Thursday, 1 July 2010


I like to think I almost never choose a book solely based on its cover. Or its title. But what do I know about the unconscious machinations of my mind? Consciously, at least, I let the judgements of people / reviewers I trust persuade me. And a piquing blurb can swing it, too.

But I’ve seen some beautiful covers in the last couple of days, coupled with wonderful, evocative titles, which have given me a new insight into why we buy / read the books we do. Now writers, typically, are rubbish when it comes to covers, which is why publishers allow them some input into this creative aspect of production, while reserving the right to tell them they are wrong when they say it’s not for them. This is because the writer is too close to their work. They’ve spent a year or two on the bit they’re good at, and so, naturally, want the window to their magnum opus to reflect what they see as its aesthetic essence. (They may even have, during composition, rewarded themselves at the end of another long day’s rewriting the middle section with fantasies of seeing a very particular cover on a shelf in a particular bookshop.) The publisher, though, wants a cover that, frankly, leads to sales. And so the negotiations begin.

I got to see the cover for my collection (due out November, folks) a couple of days ago, and whilst the image was strong and provocative, it wasn’t, of course, quite what I had in mind. Now, whilst the publisher should stick to publishing, the writer to, er, writing, an author has to, if not be overwhelmed with love by their cover, at least have strong platonic urges for it. And so my kindly and much over-worked publisher is going to produce something else for me.

Next time you’re tome browsing, step back and try to observe the processes at work. Why does a cover draw you in / repel you? Can you picture the covers of books you’ve loved ten years after reading them? Would you buy a recommended book even if the cover / title was a stinker? I’ll post my new cover up anon, so be gentle…


Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree. Despite how the old saying goes, it's is difficult to help judging a book by it's cover. Particuarly a book you haven't heard about before - the cover, the style of font used, the type of artwork is your first impression and I think I assume from these, rightly or wrongly, what the style of writing will be.

That said, one of my favourite books has a plain yellow cover and the title in plain text - that's it!

Anna-Marie said...

I’ve started reading loads of books based upon the promise of a beguiling cover and an intriguing title, and mostly discovered that is a poor way to select a good read. But hey, they got my £6.99 in the bookshop so I guess the strategy is productive. One book I LOVE exclusively for its cover/title is “A History of Tractors in Ukrainian”. The reverse Psychology of that cover worked a treat on me...although I didn’t rate the novel too much.