Something has been bugging me lately. I get my daily email from Publishers Weekly (why is it delivered daily?) and Shelf Awareness. I walk through Powell’s… or the book section at Target. For some reason, I am dissatisfied. I stop and ask myself, “Why are you dissatisfied? Surely there’s a book here that will interest you. This is Powell’s, for heaven’s sake.” I go back and try looking deeper. I read the back blurbs. I look at the first pages. Usually, yes, I do end up finding many things that interest me – many more than my income will allow me to walk out of the store with.
I’m always on the lookout for exciting new reads. I’d been wondering what it was, why I felt like lately not many new books were standing out to me. It wasn’t until I finally found a book at Target the other day – one that I couldn’t resist picking up from the shelves – that I realized what it was.
I judge books by their covers.
This was the book that caught my eye:
Look at it! So many colors. They just pop out at you!
What’s more, once I picked it up and read the back blurb and the first couple pages, I found that the book’s premise was also attractive to me – a newlywed woman’s search for friends in a new town. (Hm…sounds familiar…) (Also, this book has turned out to be just as good as I hoped. Review to come!)
I realized that the first thing I look for when searching for reading material is a good book cover. I rarely impulse-buy books. Usually I’ve heard about a book from friends, seen it online in several places, read reviews on it, or all three, before I finally commit my wallet. However, these are three books that I bought on impulse, and what caused me to notice them was their covers:
I already explained my attraction to MWF Seeking BFF. I love the colors on Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, too. (Blue is one of my favorite colors.) Two coats and hats on a hat rack – it just looks sweet. I like sweet. The postcard-esque cover of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society still makes me happy. I figured it must be a book after my own heart. It was.
Here are some more book covers I really enjoy simply for the aesthetics:
Again, a huge factor here is color. That’s simply my preference.
However, cover-appeal is not the only factor in determining whether or not the book makes it into the basket. Not only does the cover have to be attractive, it has to be relevant to the story itself.
I would’ve put MWF Seeking BFF right back down if it was a dry case study of a married woman’s interactions with potential friends, instead of an enticing memoir told in a refreshing voice.
In other words, the book has to deliver what the cover promises.
I want book covers to be appropriate representations of what’s inside the book. For example, I love classics. I want the classics I buy to look like classics. I want them to be elegant and even somewhat scholarly – after all, I was an English major and much of my interaction with classics came in an academic setting. Here’s an example of what not to do with classics:
Bright and colorful? Yes. But I shudder to look at these. In fact, these were my first copies of these books, and I bought them because they were cheap. (I know… there’s no excuse for my mercenary ways, but I was in high school.) I soon replaced them with much more appropriate-looking copies and these have been hiding in a shadowy corner of my bookcase ever since.
I don’t mind fresh, more contemporary covers for classics. It just has to be done right. I’m particularly fond of this example of a classic’s contemporary book cover:
It’s provoking. It’s intriguing. It’s challenging. Just like the book. I mentally shake hands with the designer.
At first I felt bad that I was judging books by their covers. Sure, the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” really means people, but whatever. Books are important, too. And I realize that a cover really is important. That’s why publishing houses hire designers. Because words on a page are great and all, but the only way someone’s going to read it or buy it is if you get them to pick it up. It’s all about marketing. Really.
So. Do you judge books by their covers? Do you have any favorite book covers? Have you ever had a book cover catch your eye?