Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Sunday, 20 January 2013

NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER ...

....as the saying has it. Just before Christmas an artist friend, Roger, and his wife came to supper. Conversation was lively over the boeuf bourginon, as always. Then Roger said, 'You do all realise that society as we know it today couldn't function without artists.' We were all rather stunned - such a grandiose statement - but then he is an artist and a very good one. Back in the day he designed record sleeves for major groups - think, The Rolling Stones, Status Quo etc. He has work in the V&A. We asked him to qualify his statement. He did - with a looooong list of things that had started life on the drawing board/computer. Packaging for just about everything. Clothes. Cars. White goods. Garden tools. Mobile phones.....on and on and on the list went. 'Book covers,' I said....one he had left out. And it got me thinking. Are book covers a largely overlooked - although very important - part of the publishing process? I was curious how covers are designed so I asked Berni Stevens (she designs all the covers for my publisher, Choc Lit) how she goes about it. 'I always try to read the book if I have the time, or skim read it if the deadline is looming,' Berni says. 'I find it gives me a better insight into the book and often helps me think of an angle for the cover.' Berni works by using a method called photo illustration. She uses library images and then puts lots together in Photoshop to change colours, add different backgrounds, and sometimes even adds people. Sometimes, she will take her own photos if she can't find exactly the perfect photo that she needs. 'It is quite time-consuming,which a lot of people don't realise," Berni tells me. 'The thinking - generally - is that everything to do with computers is fast. Not necessarily so!' I asked Berni if she has a favourite book cover. 'Fashion changes with book covers the way it does with everything else. But a highlight of my career was working on the cover of an unauthorised biography of David Bowie. I'd recently been to one of his concerts and was a huge fan. That cover was a real labour of love and I was allowed to try out lots of different finishes. The CEO of the publishers said she didn't even know how to begin telling me how wonderful she thought it was, and I was over the moon.' I had an over-the-moon moment of my own regarding an illustration that went with a story I had published in Woman's Weekly. I e.mailed my editor there and asked her to pass on a message to the artist to say how thrilled I was with it. So, imagine my suprise when I got an e.mail from the artist himself saying I was welcome to have the original watercolour for a donation to a charity of my choice. That illustration now hangs on the wall in front of my desk. So, book covers.....all published authors will have experience of these. When Choc Lit agreed to publish my first novel, TO TURN FULL CIRCLE, I was sent six images from which to make my choice.....although I was told that wouldn't necessarily be the one that would make the final cut, as it were. Three of those images were portrait shots and I fell in love with one of them instantly. But it was not to be. I was, however, allowed to have a say in the final decision of the colour for my book cover. Thinking about all the above got me thinking about myown favourite book cover. For me it's a How-to book - MAKING SHAPELY FICTION by Jerome Stern. It's in an Art Deco sort of style, which I love. And it does what it says on the tin. So, that's my favourite cover - what's yours?

44 comments:

  1. Fascinating post, Linda - with lots to think about. Like you, I'm particularly interested in book covers although I'm absolutely baffled by the thinking behind them. Publishers, booksellers, readers and authors seem to have different views of what makes a good cover - I always want the one that strikes me as the most beautiful! Favourite covers... erm, am I allowed to say my own? They are my babies, after all!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course you can say your own.....:) Thanks for popping by to leave a comment.

      Delete
  2. I'm afraid that I DO judge a book by its cover - and that's why I'm so happy that I'm with Choc Lit - where we authors have input into the cover issue, since so many authors don't get a say! And Berni's covers are things of beauty, you only have to look at the final version of To Turn Full Circle to see that...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also judge a book by its cover - a well-designed cover should give you some idea of content, I think. Linda, my favourite cover attracted me to read Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow many years ago. I lent the book out and never got it back so I had to replace it - and I'm still disappointed that I don't have the original cover!

      Delete
    2. That's reminded me of my copy of Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow (which is a novel I love) - my story is that I lent my book to someone WHO DREW IN IT! Aaargh! I was not happy to someone else's annotations in my book!

      Delete
    3. Jennifer and Chris....goodness, what a coincidence. I always used to be happy to loan books to friends but I lost sooooo many that I now have to say it's not my policy to do that any more. Sad but....there are things I wouldn't want to lose.

      Delete
  3. Hi Linda - love the idea of being able to buy your story art to hang in the study. Much better than having it as a screensaver on the laptop!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just got lucky for my cheek, Evonne....:) Thanks for popping by to comment.

      Delete
  4. What an interesting blog, Linda and Berni. Thank you for it.

    I have three equally favourite covers - the covers for The Road Back, Evie Undercover and A Bargain Struck.

    Now there's a surprise!

    Liz X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, of course they're your favourites. Feeling guilty now I should have nominated TTFC .....

      Delete
  5. I'm afraid I'm joining the judging the book by its cover bandwagon. I am so much more likely to buy a book with a beautiful cover than one without - especially in the age of kindle. My favourite. Afraid, like with Chris, it's got to be my own. It doesn't just look gorgeous it feels it too. It needs to be stroked :) We are very very lucky at Choc Lit to have Berni doing our covers. Great post, Linda X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aren't we just, Sarah....thanks for popping by.

      Delete
  6. One of my favourite covers is for "Shadow of the Moon" by M M Kaye, it's very pretty. When it comes to modern covers, I have to admit I love the Twilight ones - stylish red and black - and all the covers for Melissa Marr's 'Wicked Lovely' series. Naturally, I also have a weakness for Choc Lit covers :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would that be the artist in you, Christina, with the M M Kaye - or the period?

      Delete
  7. Me too. I will rarely buy a book if I don't like the cover unless someone has strongly recommended it. And as Liz and Sarah have said, I like my own of course! I did love the original one I had on my old copy of the Lord of The Rings too. And it also had 'hand drawn'maps inside - I love maps :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maps? Another topic for a blog.....? Thanks for leaving a comment, Mandy

      Delete
  8. I have just tweeted this link to you because the covers are very clever, forming a mural when placed side-by-side in the correct order: http://dutchuncleagency.blogspot.co.uk/2008/03/petra-borner-illustrations-for.html

    I think thoughtful illustrations like this series make all the difference, don't they?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Very interesting post about book covers, Linda. I think we do judge a book by it's cover, but sometimes it works at the subconscious level, when we're attracted or repelled by certain colours and shapes, possibly even the "feel" of the book in our hand (obviously not relevant with Kindle editions). I'm wary of buying a book if I don't like the cover - for me it comes as an artistic package.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree....an artistic package. Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  10. Fascinating, Linda. I probably haven't given enough though to book covers before - apart from being infuriated when I think they are 'wrong' for the book! I have to say that so far this has not happened with ChocLit - a testament to them and to Berni.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Something that really irritated me a while ago now was reading a book where the heroine was a redhead, but the girl on the cover was a blonde.....gggrr. I can't remember whose book it was but he/she must have been livid!

      Delete
  11. The cover of a book is a major selling point because it's invariably what can draw you to pick it up in the first place - the cover, then the blurb. I know there are books which I've read on recommendation, and enjoyed, but would have missed because the cover never inspired me to look at it. It's the one thing I don't like about the Kindle. Choc Lit covers are always very evocative.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly - that's why book illustrators work so hard to get them right....in the main...:)

      Delete
  12. As I'm reading more and more on the Kindle, elements other than the cover need to attract me. Especially that sample, I guess! I hate it when publishers sometimes seem wilfully misleading though. Freya North's Pillow Talk comes to mind - a thoughtful, well-written book about a somnambulist, whose sleepwalking brought some serious problems and which was itself triggered by deep-set personal issues. The book was presented as frothy chick-lit. I can't help feeling the right readers would have missed out and the wrong ones, who were seduced by the cover, might have hated it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A case where the illustrator didn't read the book beforehand, perhaps?

      Delete
  13. What an interesting post, Linda. I agree with Henriette's remark about the cover reaching out on a subconscious level. I'm far more likely to buy a book with a cover I like rather than one that simply doesn't appeal to me, even if the blurb sounded good.

    I just love all the Choc-Lit covers. I think they all somehow weave the magic of enticement at the conscious and subconscious level.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for popping by, Beverley. Do you think book covers are like people? - you know, that instant attraction which seldom lets us down once we get to know that person?

      Delete
  14. Fascinating post, Linda. Since I read it I've been thinking about book covers and can't really say it is the cover which pulls me in. That may be because so often the cover doesn't match the content (not, of course, in the case of Choc Lit covers!). I may subconsciously be attracted to a cover but it's reading the opening which makes me decide.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for this, Mary.....a different angle on it. We are all so different and thank goodness for that - imagine if books were ALL the same.

      Delete
  15. I'll nominate To Turn Full Circle! I have happy memories (and a photo) of reading it in the garden last year with the sun shining and a glass of chilled wine in my hand...

    ReplyDelete
  16. Goodness, Guernsey Girl, I am blushing....but thank you very much. A wonderful start to my Monday!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Interesting post, Linda! I detest covers with half naked kilted Scotsmen (maybe cause I live in Scotland) but I do love all the Choc Lit covers. Because I'm interested in art, I always notice covers though I tend to make my final choice of reading from the blurb.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny you should say that....if a person is more flesh than clothes then I simply can't buy it...:)

      Delete
  18. Lots to think about here,but I must admit I go straight to the blurb at the back of the book,rather than looking at the cover!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting what you say about blurbs. I tend to read them to help make my decision, but almost missed out on a good book because the blurb sounded boring.....it simply didn't go with the book at all, which was superb.

      Delete
  19. Great post, Linda. I confess, I'm a cliche when it comes to some covers. Anything that shows an idyllic scene from Greece, France or Italy will have me lifting up the book.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thanks for popping by, Zana.....good to see you here. Quite agree....anything takes me to any of those countries is good...:)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thought-provoking post, Linda. I love covers that are tactile, where I can run my fingers along raised title letters. Preferably in black and white. I choose a book from the blurb, though.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Another blurb devotee, Joan - thanks for popping by. Something I didn't mention is that I always read first lines before the blurb...anyone else do that?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Well there are lots of opinions on judging by the cover, the title or the blurb. I do not have a coloured jacket cover on my kindle but it has no prevented me from enjoying Linda's book To Turn Full Circle. The baddies cause some tension and agro but they do get what they deserve in the end and following the hero and heroine through the various twists and turns of the plot is an adventure, but with a satisfying conclusion. It is a stand alone book but now that I have met the characters I shall look forward to a sequel.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thank you, Gwen.....but how odd to read a book with no cover - like a blind date?

    ReplyDelete