How to Write a Post about Covers without Using that Cliche?

My compatriot, Shoshana Flax, has posed an interesting question over on her blog, Walk the Ridgepole: http://walktheridgepole.blogspot.com/2010/06/judging-cover.html#links. The recap: cover changes to reflect an upcoming movie has her questioning her previous stances. Instead of commenting many paragraphs, I have a new post idea.

What do we do about covers? Should we take that hackneyed expression literally and not do that? But I can’t help it. I admit to having personal reactions to covers.

  • Stickers: Award or otherwise – I hate it when you obscure the art/title/author name. I really hate it when I can’t remove you. “$3.99” triangle atop the paperback Abundance of Katherines, I’m talking to you.  Counterpoint: award stickers sell more books and bring awareness to the awards and awesomeness. I can’t really argue that. But a price starburst as part of the actual image design. Sorry, I can’t excuse you, no matter how cheap you are.
  • Different images for paperback editions – WHY is this practice done? Most often, the art is less sophisticated or engaging. Like Abundance of Katherines.  HC: The title graphic tells you a little about the storytelling. The rainbow silhouettes of the girls embody the distinct individuals each Katherine is despite having the same name. Here’s the paperback: Yes, I know it’s a Kindle thingy, but that is a real book cover. All of the Katherines are brunettes. Same face. I get nothing about their personality. And, with that triangle, announce to the world I am cheap, if not poor. Counterpoint: I cannot think of one, unless it’s a financial issue.
  • Pretty girl’s face art: Many of you may know about the kerfluffles over publishers putting white girls on the covers of books about girls of different ethnicities. My answer: Stop putting faces on covers. Just stop. It’s not creative; it usually tells me nothing about the book; and according to the awesome Simmons people, “doesn’t ask a question” that readers will want answer by picking up the book.  Counterpoint: By trying to represent the main character, the cover either gives the potential reader someone to immediately identify with or want to be. I’m sorry, but as a young adult, the pretty pore-less skinny girls with the shiny hair were always the mean ones, and I’d deal with them enough in real life; I didn’t want to put up with them in my books. CP2: But forcing you to go into the page gets you to read the book and maybe find killer writing. Sometimes. More often than not, I see such covers, grunt, and move on.
  • Movie Covers: Finally, what inspired this post – If the likelihood is that parents of children saw the movie and heard…”it’s based off that book,” then I think keeping classic covers the same (and still on the shelf for pre-release fans who may want it for their collection) should be the practice. Counterpoint: Broswers will see the movie cover, associate it with the commercial from Tv and more liklely to pick up the awesome book. Yes, but book and movie are two different creations. I don’t care how faithful the adaptation to screen is. When I have a book on my shelf I pick up five years later, I don’t want the images implanted on my brain to be 2010’s flavor-of-the-month actress.

The answer? Well, my answer at least: removable movie cover flaps. Or, rotating publishing schedules. If the book is in print and on the shelf, don’t make this: be the only edition I can buy for at least a year. Bring the other covers back. Counterpoint: It’s too expensive, and if the publisher goes through with your ideas, there’s less money for you to get a contract as a writer. Siiiiiiiiiiiiigh. No one wins. Let’s just go back to plain cloth binding. It’ll give our libraries that old-fashioned feel.

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5 thoughts on “How to Write a Post about Covers without Using that Cliche?

  1. Dani says:

    Photo covers sell. It’s one of the first things I learned when I interned at DC, and it’s a rule at my current job too. Photo covers of the same book will outsell editions without photos.

    People like to see other people’s faces. Especially if they’re beautiful people. It creates a personal connection, something to make someone grab the book off the shelf and flip it over to find out “Who’s that girl? What’s her story?”

    And stock photo models are cheap 🙂

    When they ask us to change up paperback covers, it’s a sales thing. Hardcover sales were soft, and by the time the paperback is ready to be released, we have feedback from booksellers and reps who thought the cover was boring/ugly/or customers couldn’t tell what the book is about/misleading.

    • brittleighbooks says:

      Jumping off Swing‘s cover photo – awesome. Beezus and Ramona “Movie-Tie-in-Edition” – not so awesome. And I must not be of the class of “people.” I cannot form personal connections with beautiful people. You’re 16! You should have slightly greasy hair and acne, especially if the jacket tells me you’re poor and motherless and your only friend is a guy whom you maybesorta like. And since I am falling into that cliche, here’s a maybe more critical reason: people don’t offer drama or tension for me. Or the stock photo models are crummy actors and don’t convey an emotion to me. Obviously, the art has to make sense if it’s not a person. Like the upcoming Mockingjay. From that, I get “liberation.”

      I guess I get into an art critique as opposed to a sales critique. Maybe that’s why I should be creating and not publishing. :p

  2. Shoshana says:

    …Yeah. I guess it comes down to, “is this an ad, or is this art?” (And if it’s an ad, to whom is it trying to appeal?) I do like your idea of movie cover flaps so that the ad can be *on* the book without *being* the book. Maybe that would sell enough books to offset the cost? Maybe??

  3. Dani says:

    The movie covers for the Ramona books are pretty bland, though I guiltily admit to prefer buying the Buffy Season 8 comics without photo covers DESPITE previously having gone on and on about buying comics for the love of the artistry and not for some picture of the movie tie-in actor.

    What can I say, I wilt for Alyson Hannigan. I would buy anything with her face on it. anything.

    Have you seen the UK edition of Chains? http://www.heathbooks.co.uk/include/slides/Chains.jpg

    That cover is fierce.

  4. Cassandra says:

    I thought I was the only one who won’t buy a book with an awful cover! I wait until I find a better version!

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