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Can you tell a book by its cover?

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Cuchulainn
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Can you tell a book by its cover?

Post by Cuchulainn » Sat September 13th, 2008, 1:44 am

I think you can, most of the time.

For example, take fantasy books; they all have certain style of art to their covers.

Or if I see a historical fiction book with the portrait, say, of a lady, I know it's not likely to be a swashbuckling tale of adventure.

I think also, there can be even tell tale signs of the quality of writing in a cover (or maybe that's more just a thing of taste).

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JMJacobsen
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Post by JMJacobsen » Sat September 13th, 2008, 2:48 am

Oh absolutely, I think you're right. The marketing departments of the publishing houses are very much aware of this. You even find specific cover styles associated with specific authors. (Good example off the top of my head is Jodi Piccoult....pretty good writer, but all her books have what looks to me like the exact same cover.)

Readers tend to stick to their genres and naturally reach for books with covers that are common to their favorite genres. (I notice this trait in myself.)

Of course, sometimes covers surprise you. My all-time favorite, most-read, best-loved book ever is Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry. The cover indicates a western genre, it's still historical fiction....just historical fiction about cowboys. Now I'd never pick up a western genre book, it just isn't my thing, so go figure.

I generally don't judge the quality of the writing by the cover, though. Jean Plaidy books are a good example - I noticed though that as they re-release many of her books, the covers have changed to suit the times (pardon the pun).

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat September 13th, 2008, 2:48 am

The cover is almost never done by the writer. Even the decision isn't made by the writer, although they may have a say. So why should the cover matter to the discerning reader?

Covers matter a lot to the marketer, the publisher, the bookstore, and everybody on the selling end. The things you mentioned above are marketing trends, and they hold fine for new books. But covers in decades past were designed under different marketing conditions and might not communicate the same thing today. Doesn't change the story inside a bit.

As a reader, once I am into the text, it's the writing that matters to me. And when my friends recommend a book, they never say, "Read the Devil's Brood, it's got a GREAT cover!" In fact, the only time the cover is mentioned is if it is awful, as in "Never mind the cheesy cover, it's a good read."

Even if the cover was approved by the writer, their skill in selecting a cover is a different skill from that of telling a good story.

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Juniper
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Post by Juniper » Sat September 13th, 2008, 3:02 am

[quote=""Cuchulainn""]I think you can, most of the time.

[/quote]

I agree, I think you can most of the time aswell. I am very guilty of one thing in particular: when I'm in a bookstore I tend to walk along the aisles whilst merely glancing at the covers of the books. The majority of times I'm drawn to a book that, when I flip it over and read the back, is exactly my type of book. But then again that's probably not that shocking considering the type of book I tend to read- female protagonist, a tragic love that you know is going to go wrong, a coming-of-age novel set many years ago... Thus, most of the covers are portraits of young women.

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Alaric
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Post by Alaric » Sat September 13th, 2008, 9:59 am

Sure you can.

Image

It doesn't take a lot of guess work to have an idea what that's about by just looking at the cover. :p

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Sat September 13th, 2008, 11:55 am

I think most of the time you can tell. And thats how its hould be. I mean its marketing and in my opinion it would be stupid not to have a fantasy book without a guy carring a sword, dragon or troll on it.
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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Sat September 13th, 2008, 1:03 pm

I'm going to have that that is not always the case and show you a couple of examples,

Recently rereleases of Jennifer Roberson's where I am left scratching my head wondering WTH the publishers were thinking. Lady of the Glen which despite having a love story in it is about the massacre at Glen Coe (FGS) so you tell me why they'd pick a cover like that. Also her two Robin Hood Books Lady of Sherwood and Lady of the Forest.

I've read all three books and I promise what sex there are in them is extremely tame compared to what we normally see. Thus, if one judged these books by the covers and was expecting a bodice ripping romance they are going to be sorely disappointed.

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Sat September 13th, 2008, 2:06 pm

Those do look like bodice rippers and to be honest I would pass it right by because I would assume that its that type of book.
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Ariadne
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Post by Ariadne » Sat September 13th, 2008, 4:33 pm

Wow, I hadn't seen the covers of the reissues before, and the first one (Lady of the Glen) is especially deceptive as to the real content.

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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Sat September 13th, 2008, 4:35 pm

[quote=""Divia""]Those do look like bodice rippers and to be honest I would pass it right by because I would assume that its that type of book.[/quote]

Those covers are terrible!

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