryce: I just took a look at the site you mentioned and it really is hysterical. some of his commentary had me laughing out loud.
I also avoid covers with nudity, which includes many of the current UF and PNR, largely because I would be too embarrassed to read such books in public, plus I wouldn't want my children seeing them.

Jason: I admit that I'm not much of an art maven and therefore I don't notice the different aspects that apparently make some covers more appealing than others. But when did book covers become a form of art worthy of as much discussion as the books themselves? Plus many of the discussion I see are about the "problem" of unoriginal cover art. But is an original book cover really a good thing? Book covers should be about drawing the right reader to it and giving them an idea of what kind of book to expect.

Wonderbunny: That's what I'm saying. A book cover will initially attract my attention, for about a split second, but after that I pay no more attention to the cover and it's what's inside that matters to me. I would never before have thought of featuring a book's cover on my blog then I would the wrapper of a candy bar, unless it was really unique. The only time a cover really stays in my mind is if it were truly awful.

Stephanie: Don't worry, I'm shallow that way too :)

Is this a new thing? I can think of several blogs who comment regularly on cover art. Dark Wolf has a very nice series of interviews with fantasy artists for instance. Speculative horizons has a feature called crap fantasy covers I very much enjoy. A Drible of Ink is on a crusade against unimaginative fantasy covers... etc.

I guess they do this in part of it is because covers are considered a bit more important in genre fiction than mainstream but it's also content that doesn't require the time investment of reading a whole book first.

I'll admit that I pick books based on title and cover. For instance I won't read anything with a half naked man/woman on the cover. I associate those covers with book that are printed en masse, with the focus on quantity rather than quality. Color scheme doesn't matter to me as much, but I like seeing covers that don't look like half of the genre. A lot of YA books now have covers that are reminiscent of Twilight to try and hook Twilight fans, and it's stuff like that that I try to avoid. I love the cover for The Magicians, Boneshaker, and River of Gods.

Val, I seem to be noticing more blogs to be commenting on covers lately, though I suspect the blogs you mentioned have been doing it for longer. While reading through the comments on one such site I was bothered by the frequent mockery of cover images in which the cover reflected the content of the book. I suspect the blogger didn't actually read these books but I believe that is exactly what a cover should do, attract readers to the covers and give them an idea of the content of the book.

Erin: I agree, those are very attractive covers and I would certainly be drawn to them in a bookstore. But if someone asked me what my favorite book covers were, I would draw a complete blank. Though I could tell you what my favorite books are.

I know of the old saying, can't judge a book by its cover. But, there are books whos cover calls to me and attracts me to the book. I don't know what it is in truth that calls to me though. But, they do help catch my eye and get me to look at the synopsis.

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