Thursday, January 8, 2009

Judging A Book By It's Cover

I've always heard the saying: Don't Judge A Book By It's Cover." I've never been able to follow this advice and I'm not really sure it's good advice. I use the cover as a major decision maker both in purchasing books and for personal reading choices. If I'm reading about a book and it sounds interesting, but I've never heard of the author or if I'm not sure it will circulate well at the library, I check the cover. If I like the cover, I add it to my list. If the cover is terrible and I don't think anyone will pick it up, no matter how great it sounds, I don't buy it. There are times when I've come across a book more than once. But when I see the cover, I cringe and remember why I didn't want it. There are differences with the paperback covers and sometimes they're changed for the better and then I'll take another look at a book I've passed over.

In a library where there's not a lot of room for growth (although I think that I just figured out something amazing for the YA section today on saving space) and not a lot of money; there's no way I'm going to second guess my patrons. I really need to purchase books I KNOW they will enjoy. I also know that people judge "well-circulated" books differently. It's possible that the circulation numbers that make me happy (5 times in 3-6 months makes me smile, 9 times in the same amount of time makes me giddy) might not be the numbers to make you smile. I'm happy when I see teens leaving the library with an armful of books.

What I look for in a book cover: something eye-catching, colorful, something that makes sense to me, catchy title (I know this is a whole other topic), or something that makes me curious

This cover intrigues me. I'm not sure what I really love about it, but once I saw the cover, I knew I had to ready it. I does scream fantasy. I'm curious about what the dragon's holding. Is it something magical?

I really like the hardcover (cow) cover best. I know it doesn't say anything about football (a major issue in the book) but at least it gives you a little info. The paperback cover however, could be almost any teen novel about romance or friendship. Plus the tiara wearing cow = priceless and very funny.

I adore this book and I confess that the Hardcover (blue one) does little for me. I thought the title was great. But I think that the paperback cover really hit the mark. It's fun and modern. I love how the flames are wrapping around Maggie's arm. And it clearly shows the prom theme.

I'm not saying that this is the best formula. There are great covers disguising books that I hated. But, as a general rule, it works for me personally. I do take notice when I buy a book with a bad cover that sounds promising. It rarely goes out. Some might argue that's just my taste, but I would say not really given the books that circulate nine times in six months.

What about you judge a book by it's cover?

For more on book covers, check out the blog Jacket Whys


L. said...

I agree completely about Dairy Queen! I was on the Nutmeg selection committee that selected that book as a nominee - and the committee thought that kids would not pick up the hardcover. General sentiment was that they'd read the paperback.
But I agree with you. I loved the hardcover - and thought it said more about the book.

MJ Allaire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MJ Allaire said...

Ok I'm trying this again :)

Hi Jennifer,

As soon as I read your title, "Judging a Book by it's Cover", I knew I'd have to comment.

About two years ago I did a book signing at a local Wal-Mart right before Easter. Because my books are for young adults, they placed me right next to the Easter Bunny, which was GREAT! I was supposed to be there for three hours, and about halfway through my time one of the store managers walked over to me and said, "You're creating quite a stir..."

I said, "I am?", thrilled with the prospect that he'd seen that I'd sold about 8 copies of Dragon's Blood by this time (at the time it was the only book in my series that I had out).

He explained that he'd had a few customers come over to him, complaining about the cover of my book.

I was set up about 10'-15' away from the Easter Bunny, where I had a stack of about 10 books on my table. Next to the table I had an easel with an 18"x24" foamboard poster of the cover of Dragon's Blood. As you know, the cover is the picture of the inside of a dark cave with a large snake.

The complaints he'd been receiving were that my book was satanic...

A few people were judging my book by its cover.

Dragon's Blood has nothing to do with Satan - it's a good, clean, adventure book about some kids who get lost in a cave and find magical stones and an arrogant snake named Muscala and they eventually create a portal that takes them into a world that has dragons.

Looking back now I laugh, because these people were accusing my book of being satanic, and yes, it was right before Easter, which is a Christian "holiday", but think about it...

Is the Easter Bunny a Christian?

Happy reading my friend!

MJ Allaire