Yesterday over at The Broke and the Bookish, there was a post on bookcovers that disappoint a reader for one reason or another. Daisy made a point that we do judge books by their covers–and I am no exception. I began to think about what I like and do not like to see in a book cover…
Simple and understated is best. I don’t like a lot of “busy” in my book covers. I like one thing to focus on. A plain cover with an image and a title is totally fine…and really does what I want it to: announce the book. On this book, instead of a small image negotiated above or under the title like it is here, the image is the entire background. This lets a reader zoom in to the image and focus on the title at the same time.
Paintings. Many classics have art displayed on their covers instead of some over-the-top kind of mess. Perhaps this is to lend an “antique” feel to the age of the text? Whatever it is, I think it is most often quite elegant and makes for a beautiful book cover. In modern covers I see photographs trying to imitate the feel of a painting, but they often miss what can be found in the oils…patience and a certain essence. Photography captures a thing as it is in the moment, but a painting feels more intimate–even if it is just an impression of the thing.
Quirky. Sometimes I can appreciate a cover for its ability not to take life so seriously. This doesn’t have a particular medium of expression, but it can make me smile. Most often quirky covers are attached to books that are a bit tongue-in-cheek or humorous. The Nursery Crimes novels of Jasper Fforde come to mind–actually all of the Fforde novels spring to mind….
The picturesque. I’ll even handle a landscape or two if the feel of the picture roughly applies to the book. I like broad vistas and rolling hills and city skylines–they are worth considering. But I don’t want a picture of a placid river if I’m stuck (in the novel) in a city and never spend any time at a river! So if you are a cover artist, I hope you pay attention to the book (or at least pray that the summary provided to you is a true reflection of the content).
The nothing. Occasionally, I like a simple cover of nothing or almost nothing. It really depends on how the cover designer sizes everything and provides contrast. For example, this Mary Roach book is quite lovely. One might argue that this is also an image and can be classified in the first group, and maybe that is so. But this particular “nothing” is fine. I also classify books like this Lady Chatterley’s Lover cover in the same category–but, to be fair, I hate that much orange on any book.
Announce thyself. These kinds of cover designs annoy me. It screams, “I am NEEDY. Pay attention to me. I am the best. Ever.” The whole look of the book just makes me run the other way. Do you really need to take up three quarters of your cover space with your name and title? Did the cover artist go awol and this was the best someone could slap together? Or did someone just not want to pay for a jacket cover? Or maybe the reading public is blind and needs to be advertised to like this is a monster-truck rally? Why not just tag a small button on the front to play an MP3 ad that says “Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! The book is here. Buy it now!”
Operatic staging. Grrr. I know this appears quite often in fantasy literature and, dear God, someone make it stop! I always feel like these people are about to burst into song like it is a still from some overblown opera production. Seriously look at that picture and tell me you don’t hear this type of song in your head. It is too much. Now, while I may absolutely love the novels inside these dreadful covers you better believe that I heard about the book from someone who was willing to give the novel a chance after glancing at the cover–because I surely would NOT pick up the book myself without a recommendation (or trusting the author’s work).
So, am I a bit judgy? Absolutely. Does that make me a dreadful book consumer? Probably. Is everyone going to be able to please me all of the time? Nope.
**Please note that this discussion of covers has no bearing on the content of these books.**