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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cover Lust (and Longing...)

I’m going to use today’s post as an excuse to:
1.     talk about the importance of book covers; and
2.     reveal the gorgeous cover for fellow Apocalypsie Leanna Renee Hieber's DARKER STILL, which releases 11/11 from Sourcebooks Fire

Book covers have been on my mind lately, particularly as it’s about a year before my book releases, right around the time when the art department should be sitting down to discuss possible concepts and design ideas. And these days, it seems so important to have a knock-out cover, particularly in the genre of young adult fiction. Why? you ask.

To be honest, I’m not sure. In this world of electronic everything, with e-books on the rise and Kindles and Nooks ending up in the hands of even former Luddites, the aspects of a physical book seem like they should matter less and less. And yet, covers still seem to possess a cult-like power over readers. There’s even a category on GoodReads called “Waiting-on-Cover,” almost as if to say, if the cover doesn’t excite, the consumer might not buy the book. For authors, cover reveals can be moments of true celebration or profound disappointment. Even in this age of abstraction, covers still seem to matter.

Having not yet crossed over the digital book divide myself, I still adore holding a real book in my hands, feeling the glossy cover and embossed title, studying the typeset, reading the synopsis and blurbs on the back. As I read the book, I like knowing that the cover is always there as a reference point, contributing to the overall mood of the novel. I know a cover shouldn’t have that much sway, but for me it does. And sometimes that’s a bad thing.

There have been books where I’ve longed to get sucked into the story and create my own versions of the characters and settings, but because of a heavy-handed design or a too-literal interpretation of story elements, the cover leaves nothing to my imagination. Try as might, I’m unable to get the cover image out of my head, and it almost spoils the experience, kind of like seeing a movie before reading the book (Horrors!). It’s awful when you can’t imagine the characters as anyone other than the actors who play them on the big screen.

Then there are just bad covers, full of poor color choices or strange and off-putting images, or the covers that are just bland, fading into a background of blah. I’m thankful that YA covers have stepped it up in recent years because when I was a pre-teen digging into my first YA titles, the predominant covers were cheesy and cartoonish. Take the cover for one of my all-time favorite YA books, Lois Duncan’s Stranger with My Face.
The book is so creepy and atmospheric and unique, and yet the cover is just so… ugh. Thankfully, the book got a makeover sometime during the 90’s.

Better, for sure, but  it got revamped once again in 2011 with a far more stylized design.

Today’s YA covers tend to be sophisticated, going for an audience beyond tweens and teens, hoping for the elusive crossover success of the Twilight and Hunger Games books. The best covers, in my opinion, are ones that don’t necessarily have much to do with the plot itself but are evocative, giving a sense of the type of reading experience this is going to be without giving away specific details. Here are some recent covers that have made me swoon:
So what do you think? What do you like in a cover? How important are covers to your book choices? Is it more important when you’re in an actual bookstore than online? Tell us, do you judge a book by its cover?


Dina Davidson said...

The cover gets you to pick up the book and read the synopsis. There have been many, possibly even fantastic, books that I have breezily skipped over because the colors on the cover were not appealing, or the design was just too cluttered. I tend to enjoy light colors in a cover (representing light reading), with plenty of "white" or blank space. (Oh no! Does that represent my blank mind??)

Eve Marie Mont said...

No, Dina, it doesn't mean you have a blank mind! Just that sometimes you need a breather from all the heavy stuff in the world. I take it you're not a huge dystopian fan???

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I do judge a book by it's cover, but then I read the flap copy or the first page. Sometimes I am even drawn to a cover I don't love--if it intrigues me.

Heather Anastasiu said...

Oh, I agree, covers end up being so (sometimes unfairly) important. In recent years, I feel like there have been Not Very Good Books, with GORGEOUS covers that end on the NYT Bestsellers and I'm like, really? Then I've read books that are AMAZING, but have so-so covers. Which of course is just neurosis-driving for us as authors!!!!! I just starting talking covers with my editor since my date is moved up from summer to spring, and it sounds like we're on a similar page. But oh, the nail-biting until we actulaly get to see it!!!

Eve Marie Mont said...

Cynthia, I know what you mean. One cover that I didn't like at first but that kept pulling me was Kiss It by Erin Downing. Haven't read it yet, but might have to try it.

And Heather, I know--the cover angst! That is so true about the NYT list, although I wonder if it has more to do w/ publishing houses giving those books the royal treatment, including a kick-ass cover. And yay for moving up to spring! We'll be releasing right around the same time and can give each other some much-needed reality checks!

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Now that blogger isn't in meltdown I can say THANK YOU for posting my cover! I am so excited!! And of course, I am SO excited for yours! I do confess I'm a cover-lover - it's inevitably what draws me in, and I really love the other covers you showcased here, all stunning. THANKS, my Apocalypsie sister!!

Eve Marie Mont said...

Leanna, you are very welcome! The colors in your cover are gorgeous, and the model is sublime. The cover gods were favoring you! Love, love, love the Apocalypsies!!!