They say you can’t. They say you shouldn’t. But we all do it. Don’t we?
I know I do. Scanning email newsletters, browsing the “Other Customers Bought” on websites, walking past table displays and shelves in my local book store, I can’t help but make instantaneous decisions about a book based on the cover.
I love book covers. I love being part of the book cover process at Carina Press (Aideen O’Leary-Chung manages the process…but I get to review each cover during the design stage). Opening up a cover email from Aideen is always a little spark of excitement in my workday…especially if it’s a book I read during the acquisition process. Will it match the tone of the book? Will it be imaginative, exciting, compelling? Will it intrigue potential readers enough to encourage them to buy the book? Will I love it!?!?
My favourite moments are when the cover artist has so beautifully captured the essence of the book that I literally have nothing to say. Not every cover hits that mark on the first try, but we’re lucky to work with cover artists who are patient, creative, and amazingly talented. Sometimes, I honestly don’t know how they do it!
But, back to being judgmental (hey, I admit it). I was thinking the other day about how the cover of a book isn’t the only factor in how I choose a book to read. Many times, it’s because a friend or colleague recommended the book…and how many of the books I absolutely adore, I never would have glanced at twice if it weren’t for a strong recommendation.
So now, I present to you: books that are better than they look (according to me!).
Lamb by Christopher Moore
This cover just seems odd and doesn’t fit the book. Yes, the book is satire and incredibly funny, and yes, it’s the Gospel as told by “Biff” Christ’s childhood pal….but this cover just looks childish to me. It also makes Biff (on the right) look goofy. It certainly doesn’t convey the clever wit and delightfully cheeky writing contained within. If it weren’t for an old friend’s recommendation, this one wouldn’t have even been on my radar.
Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follett
I had to search for the cover of this one the year it was passed along to me by my favourite teacher ever (Mrs. Armstrong – Grade 10 English!). Bright yellow with a weird gargoyle on the cover? Um. Ok? Doesn’t really imply the sweeping saga that is held within. I read this book over and over again (so many times that I had to buy a new one to give back to Mrs. Armstrong). I still have this yellow version on my bookshelf, and I still think it does the book a great injustice.
No One Lives Twice by Julie Moffett
Ok, truth time. I read this book as part of the acquisition team before it even had a cover, and I LOVED it. Lexi was smart, geeky and full of awesome. The book was part espionage, part love triangle, part mystery, and all-around fun. When we developed this first cover I liked it, but didn’t love it. It somehow didn’t capture the essence of the book – with no fault t all to the cover designer, who worked diligently to follow the brief they were given! When it came time to release the second Lexi Carmichael book we took the opportunity to correct our mistake and gave the series a brand new look…which I think captures the tone of the series in a much more clever way.
So, how about you? Do you judge a book by it’s cover? Have you ever been wrong like I was?