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Can you tell a book by its cover?

For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
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Misfit
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Location: Seattle, WA

Post by Misfit » Sat September 13th, 2008, 5:17 pm

[quote=""Ariadne""]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.[/quote]

Quite dreadful aren't they? And yes very deceiving and really does a great disservice to the topic of Lady of the Glen.

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LCW
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Location: Southern California

Post by LCW » Sat September 13th, 2008, 5:50 pm

I definitely see a pattern as far as certain cover themes being similar to each particularn genre. But, as Misfit pointed out, there are always exceptions.

I think being able to tell whether or not a novel is a swashbuckler or more romance oriented depends on whether or not people are depicted on the cover. There are many many books with cover art work that is pretty ambiguous. Those are the ones that are difficult to "tell from the cover".

Never mind the fact that "quality writing" is subjective, I definitely don't think the cover has much to do with the quality of the writing. At least not to me!

What an interesting thread!
Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. --Arnold Lobel

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Julianne Douglas
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Location: Northern California

Post by Julianne Douglas » Sat September 13th, 2008, 5:50 pm

Maybe they're trying to branch out and get some new readers, who tend to read historical romance, interested in the books?
Julianne Douglas

Writing the Renaissance

Calgal
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Location: Northern California

Post by Calgal » Sat September 13th, 2008, 6:07 pm

I tend to go for good covers. My favorite is the Vermeer on The Girl with the Pearl Earring. To be honest, my favorite covers are really good art and simple photos of domestic imagery. Usually, the good art is on a historical and the good photos are on contemporary, more or less literary novels. Sometimes I hate the art (like The Romanoff Bride) but find the books good anyway. I have yet to be disappointed by the contents of a book with a good, simple photo. (Water for Elephants) is an example of a good photo cover for a good book, which is both historical and contemporary.

For writers with a strong track record, publishers tend to go with the author's name more prominent than the title of the book. When a series has a similar set of these, it is a signal to me that the book has a touch of same old, same old to it, not always a bad thing.

My impression is that historical romance tends to have sensationalistic, commercial illustrator covers which can disguise some fairly decent books. Usually, there are too many books I am intrigued by with decent covers for me to bother with the ones that are garish.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat September 13th, 2008, 7:13 pm

[quote=""Misfit""]Quite dreadful aren't they? And yes very deceiving and really does a great disservice to the topic of Lady of the Glen.[/quote]
The problem with those covers is that I'm embarrassed to be seen reading them! Re the thread 'do you ask strangers about what they are reading', I prefer not to give people the wrong idea as to my tastes. Interpersonal communication is simpler if that kind of misconception can be avoided.

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nona
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Post by nona » Sun September 14th, 2008, 11:56 am

depending on what book I'm looking for, only then does a cover have any influence. Now the romance books are a dead give away but some of the good HF books I think the cover fits the story .

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Leyland
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Location: Travelers Rest SC

Post by Leyland » Sun September 14th, 2008, 2:18 pm

As discussed above - if the marketing concepts and cover design are done properly, then I want to be able to tell a book by its cover. For example, a story meant to tell the reader about the lives and experiences of a few characters during a certain era might invite me to investigate if the cover design has a 12th C castle displayed, or perhaps a landmark of the times such as the Liberty Bell for an American Revolutionary tale. I like scenery a lot! London burning during the Great Fire, a chilly Highland loch cradling a fortified manor house, the high misty peaks of the Andes, or the Spanish Armada being helplessly windswept ....

A book written primarily to tell the story of the main character might entice me with a portrait of the character on the cover. An artist's rendition based on the description in the text is better than using some unknown's 17th or 18th C portrait over and over. I realize the cost of paying an artist is a consideration when a publisher has the alternative to use stock or even a photo of a costumed model (but hold the heaving, barely concealed bosom).

I also like having a thumbnail picture of the cover on the spine when I'm in a bookstore and skimming shelf after shelf for HF. A thick paperback usually has room for one.
We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams ~ Arthur O'Shaughnessy, Ode

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Vanessa
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Currently reading: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan
Interest in HF: The first historical novel I read was Katherine by Anya Seton and this sparked off my interest in this genre.
Favourite HF book: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Preferred HF: Any
Location: North Yorkshire, UK

Post by Vanessa » Sun September 14th, 2008, 2:39 pm

I'm just about to start the Scandal of the Season by Sophie Gee. It has mixed reviews on Amazon but the cover is so very pretty. My hardback copy has a pink masque wrapped around it, too! :) So I don't know whether it will live up to it's cover.
currently reading: My Books on Goodreads

Books are mirrors, you only see in them what you already have inside you ~ The Shadow of the Wind

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Sun September 14th, 2008, 3:00 pm

[quote=""MLE""]The problem with those covers is that I'm embarrassed to be seen reading them! [/quote]

LOL. I agree!
Someone dropped the ball with those covers. Maybe they do want to get historical romance readers, but they are turning off HF readers.
News, views, and reviews on books and graphic novels for young adult.
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princess garnet
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Post by princess garnet » Mon September 15th, 2008, 11:39 pm

Some book cover designs are just a work of art. I say this as a compliment to the design.

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