Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Opinion, Rant, Same Thing: Book Covers

We all know the feeling. A great book that has amazing characters, fantastic themes, a magical setting... yet the book cover is just, for lack of a better word, horrible. Today I'm here to talk to you about book covers and what, in my opinion, makes a good one (and a bad one).

Book covers have one purpose: to catch the reader's eye. Literally. Because of the way our brains function, it's impossible not to be drawn to certain books because of the way their covers look. Let's admit it, most of the time when you pick up a book the cover is what draws you to it. As an avid reader you can get better at avoiding this. However, this isn't the point. The human brain is wired so as to judge things a mere instant after seeing them. This is why I get so mad when an amazing book has an atrocious cover.

The worst part, in my mind, is that authors have little to no say in their book cover(s). It's mostly the publishers that have this power. I mean, shouldn't the person who created the book be able to tell you what represents their book the best? Additionally, there are plenty of authors nowadays that interact with their fan bases much more than they ever have been able to previously (thanks to social media). It is because of this immense communication between authors and readers that I think authors can tell what the fans would want in a cover too.

So for all you publishers out there, listen up! There are plenty of things currently being used in book covers that readers don't like (which you apparently think we do). Here's my list of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to book covers.

First, there's the issue of having real people on the cover of a book. I'll be blunt about this: most of the time I don't like it. I feel like the people who depict characters on the cover never quite fit the profile the right way. It's almost like telling me "this is what the characters look like" before I have a chance to imagine them. Also, book covers with models on them seem to have a bad reputation already; that people automatically assume it's some romance book for loners (since the romance genre is especially guilty of this trait).

Case in point, the Breathing Underwater paperback cover: 

Now I can tell all of you that Breathing Underwater was a phenomenal book. It had great themes of family, love, abuse, and communicating ones self. However, based on the cover, it just looks like another YA romance that adults scoff at. The man posing as Nick on the cover is not at all the way I imagined him. I felt awkward walking around with the book and felt like I always needed to have it cover down. Besides that, the origional cover was wonderful!

Who decided to change this? I mean, I understand that from one print to another you might adjust this cover, but the second cover totally falls flat compared to the first. The original cover represents the two sides of Nick's personality and how he has trouble expressing himself.

This brings me to my second trend: symbols. Symbolism is great when you use it right. If you have fantastic symbols then you can keep your cover simple enough where the potential reader isn't overpowered. The two covers below are great examples of this. The white rose, a motif used throughout the book, is one of beauty while still being different than your regular red rose. The Hunger Games cover is one of my favorites. Simple. Clean. Anyone who's read the series knows what a huge symbol the Mockingjay is to Katniss and to the revolution.

However, if you get it wrong, then you're a goner. This is where I start to get concerned when the author isn't involved. For instance, the Twilight cover. The color scheme is good, and if the apple had anything to do with the plotline, then it'd be fine. Unfortunately this cover off-putted me enough that I had to look up "what's with the apple?" on Stephenie Meyer's website. I mean, to an extent I can understand the reasoning but it was still a little far-fetched for me. The symbolism on a book cover doesn't have to be completely obvious, but it has to be something that the readers will understand at the end of the book.

Finally, schemes. One of my major pet peeves when it comes to books is a book publisher's decicion to change the color/design scheme halfway through a series. It confuses new readers, and more than half the time the second trial is worse than the first. The readers have already established that scheme with the series - don't change it! Some of my favorite series covers have simple ideas. 


Same symbol:

In conclusion, I love when book covers are simple. Symbols are good. Real people on the cover: bad. But most of all, a book cover should always have something to do with the book! Book covers should do their stories justice! There's nothing worse than having an amazing book get continuously passed in a bookstore solely because it's cover was poorly chosen.

But, hey, this is only one girl's opinion. What do you think? What do you like in a book cover? What do you dislike in a book cover? Leave a comment below! 

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