Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stirring up Some Book Cover Controversy!

Arlee Bird occasionally tosses out topics to spark a conversation. Today, I’m throwing out book covers.

A cover needs to grab people. It’s often a reader’s first impression of a book. It needs to appeal to its target audience and enough people to make the book a success. Fads in book design come and go as well.

Now, everyone has different tastes. No cover appeals to everyone. So, below I have selected some really great covers and some really lame covers - and stated why. Please feel free to state your opinion in the comments!

Great Covers:

The above books all share gorgeous cover art, and that attracts me to a book first.

Halo's art is simple but pleasing. And soft, which is good, because the title makes me think of the video game first! (It's probably riding on the coattails a bit, too.)

Any book with an animal on cover gets my attention. (And I really want this book!!!)

Now for the cover styles I don't like - remember, this is just my opinion of the covers!

Too plain and too cheap in appearance.

Wow, way too plain!!! Might as well be just text.

Go ahead and hate me now - but the first time I ever saw this book on a blog, I thought "Wow, that's some sad self-published book art." Then I saw a ton of her books in the bookstore and realized she was big time - and they all shared the same horrible cover design. Sorry, but it looks cheap.

And now for my least favorite style of cover art, most popular with YA books. I called these covers "Body Parts"

That's right - "Body Parts.' You don't get the whole person. And there's a MILLION books that look like this on the market!
I'm also not a fan of people photos on books. And don't get me started on "Betrayed" above - the photographer in me screams "It's out of focus!!!!!!"

Feel free to disagree or agree. As you can see, I like gorgeous cover art and I like it to fill the cover as well. Plain just doesn't do it for me. Not for my fiction, that's for sure!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Since I read fantasy and science fiction, I tend to like the artistic covers as well. Plain is okay for some genres.

Natasha said...

The covers you like all scream out science fiction/ fantasy to me. The first one I will pick up anytime, because the background reminds me of an Issac Asimov book, and I can't resist elephants.

I like the covers to indicate the genre, so if body part means YA, and I want to read YA, any of those would appeal to me. Having said that, the photograph has to be good. Betrayed, Blood Heat and Just Listen are not. Lock and Key is.

Lou Belcher said...

Yes, book covers do make a difference, but I must admit that if quizzed about the specifics of any covers, I wouldn't do too well. I'm more left with an impression. If a book cover is teal, I'll initially be attracted to it...

I know people spend countless hours before they settle on a cover. To me...it just needs to attract me enough to get me into the book. Then it doesn't matter.

Natasha said...

Incidentally, I like all five Circle of Friends cover. They have the edgy feel of a science fiction story, even if they are anything but.

Bast said...

I also hate the SOOKIE STACKHOUSE covers, but love the books! However, the ones you listed as great covers, I don't think I'd pick up a single one of them. Those are the ones that look cheap to me (also dated).

Jessica Bell said...

I actually don't like the covers that are too cluttered with colour and lots of 'objects'. They're distracting. My eyes just go foggy and I can't focus. I hate the body part covers too. What I like are simple, streamline, arty covers. I have no problem with simple colours and minimal graphics. They actually attract me more. Because it screams, "I'm not trying to get your attention with my cover. You have to read me to see what I'm made of." :o)

Bast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

I liked the artistic covers except where the author is showcased and not the title.
I don't know if I want the book but I'll take the dog.
Body Parts -- Just peddling sex appeal to raging hormone teens and YAs.
Never mind the kindergarten art on the other one. Haven't read that series but love her mysteries.

Mike Douglas said...

Wow, that Halo cover art is outstanding! The elegant, classy illustration of a romantic theme, the extreme contrasts, the sweeping motion ... it all grabs me, takes me by the hand and pulls me right into the pages without my knowing or caring what the story's about.

Tara McClendon said...

Cover art is tricky, but for me it is only part of the package. There is a particular book that has a stunning cover, but I couldn't find out anything about the book by looking at it. It didn't have a cover copy on the back jacket, so despite the stunning cover, I left the book on the shelf at the store. As for body parts, I think it is overdone, but I do like the cover art for City of Bones and the Immortal Instruments series. Great topic.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Rayna, poor photography drives me nuts. And thank you SO much for saying that about my covers!!! I know a lot of people don't like them, but I was so pleased with the artwork. They're gorgeous to me!

Quinn, good to know it's not me on the Sookie books. And funny, only one of the first four is an older book - all the others came out this year.

And I'm just the opposite, Jessica - that cover has to scream read me before I'll even pick it up. Must be because I'm a real visual person.

Mary, you're right about the sex appeal for YA.

Mike, it's pretty cool, isn't it?

Tara, that back cover is step two for me - so if it were blank, I'd put the book back, too.

Unknown said...

Haha yup. There's a lot of spare body parts hanging around the YA section.

Hart Johnson said...

I think I would have split differently, but I'm not sure I can explain it. I tend to now want people on the book because it messes with how engaged I can get (I prefer to imagine the characters)--I do like those sci-fi ones but i'm not sure if it is the desolate world shown more than the actual picture... I think it may be. I also happen to LIKE the Betrayed cover because we see somebody's BACK, which fits with the psychology of the title... so I think for me it isn't actualy about the cover so much as the symbolism or meaning shown. (I hate the Sookie covers too--though I also couldn't read the book--I like the TV show okay, but I couldn't deal with the voice of Sookie--first person, present tense takes a pretty darned compelling story to take me past it and Sookie Stackhouse is no Katniss Everdeen)

I think I am most drawn to covers with a symbol or item important for the book--simple in concept, but well created.

Jai Joshi said...

I agree that book covers are very important and you want one where the cover art is eye catching and memorable.

I'm actually a freak of nature though. I don't give a damn about a book's front cover when I'm choosing what to read. I care about the story and the characters and if they grab me then I don't care about the cover. The title is more likely to make me pick up a book than a book cover.


Jai Joshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jai Joshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jai Joshi said...

Oops! I'm so sorry, Diane. I don't know why my post duplicated so many times. My laptop is doing crazy things today.

I tried to delete the extras but I'm not sure if I was able to catch all of them.


Arlee Bird said...

I like the cover for Wind-up Girl the best because the artwork seems to be telling a story on it's own and it makes me want to read what the whole story is about.

As far as Philip Roth's plain cover, since he is such a big literary name he can get away with it because his name is what would attract most readers. And from what I know about his books (I haven't actually read any of them)they are very visually interesting anyway. They are more about thoughts and ideas from what I understand.

Covers my catch my attention, but rarely am I drawn to buy a book because of the cover art--I am more interested in content. Usually I'll seek out a book based on what I've heard about it or the description of what it's about.

Thanks for the mention!

Tossing It Out

Arlee Bird said...

I should have said Roth's books are not very visually interesting.

Tossing It Out

TexasRed said...

I'm most drawn to book covers that tell part of the story (which, now that you mention it, probably I see most in science fiction covers). It's a pet peeve of mine, though, when the artist hasn't read (or been briefed on) what he/she is drawing. If the main character is described with red hair 6,000 times in the book, they shouldn't appear on the cover with black hair.

I don't mind the plain (i.e., mostly text) covers when it comes to romance/ chick lit books (maybe because I assume I already know the basics of the plot?)

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I admit I’m drawn to a book by the cover. I like a cover that gives good hints as to what the story is about. I agree with you about “body parts” on covers – they simply don’t do the job.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Hart, you just need meaning!

Jai, I'm just a visual girl at heart. And it's okay - blogger's being weird today!

TexasRed, I agree! Anne McCaffrey's Crystal Singer series is a prime example - she has THREE different hair colors, and only the first one is correct.

Jane, I think that's what does it for me - I need a piece of the story on the cover.

Helen Ginger said...

My favorites are Oogy and The Windup Girl.

When I see the picture of Oogy, I want to read his story and find out what happened to him and I want it to be a happy ending. For The Windup Girl, I look at it and think, man, that's a great cover.


I love the book covers but I feel drawn to OOGY,I found the post most interesting to read and I wish I read more than I do.


Jemi Fraser said...

You and I have similar cover taste. I love the first bunch you showed! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Helen, we have similar tastes!

Yvonne, isn't Oogy so ugly she's cute?

Jemi, you're super!!!

Unknown said...

I just love the covers, even the sci-fi ones. I don't read a lot of sci-fi but it does look exciting. I like the simple covers as well.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I love this. It's a little like doing a good marketing study. The trick is not to assume that your audience necessarily has the same taste we do. That's one reason authors should at least listen to the art departments/marketing departments of their publishers. They're the xperts. Keeping an open mind, I guess.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Blogging writers' resources at Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites pick www.sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com

Mike Douglas said...

This is a very good topic, and I've enjoyed reading everyone's responses. My email notifications appear to have been hijacked by spammers though, so I guess I'll detach. Ciao!

Elana Johnson said...

I so agree with the body part thing. And I love looking at covers.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Carolyn, you're so right!

Sorry Mike! Blame it on Blogger.

Elana, so glad your cover is cool!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane .. just not sure .. sometimes I buy plain cover books, sometimes just because I like the look of it .. but often because I actually want to buy the book regardless .. word of mouth I guess! Or the author .. whom I like and want to read more of ..

I'll now keep a warier eye out .. thanks - cover cool ... Hilary

notesfromnadir said...

Thanks for these examples. I agree w/ you about the covers for the Sookie Stackhouse books, especially the example shown. I even checked out 1 of the more recent ones & it had a glittery cover! I've always thought simple was, is & will always be the best type of cover for a book.

Lisa said...

I'm drawn to covers too. There have been many times after reading a book that I look at the cover and think it's terrible and could have been much more attracting. Am I right that author's don't have a say in what their cover's look like, and that they only have control if they choose to self-publish? This is what I was always told. How dissapointing it would be to work so hard writing a novel and then someone else gets to design the cover.