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Do You Judge a Book by Its Cover?

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I've been disappointed with a couple covers lately.  It feels as though they're trying to be something they're not to cash in on the latest best-sellers.  I wrote a rant about it on my blog:  http://donnagephart.blogspot.com/2011/02/rant-i-do-judge-book-by-its-cover.html

I'd love to know your thoughts about book covers -- what function they serve and how important it is that they accurately depict what's inside a book's covers.
#1 - February 14, 2011, 06:59 AM
OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN (Delacorte Press, 2012)
www.donnagephart.com
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Donna, as soon as I read the first sentence of your blog post, I thought of the hc of HAMBURGER HALPIN. That was SO NOT a match. The pb is much better.

I am completely drawn in by covers. I've picked up books I never would've read, had never heard about, bc of the covers. (We blogged about covers that attract us on A2A this week: http://www.author2author.blogspot.com/.)

#2 - February 18, 2011, 07:34 AM
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I often go in bookstores to study covers and you can really see the  trends when you just pull book after book out- looking at the covers -

Here are some interesting facts I learned at illustrator breakout sessions at the LA SCBWI conference-
- readers usually ID with the MC -so that is why the character on the cover is usually to the back, face covered somwhat- not defined clearly so that the reader can see themselves in the story.
- if the main character is a minority- the cover will probably not feature them- but possibly a scene or objects from the story-
and on some occasion might feature a white character instead of the main minority character, like the controversy over LIAR having a white girl cover-
 http://www.boingboing.net/2009/07/23/race-and-book-covers.html
There is a real
pyschology to book covers and the market.
I also am waiting for a "shift" in the style of YA covers. 
#3 - February 18, 2011, 08:15 AM

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Sometimes I judge a book by its cover and sometimes not. For instance, I would have bought Savvy on the strength of its cover alone - so, so good, but I would have passed up Wednesday Wars (which I loved) if I hadn't read about it before I saw the book. It had one of the worst covers ever.

Laurel  :hulahoop
#4 - February 18, 2011, 10:22 AM

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Sometimes I judge a book by its cover and sometimes not. For instance, I would have bought Savvy on the strength of its cover alone - so, so good, but I would have passed up Wednesday Wars (which I loved) if I hadn't read about it before I saw the book. It had one of the worst covers ever.

Laurel  :hulahoop
I agree with the above, concerning SAVVY. I bought mine only because of the cover and then fell in love with it after reading it.
Cover does influence my choice of books if I've never heard of the book before. But then you get books like STOLEN by Lucy Christopher. It's not ugly or anything, but also it's not flashy and glamorous; yet after reading it, I knew I would never ever forget about those characters and the story. So in this case the cover didn't reveal anything about what to expect inside, which sometimes can misdirect readers.
#5 - February 21, 2011, 09:52 AM

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It's sad, I've sat at book signings with Josh and you wouldn't believe how many young people come up to him, interested in his book because of the cartoony cover. It's awkward having to turn people away since it's such a struggle to actually get storegoers to notice you in the first place at a signing. And it also makes me wonder how many people who would have liked Hamburger Halpin maybe missed out on the opportunity because they thought it wouldn't interest them.

I always have people emailing me saying they thought my books would be dark and more Twilight-esque, but were either completely horrified or pleasantly surprised to learn that they were lighthearted. I know my publisher was probably trying to cash in on the Twilight craze. Who can blame them?

The bad thing is that when a book's cover doesn't match what's inside, ultimately, it's the author that will have a lot of explaining to do.
#6 - February 21, 2011, 10:16 AM

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If I know the author and/or have read his/her books or blog and enjoyed them, I usually don't pay much attention to the cover. Sometimes shockingly so. (I should have paid attention to the cover of The Web by Jonathan Kellerman. It really was about spiders, not a metaphor for the internet. I quickly got rid of the book...)

Once in a while, like in that example, you can judge a book by its cover...but mostly not. Some of the best books I've read have had so-so covers (THE WEDNESDAY WARS); some of the worst--or at least, not my taste--books have had fantastic, out-of-this-world covers.

Then there's Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER and LINGER--great writing, great covers.

The author is not the book designer and often has absolutely no say in the cover.  
#7 - February 21, 2011, 11:01 AM
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I am terrible about this, though I try not to be.  The biggest turn-off for me is when cover art is bad (in quality) or the font is ugly/cheap-looking or both.  If it looks like the publisher couldn't afford good design, I start thinking that the writing inside couldn't be very good.

But as bad as I am, I feel like kids are much worse.  For example, I have many a great MG novel in paperback, leftover from my childhood (all those Dell Yearlings!).  Because they're paperback editions and OLD, the covers often depict dated-looking children or have some sort of soft-color art not seen on today's vibrant photo-cover shelves.  It's very hard to get my daughter interested in what's inside the book, but I bet if I had all new and colorful cover on them, she might be more likely to give them a try.  Sigh.

I've always been interested in cover design but fear I'd be bad at it.  I wouldn't be able to give a book a non-matching (in tone) cover, as some of you discussed is done, just to sell the book.  That sort of thing irks me to no end.  Even worse, I once saw an edition of Freaky Friday (the book) with the cover from the Lindsay Lohan movie.  Inside, the book was the same great off-beat story as always, about the girl in the NY apartment with the neighbor named Boris/Morris.  The cover, of course, depicted the Lindsay plot--which, if you've read the book and seen the movie, you'll know is VERY, VERY different!  Yikes.  I immediately felt terrible for all the kids who would buy that book and be completely confused by the bait-and-switch.
#8 - February 21, 2011, 11:17 AM

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Thanks for the awesome, thought-provoking comments.  The Wednesday Wars was one of those treasures of a book that had a much more appealing paperback cover than the hardback. 
#9 - February 24, 2011, 05:42 PM
OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN (Delacorte Press, 2012)
www.donnagephart.com
www.donnagephart.blogspot.com

I'd like to chime in here and ask the same as HappyCamper has stated.
 Do any of you prefer hardback to paperback or does it matter to you?  The cover has never really bothered me, it's usually the title.  But there's something about hardbacks.  If I can get  it paperback, I prefer it. :werd
#10 - February 25, 2011, 04:34 AM

Akoss

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I'd like to chime in here and ask the same as HappyCamper has stated.
 Do any of you prefer hardback to paperback or does it matter to you?  The cover has never really bothered me, it's usually the title.  But there's something about hardbacks.  If I can get  it paperback, I prefer it. :werd

I try to go for paperback as often as possible because hardbacks are always so expensive. But if I'm totally in love with the writer and the book I don't care for the price at that point.
#11 - February 25, 2011, 07:04 AM

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