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Do you judge a book by its cover?

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Black Dragon, May 24, 2011.

  1. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

    I was browsing through a bookstore today, and was struck by how much effort goes into designing attractive covers. Are they effective?

    For you personally, how large of a role does a book's cover play in your decision to read it?
  2. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

    For me I would say book cover does have a significant role, but mostly on whether or not I pick up the book to look at it/ read the blurb on the back. The more interesting the cover the more likely I am to pick it up. It is the first test prospective books go through.
  3. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

    It helps me first pick them up - and how I found Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - but mainly I read the back and a bit of the start.
  4. Fodwocket

    Fodwocket Minstrel

    I agree, it is definitely why I pick up a book. From there it'll usually be concept that gets me. I find most blurbs aren't really interesting til after you've already read the book, so I don't pay much attention to them (I've ignored books before with boring blurbs that turned out to be awesome, so I don't like to put them aside because of that, but it means i need something else to go by). And yeah the blurb will give you an idea of the concept (or it should) but it can also be conveyed via title and artwork, which is what I usually do most of my judging based on. I will admit I tend to give the artwork a lot more weight in this regard - how pretty it is (shush), what it depicts, the general feeling it gives me as to what the book will be about. I know this isn't really fair, as many authors don't get any say in the cover. But as I find blurbs to be so mediocre most of the time, this is all I'm really left with when browsing a bookstore. As a result, I pick up very few random books, and read mostly by the recommendation of other people.
  5. Behelit

    Behelit Troubadour

    Most of the books I purchase are ones I've heard of before I've seen. I can disagree with artwork if the contents work for me. By the chance of browsing in a bookstore, the cover and title are definitely the first to grab my attention. There are so many books to sift through, its hard to go against sense of sight. You have to narrow it down somehow right? Otherwise you'd be checking each book.
  6. Derin

    Derin Troubadour

    Although I mostly buy my books online nowadays (and go in knowing what I want), when I do browse bookshops or libraries, bad covers put me off. And these perceptions are continually proven wrong. I avoided Discworld for years because the goofy covers gave me entirely the wrong impression.
  7. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    If the cover is, or resembles, those of the Twilight series, I resist my urge to shout "****ing sparkly vampires" and put it back on the shelf. I am sure there are some books out there which predate the twilight series and unfortunately have similar images on their covers, and for that I pity them.

    Seriously though, I think the answer is "sort of". Many things are judged on aesthetics for the first impression: people, technology, even pens and water bottles. Books are no exception. Why else would publishers spend so much on getting the right covers? Or car developers on design? Even the stapler on the desk in front of me is more carefully designed than the strictly functional aspect. If the title and the cover interest me, then I read the blurb. A good cover no more guaruntees that I'll read it than nice packaging will guaruntee I'll buy a sugary drink. And I hate it when companies change packaging of their food items. Anyway, I'm going off topic here.

    In truth mostly I don't have much time for reading fiction any more; and I chose non-fiction on the basis of how useful it is to my current assignment. When I do read fiction, it's a book someone has bought for me, or suggested to me, or the latest book by an author I already like, like Pratchett. I rarely read anything new on my own initiative any more. So in that respect, no; I judge on the basis of who suggested it to me, and what I know of their tastes in relation to mine. For example, I am slow to read books my mum suggests because half the time we don't like the same things, but swifter to read suggestions by my housemate because we have similar tastes and I like about three quarters of the books she suggests. The cover is irrelevant in such situations.
  8. Kriegskanzler

    Kriegskanzler Acolyte

    It's the title that catches my attention, far more than the cover. The cover, I don't even notice some of the times. After the title, its the synopsis, or the "blurb," as they call it. When I find the blurb catchy and interesting, I buy the book if I have the money. :D
  9. M.A.N.

    M.A.N. Scribe

    Of course the cover is important. Because of limited shelfspace in bookstores not all books are placed with the cover out, but the spines out instead.
    If you never change these "spine-out" books they hardly never sell. Ever.
    But when you do change them with their cover out, you might sell them in a day or two.

    Some might find a cover bad and not buy it because of it, but the next person will. But if neither see it, the book won't sell. Period.

    I see it every day. The cover sparks interest, someone picks it up, reads the blurb and/or maybe the first line and it's bought.

    It's like an ad for the book.
  10. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    A cover doesn't get me to read a book, but it does get me to notice it and give it closer examination.
    Last edited: May 29, 2011
  11. M.A.N.

    M.A.N. Scribe

    ... which could mean that you might end up buying it.
    And if you didn't see the cover, you might not see the book at all (hidden on a shelf) and you'd probably never pick it up and - buy it.

    But obviously - buying a book and reading a book is not the same thing.
  12. The book cover is a big deal in getting my attention at first but then I'm gonna read the summary at the back and that's what really makes me decide if it's dark enough for my taste :p
  13. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    I think it does, to an extent. A few examples,

    - I'm at the fantasy section. Book covers with certain colours, images, or motifs are going to catch my eye and get me to read the flap/back. It has no real place in judging if I buy it or not, but amongst a couple of hundred books, getting picked up is the first step.
    - Self-published books. I am really hesitant about buying them, but the cover can honestly sway me a lot. When I see a cover that was clearly done by the author in photoshop, or worse, paint/microsoft word, I won't buy it. It shows a lack of dedication and investment. A professional cover shows that the author invested time and money into it, likely also doing so for such important aspects as editing, and it will definitely help convince me to buy it.
    - Picking a publisher or edition of a book. I go to the bookstore, and I want to buy a copy of Dracula. Eight or nine different copies exist, but the text is the same. Using a painting I am familiar with definitely gets some props (I am an art history nerd, after all). Same with using an original painting. Using some vague silhouette 'pop art' hipster crap is a good way to turn me off, big time. Those sorts are usually just single images with some sketch lines and well chosen colours. Similarly, I avoid anything that is made to appeal to the youth. Twilight cover ripoffs, mostly. Dracula has a particularly bad one. I also don't like covers that use movie stills.
  14. J. Rosemary Moss

    J. Rosemary Moss Scribe

    The cover of a book doesn't make much difference to me, because I choose my books via recommendations and communities on social sites like Goodreads, or from crit groups and such. A good cover won't entice me any further once I've already decided to read the book based on those recs, and a bad one won't dissuade me.

    That said, when I publish, I'd like to have a gorgeous, enticing cover! ;)
  15. AParker

    AParker Acolyte

    It has an effect- the more intriguing the cover, the more likely I am to pick it up and look at it. But I've bought books with ugly covers and passed up books with nicer covers if something else about the book strikes my fancy or makes me lose interest.
  16. Digital_Fey

    Digital_Fey Troubadour

    I can identify :p

    Book covers always interest me - from the very good to the plain awful - but that's just because I'm an art nerd who hopes to work in that field one day^^; However, it's seldom fair to judge a book by its cover - as was mentioned earlier, the Discworld series is a good example. Josh Kirby's style and the gaudy gold lettering immediately shunted the books into the 'slapstick comedy' category, which is untrue. On the other end of the spectrum, the worst YA fantasy books usually have the most elegant covers. In the end a pretty cover might make me pick up the book, but it won't get me to the cash register. I've learned not to trust shiny packaging :p
  17. DreamSourceStudio

    DreamSourceStudio Acolyte

    This is a really interesting thread for me, because I illustrate book covers (among other things). When I go to book stores and I am not looking for anything in particular, my attention immediately goes to the design of the book cover. This may be due to the fact that I am a very visual person, but then again it seems that a lot of people do it. It's no wonder that some publishing houses will spend thousands on a good design. Just because I like a cover doesn't guarantee that I will buy the book. It will get me to pick it up, read a bit about it, and based on the first couple of pages I'll decide whether it's something I might be interested in.

    Generally the covers I create are tightly controlled by the clients. Very few will let me go wild with it. Most have a preconceived vision of what they would like it to look like. Sometimes their ideas seem way off base (in my very humble opinion), but,........if they want to go against my (looking-at-it-as-a-consumer) advice and are happy with the results, what more can I do? I suppose they know the story most intimately and they know what they want to convey to the passer-by, but some forget that the cover is a marketing tool, and more ideas should be explored. The way I see it is that a cover should give off the appropriate -atmosphere- with a little bit of mystery and intrigue. It should make me WANT to know who the characters are and what's happening to them. Don't give it all away, draw them in.
  18. JoanofArch

    JoanofArch Scribe

    Title first, then cover design. Especially if the title has something to do with the night, or a tree, or something other overused nonsense that's become so popular since paranormal romance became the vogue. I like clever titles, something offbeat and short and snappy.

    After that, cover design. I'm increasingly a fan of simple covers, especially since the paranormal romance crowd became so attracted to the pretty-pretty photography and photoshop. I avoid photography now, especially if it features a really gorgeous model who is clearly meant to be the main character. I don't like being forced to see the characters a certain way, and if the book is beign sold on the model's appearance then the inside probably isn't very good.

    Some of the modern re-designs of covers for classic books come off a bit hipsterish I'll admit, but I've actually come to prefer these a lot. They're simple, they're usually pretty well-thought out, they're friendly and colorful. An iconic image or object really helps a book market itself and stick in your mind. Hopefully for mine too one day...:)
  19. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    I hate cheap tacky covers.... or ones that look like ... hmm, how to put it politely..... a not-so-good artist drew them. I had a book one time that made me want to rip the cover off. The peoples' faces were drawn so grotesquely.... it sort of ruined my imagined image of the characters......
  20. JustSpiffy

    JustSpiffy Minstrel

    The cover definitely influences whether or not I pick a book up. But I always read the back of the book, then the first page, being careful to make sure no one sees me doing it! Usually when I find a book I like, I read everything else ever written by that author (especially if they're series), so often when I go into a book store I just look for books by that author until I move onto another.

    I admit there's been covers I've looked at and actually set back down... The interesting thing is that if I picked up a book and it had NO cover, just a blank white page, that book would probably interest me more than any of the others. :p

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