Judging from the cover

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I am a sucker for a distinctive book cover. For me, the more artistic the cover, the better I like it. I’ve talked before about my joy at receiving Mad Kestrel‘s cover sketches, which were classic instead of cheesy. I know that the art is not an indicator of a story’s quality, but sometimes, I just can’t help letting the cover sway me.

I was talking with a teacher in the library recently. She’d just checked out Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, but she hated the cover of the book. Instead of the red cover with the pretty lettering, this copy featured all the stars of the movie. “It looks like advertising instead of a story,” she said, and I couldn’t help agreeing. I understand why it’s done, of course – tying a book in with the movie increases sales to a certain demographic, but I always have to wonder if the people who buy a book because the movie’s stars are on the cover will actually read the thing. If you hold out two copies of a book, identical in every way except the cover, I’ll choose the one that looks like a real book every time. Covers with shots of the movie stars always look cheap to me.

Some covers are simply gorgeous. Watersmeet, for example, is about a young woman whose green eyes mark her as a healer, but whose dark hair and coloring make her Outcast. The cover is simple, and lovely. The eyes tell the story as well as any words. I checked the book out without knowing anything about it, just because of the compelling cover.

Back in kindergarten, we were all taught never to judge a book by its cover. Sometimes we can’t help it. Share with me…any covers that chased you away initially? Covers that drew you in? Things you wish would be on a book cover for your own book?

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12 comments to Judging from the cover

  • I’ve been lucky with almost all of my jacket art — I’ve had nothing terrible, and I’ve had a few that were just gorgeous. That said, I prefer jackets that don’t necessarily depict an actual scene from a book, but instead try to evoke its mood. Some of my favorite covers were for the original releases of Guy Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry. The artist’s names was Martin Springett, and the covers he created are stylized and whimsical without detracting from the seriousness of the stories. Just lovely. As for less successful covers, I think the original art work for the Tor release of Ender’s Game was unfortunate, in that it is merely a generic “spaceship” piece that does little to indicate what a wonderful and unique story is inside. There is nothing wrong with the image per se — the artist is John Harris, and it’s a cool painting. But it has nothing to do with the book.

  • A good cover will get me to pick up a book nearly every time. The Elfstones of Shannara was one of those. I wanted to know who the characters were there, what the glowing thing the younger one was holding was, what they were about to throw down against that had them so worried. I also picked up First Flight because of the cover. I’ve mentioned before that a good cover will get me to read the back, which will get me to read the inside excerpt. If I’m sold by then the book goes home.

    Bland covers chase me away, as do covers that look like romance novels. I don’t have a problem with romance novels per se, I wrote one, but I just don’t care for the covers. It’s like with what you feared the pic might be on Mad Kestrel. They’re just kinda cheesy and all, “John! Marsha!” if you know what I mean. A buxom, flaxen-haired scantily clad beauty and a muscular “I can’t believe it’s not butter” (yes, that’s what I call them now, thanks to Fabio) dude holding each other without a hint of what the book is really about. Oh look, is she wearing the remains of a torn space suit? Does that mean this is a sci-fi romance? I just can’t tell.

    What I would wish for the cover of my book would be a focus on the story, not the romance. Yes, it’s a love story, but it’s a lot more than just two people coupling. It’s space opera, it’s a war spanning the known galaxy, it’s space ships, battle suits, lasers…. Plus, it’s much more difficult to get anyone else who reads anything other than romance to pick up the book if it looks like the example in the previous paragraph.

  • I’ve had several copies of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit over the years, including one with a picture of a wringwraith from the films on the cover, because it’s the only version I could find in college..
    But, I could not have been more thrilled when my mother gave me the beautiful red and green leatherbound collectors versions with the shiny gold runes a few years ago for Christmas. Sure, I already owned a copy, but these were books!

  • I am a sucker for a good cover art. It’s the first thing I see when I browse the bookshelves and as such gives the first impression.

    David’s cover for SEEDS OF BETRAYAL drew me in instantly because the guy sweating over this huge knife is pretty intense to me. It made me wonder what is going on with him and the knife and why is there a ghost of a pretty young girl behind him? I guess it is only right that he became my favorite character of the series.

    I think Misty’s cover for MAD KESTRAL is awsome too. It has teh classic RObert Lewis Stevenson-esque seafaring adventure cover with a twist of female pirate mixing it up in the action. That is a good cover too.

    The cover for Scott Lynch’s RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES is awsome. It is an intese red witha burning ship in a harbor with watchfire burning all around. It stands out and catches the eye. Too bad I hated the twist ending or else it would be a better book.

    As for my own cover art (when the day comes), I would like the nighttime image of a forgotten overgrown snow covered temple with the faint image of a female body floating just above the ground in front of it with glowing white eyes.

  • Dino

    One of my favorites is David’s BONDS OF VENGEANCE.

    The knife fight, the lightning, and the waves all add to the drama of the cover.

  • I have had great covers and covers that made me want to weep … and not in a good way. The next Jane Yellowrock book has … um … well … Lots of boobs. Well, only two, but with a littie snow you could ski offa them babes.

  • Did you tell them that there were plenty of guys reading the first book without the giant boobies? 😉

  • One book that attracted my attention solely because of the cover art was Otherland: City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams. There are a few editions with different covers but the ones in this series by the incredible Michael Whelan literally led me to buy the first book. Turned out to be a phenomenal series, well worth the great artwork.

  • the cover for PREY by Rachel Vincent drew me in in a heartbeat and MAGIC KINGDOM FOR SALE-SOLD by Terry Brooks also did me in–but I think that was more with how the title was displayed on the cover than the full cover itself. Does that still count?

    As for turned me off… TWILIGHT’s cover really did that to me… and I still have no inclination to read it even with the raving reviews for it and the movie… though i’m far from a vamp fan anyway, but I wasn’t even going to pick up a book with just 2 hands and an apple to see what it was about.

  • I try not to judge the book, especially if I know what the story is about. I don’t buy the books with movie stars on the cover. If I haven’t read the book yet, I try to find the original, pre-Hollywood cover. 😀

    I have lots of books that were great but the covers sucked. I don’t judge them, but lots of people do unfortunately, considering that many authors have no control over their covers. :-/

  • I’m a digital artist so I’m definitely a visual person. Any cover that was done by Luis Royo will instantly get my attention. I could pick out a Royo piece at 20 paces. The summary and perhaps the first page or two are what decide the sale for me, though.

    If I ever finish (and sell) those books I’ve been pecking away at for years, I’d love to create the cover art for my books (if Royo isn’t a choice. haha!), but I’m guessing that’s probably something the publisher wouldn’t allow. 🙁

  • Xlade

    The Knight, by Gene Wolfe. I love the cover of that. Something in the quality of the colors and the way it looks like a fine art painting just pulled me too it, like gravity.

    On the downside, I avoided the Mercy Thompson series (Mooncalled, Patricia Briggs) for years because of the corny 80s is cover (girls in tattoos posed in the rain or under a car just seemed corny. I finally picked it up the other day and blew through the whole series, plus the spinnoff in about four days. I’m reading it again right now.

    In general, I don’t like the trend towards photomanips, like on the latest editions of Tamora Pierce books and some of the newer Young Adults books. It’s like people can’t make up their minds if they want a photo or a piece of hand done artwork(Something created completely by hand, on computer or traditional media). Bah.