It’s okay, we’ve all done it. We’ve all judged books by their covers and anyone who says they haven’t are in denial.
You’re walking down the aisle of a bookstore, looking for a title to catch your eye, when you see it. BAM! It’s love at first sight. You see a book so beautiful it almost brings tears to your eyes. (Just me? Okay.) Assuming you like what it’s about, you buy the book and proceed to lose yourself within its pages.
Why do we do this? Why do we pick up the beautiful book? Easy, because we like beautiful things, it’s in our very nature.
Needless to say, book covers do not determine the quality of the novel, but it does determine whether you pick it up from the shelf and read the premise. Am I right or am I right?
First impressions are important, and the same applies to books because they leave preconceived notions about the setting and characters. Smashwords founder, Mark Coker says it best, “In addition to promising what a book will deliver, the [cover] image also promises (or fails to promise) that the author is a professional, and that the book will honor the reader’s time. ”
You might be wondering, what makes a good book cover?
I’m no book cover expert, but I own both beautiful and ugly books, so here are some of my favorite covers and why I gravitated towards them.
Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
When I was 7 years old, I was introduced to what would become, one of the most influential books of my life. The first movie had not come out yet, and unlike most readers, I bought the third book first. Blasphemy!
Yes, I know what you’re thinking—how could you? Well, for some reason, I didn’t know it was the third book and proceeded to buy it. Needless to say, when I realized it was not the first, I stopped reading.
Truthfully, what drew me in was the story the cover told me. Relevance, in my opinion, is one of the most important things to look for in a cover. I wanted to know who this young wizard was, why he was holding a glowing egg, who the people in the back were, and most importantly—why the heck it looked like a megalodon was about to eat them?
Book covers should convey information, they need to appeal to the reader and make them ask enough questions to actually read the book. It would be easy enough to put a picture of Hogwarts on the cover, but adding bits of information draws the reader in.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
According to Rachel Carlyle, research has shown that by age 11, children stop challenging themselves as readers and fall back on more popular titles, meaning classics are being read less and less. Can we really blame them?
I remember being assigned classic novels to read and hating them. The problem was partly that I abhorred being told what to read, but I also disliked how boring they seemed. Every classic novel seemed to have a cover in which the main character looked as though he or she were posing for a portrait.
I was in my senior year of high school when I was assigned to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë…I was not excited.
I was bored out of my mind when I spontaneously decided to buy a copy before winter break ended. Instead of posing for a portrait, the copy I bought depicted a hand drawn Jane, running away from Thornfield Hall. Now we’re talking!
Where is she going? Who is she running away from? She looks cold!
Collage Artist, Megan Coyle, writes that color is used to articulate mood and atmosphere, so it is no surprise that this cover appealed to me and continues to be highly sought out. The blue tonality of the cover created an atmosphere that screamed darkness and genuinely made me want to read the book. I ended up reading the novel before winter break ended, and Jane Eyre is now one of my favorite novels of all time. Covers matter people!
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
I’ve always had a bit of a fascination with typography. Let’s say you’re reading a romance novel, what type of font might you see in the cover? I would guess something cursive-like.
Typography can encourage readers to pick up a novel, and when I run into covers like Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, it’s hard not believe.
This novel is about a young man who plans to kill his bully and then commit suicide. Considering the gravity of the novel, the designer of the novel did a great job in choosing the color scheme and type of font.
The red does a great job in illustrating the anger and madness, the font gives it a youthful appeal, while the gun shaped hand gives me a semblance of what the book is about. Although the novel was more of a 3.5-star book to me, I still appreciate what the designers were able to do for the book, and feel it will continue to appeal to many more readers.
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
Have I mentioned I’m a big fantasy novel fan? I read them whenever I get the chance, and there are plenty of covers that I love.
Unfortunately, fantasy novels like to show actual people on their covers. Typically, this is a big no-no for me. I like to be able to envision the characters, not have them envisioned for me. Therefore, it was a surprise to me when I loved the cover for the last installment of Cassandra Clare’s, The Infernal Devices.
Rather than simply taking a picture of a model and pasting it onto a book cover, they’ve edited the picture to make the model look ethereal. More so, her profile has a light shadow to it that makes it easier for the reader to envision the character to his/her liking.
The potential reader might also notice the Blackfriar’s bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background, letting him/her know that the story takes place in London. More importantly, the character’s state of dress lets us know it’s Victorian London. Also, what’s up with the book she’s holding? Things to think about.
Have you ever picked up a book that had a velvety feel? I know it’s a strange question, but if you’ve noticed, books covers have left behind the glossy finish and have opted for the semi-matte. This book is one of them.
If you see the physical copy, this book along with the other two in the series, are velvety and look like they have some type of foil-like top coat. It’s book makeup!
The texture doesn’t make a good book cover, but it definitely adds to the appeal. The designer also chose a cool-toned palette with a pop of rose and gold which gives the novel a gloomy but intriguing tone. I can also say, that this cover definitely reflected the quality and had the best-written epilogue I’ve ever read. EVER.
I might be overanalyzing covers, but the truth is, they do make a difference, at least to me. Personally, I try to give every book a chance but as YouTuber, Ariel Bissett said, “As animals (the way that we started), we had to learn to profile, to choose out of a selection of things—which one was better? […] We choose the things that appeal to us.”
What can I say? I’m shallow, but I admit it. Happy reading!