Judging A Book

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say. Truth to tell, I do.

I’m one of those people who like to wander around bookshops picking up any random book that catches my eye, and eventually buying far more than I can afford. And how do I choose these books?

Well, it’s not by the ‘recommended by’ quotes. Not since I saw an episode of Castle where Richard Castle, the crime author, is given a box of books to write reviews for. His mother points out he can’t possibly read all the books and he says he doesn’t have to. He holds up each book and comes up with a suitable recommendation for each one – without opening the books. Which now I think about it, makes perfect sense. It explains all those really bad books that were recommended by authors I usually enjoy.

And not by the blurb either. I gave up reading them when I realised half of them bore little resemblance to the actual story inside, and the other half gave away the entire plot.

I do read the first paragraph of the book, and that is my deciding factor, but first a book must catch my attention, and that is by the cover….

For a while, covers were very bland. Author’s name, title, maybe a small picture of something symbolic. But lately I’ve noticed that book covers have become utterly beautiful. Maybe it’s in reaction to ebooks, but book covers have become works of art. Some have wild symbolism drifting across the page, some in a scrapbook style montage of photos and drawings, some a colourful and intriguing picture. Some use a familiar photo or painting to show you what’s inside, which can work brilliantly – you are more likely to spot a picture of something you know, and be drawn to it from across the room than by an image you don’t know. I’m fascinated by the Titanic, and this year there are dozens of Titanic books on the shelves. I can spot a picture of the Titanic and be across the store and opening the book in about five seconds flat (and I’ve ended up buying five. Five! They’re good though).

All the new books and authors I’ve read lately I’ve discovered because I was drawn to that book by the cover. So from a reader to all you writers out there, don’t let just anyone choose your cover. Make sure it reflects the spirit of your work. Make sure it reflects you! Make sure when it is on a bookshelf with thirty other books, that is the one that us readers reach for. Don’t just settle for your name and the title (unless of course, you have the best name and title in the world.)


2 responses to “Judging A Book

  1. Some editors and agents say the first sentence is what needs to grab the reader and that is true concerning the writing. But in the real world, books are cold sold from the likes of an Amazon genre page or the shelves of Barnes and Noble by cover first. The upcoming generations are visual and the cover is the first thing we see as readers.

    I loved fantasy when I was younger but deplored the stereotypical he-man paintings and Vallejo wannabes. It was borderline embarrassing to be caught with a sci-fi or fantasy book without taking off the dust jacket, let alone if you had paperback. Even the covers of Harry Potter were something an adult reader had to work past to enjoy the book.

    While not a fan of the Twilight Series in concept, the marketing design of the first three book covers are top-notch. Simple black with a singular colorful object(s). Having nothing but tenuous metaphorical relationship to anything in the book, yet they are instantly recognizable as the franchise.

  2. So instantly recognisable in fact, that the cover of the first book was reproduced as a moment in the first film – not part the plot, but everyone spotted the hands holding apple imagery. Brilliant piece of marketing and use of symbolism there


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