I’ve been playing with the idea of book-related discussions in my head for some while now but today, for some reason, I’ve decided to just go ahead and start a topic and we’ll see how it goes. So I chose one of the most obvious topics and one I think most of us, as readers (regardless of what you read), will have an opinion about.
Book Covers — how important are they?
We’re all familiar with the phrase “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” and though I think that holds true for a lot of books published prior to 1990s (maybe even 2000s), I think this rule actually applies to humans more than books in today (or at least we all think it does). Here’s the fact: because of every person in this world who owns a computer today has access to programs like Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, etc., I think book covers do matter. In a time when all that mattered was the reading material itself, I can see why covers hold little to no importance but in our world, it is all about that one glance from the bookshop window. And I might seem a bit judgmental about choosing the best cover/edition during purchase but let’s fact it, today, thousands of books are published each year, each month, and besides a good plot and writing (which somehow seems to have lost its importance in YA and independent publishing), you need something to draw the reader in. How many of us have walking into a bookstore and been absolutely awed by that one gorgeous book right up front at least once in our life? Me!
I’m not exactly talking about purchasing as much as the simple acting of judging but even bookshops know that the best covers (and, of course, bestselling authors) need to go up front. So the next question that sprouts from my response is: to what extend will my reading choices be affected when I judge a book by its cover? Surprisingly, not as much as you would think after my brutal response. I like my books to be pretty but it will never stop me from reading a book that sounds promising enough—even if it looks hideous.
Take a vote–
Truth be told, for me, book covers (particularly the US editions of fantasy/sci-fi covers) are my little glimpse into what the book may be about. They may portray a character, a world, a scene, whatever the case may be but more often than not, what I see on the book cover usually ends up reflecting on how I imagine the fictitious book world playing in my mind. For example, let’s take a look at the cover of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.
Because of what is being portrayed on the front cover, my vision of the world in The Way of Kings looks very similar to the desolate lands and the storms haunting the skies that we see on the cover itself. It doesn’t even matter that the fantasy world inside the book describes a completely different scene—once I see that cover, the image is stamped into my mind and it’s incredibly hard to shake it off. I think this also holds true for a lot of YA book covers as well (with female models on the front covers).
But I’m not a total bitch. More often than not I will look through the ugly pile of book covers and look for a good synopsis. Especially since purchasing a Kindle Paperwhite last year, book covers don’t seem as important when getting an ebook because quite often the first page on a kindle ebook doesn’t even show the book cover—it’s just all text. So no, it doesn’t always matter to me if the book has a nice cover or not, but I think we instinctively do look for the best covers (if we can afford them at least).
Largely it’s when I’m looking at a book published by an independent author that I struggle with the idea of not judging a book by it’s cover (since they don’t all have the resources to get a creative cover design in the first place). The negative aspect of that is also the fact that a lot of independent authors don’t really write very well and are just either looking to share a story (which is great but good writing is essential to me) or possibly make easy money. A lot of them don’t even bother to go through an editor, which is so destructive that, regardless of the book covers, it will demolish their writing careers before they even begin. But that’s a topic for another day…
To conclude, I think book cover designs do matter—especially for new releases. I don’t particularly care for the covers of a book/edition published before 1990s (or 2000s) because we really didn’t have the technology to be that creative in the first place but now we do—so there really is very little excuse, especially for traditional publishing houses.
Thoughts? Comments? Pop ‘em below!