Today’s topic(s) cover aesthetics – both for books and for the blog. Much like my Diversity in Publishing post yesterday I’m going to apply the IRAC method to this so I don’t go too far off point.
How often do you judge a book by its cover? How often are you surprised by what you find? Do you strategize and make sure every book in your series has the same cover design (as far as you are able to) and type? How important is it for the visual art on the outside of the book to match or coordinate with the literature art on the inside?
Do I judge a book by its cover? Yes and no. I adore beautiful book covers. There is honestly nothing better then being able to hold a book I enjoy in my hands that has a pretty, eye-catching or unique book cover. Note how I included “I enjoy” – while an attractive cover can (and has) caught my attention enough to look at a book, it almost never is enough to keep my attention if it doesn’t pique my reading heart.
For example one of my favorite series “The Tower and the Hive” by Anne McCaffrey:
I was about 14 when I first read The Rowan and what caught my fascination was the cover. Depicted is the titular character, the Rowan (that is honestly how she’s referred to…it makes sense in-verse) and doesn’t she look majestic. I would not mess with her. I wanted to be her. Each successive book features her daughter (Damia), Damia’s eldest (Laria), Damia’s children (Laria, Thian, Rojer and Zara) and Damia with Afra – but none quite have the oomph of the Rowan. I still would have traded in the books if I didn’t enjoy the story. Why keep five hardcovers around if I don’t need to?
Contrast it with these covers for Lisa McMann’s Dreamcatcher trilogy:
These are quite eye-catching right? Not quite minimalist, but pretty close. They do a very good job conveying an important facet of the particular book and the series as a whole. They are not however an aesthetic I like. If not for the fact I read the summary long before I ever saw the cover for the book(s) I wouldn’t have picked up this series.
There are some covers which are almost too perfect – aesthetically and to match the series. The Portia Adams series by Angela Misri fit that bill for me:
Notice how the covers compliment each other in colors as well as overall design – they clearly have a theme and buried within each are clues to the mysteries that our heroine Portia must solve.
I mentioned before I have thousands of books in fourteen different languages – part of the reason (aside from the fact some of the series I like will never be domestically translated so I make do with fan translations and buy the official book from official sources as I can) is that some have gorgeous foreign editions.
The Firebird series by Claudia Gray has by far some of the most gorgeous cover artwork I’ve seen in a long time (even the rejected covers). Whoever is the cover artist/designer really deserves a raise because every single design I’ve seen is just awe-inspiring. The taiwanese foreign edition is no exception:
And you can’t tell me the stained glass Chinese covers for The Way of Kings and Mistborn are not drop dead gorgeous:
But again if I didn’t already adore the books I wouldn’t buy the
somewhat expensive as hell foreign editions. I’d just save the images and stare at them independent.
I do prefer to have my series all matching as much as possible. I’ve gone as far as re-bought entire series to keep them matching (see my Poison Study collection…I have 7 or 8 different editions of Poison Study alone because they changed the cover art so much). Sometimes Its impossible (they don’t re-issue the previous books with new cover artwork, though this is becoming less common in young adult novels at least), but I try really hard because I like matching sets.
Went into this a bit above, but in actual practice there’s three or four cover artists I will always at least look at the summary of the book for:
- Larry Rosant – he of the photo and effects fantasy covers
- Jody A. Lee– she of the DAW fantasy covers
- Chris McGrath – he of the Dresden Files covers
- Kinuko Y. Craft – she of the gorgeous fairy tale covers
- Julie Dillon – she of Andrea K. Host’s books
I will, without a doubt, at least stop and consider picking up the book to look at if any of the above are involved because they tend to be used for books I already love to pieces.
The reality of the matter is this – eye-catching or unique covers will drum up interest. Now sometimes that interest is negative (just try and white-wash a cover nowadays, I’ll take bets how long before the blog world gets a hold of you) or the covers aren’t indicative of the contents (how many times does this happen in YA or scifi/fantasy?), but discussion will occur. For me the cover is just that – a cover. It will draw my eye but its by no means the final straw in my decision process.