Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Judge A Book By It's Cover??

I long ago realized that I judge books by their covers.  This is just something I do, subconsciously. I used to be somewhat contrite that I did this. I would force myself to pick up books with awful covers and read the blurbs, or the first few chapters, but I never bought them. Ever. Okay, maybe I need to qualify this statement. If it's an author that I love, it hardly matters what the cover may look like. I may cringe while buying it, and not look at the cover while reading it, or carrying it, but I'll still buy it. But that is the only time it will happen.

A couple of years ago I stopped being ashamed and just realized this is how I am. I like visually pleasing covers. I don't have a 'type' or a specific standard that I can say what I like, I just know. It either grabs me or it doesn't. I stopped making myself pick up books to check them out despite their cover. Now I just grab what I like to look at, and if I miss out on something because of that, then I guess that's my loss. Usually this works for me. Sometimes it doesn't.

I think for me a big part of it is that if someone puts time and thought into a cover, making it aesthetically satisfying, then I know that they feel the book is worth it, and thus so should I. If a book has a crap cover with fake people, or a cartoon-y feel on an adult book, or something that is just plain 'ole ugly then I assume (yes, I know...one shouldn't assume) that the publisher didn't feel it deserved their very best. And if it doesn't deserve the very best cover, then it doesn't deserve my money either.

As an aside - I used to absolutely hate covers that had people on them.  It took me a long time to get over that - probably the reason that I came to romance so late.  My problem (still) with people on the cover is that they are never what I picture the character to look like.  Obviously as you look below, some of the covers I've picked up because I liked them have people on the covers, so this is no longer a hard and fast rule - though I still do prefer to have it be more vague instead of specific, or to not include the face.

I started thinking about this because I just started reading Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, the first book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries series. I always heard people talking about this series, I've watched the last two seasons of True Blood on HBO, and I forced myself to pick up this book numerous times in the bookstore. I just couldn't get past the cartoon vampires on the cover.

I mean, really? This is what you think is going to draw people in? Well, obviously it has because they're wildly popular books so I must be in the minority. Even when they changed the cover after True Blood started I just couldn't make myself start reading it. I have never been able to get the corny covers out of my mind. In fact it's taken months of my best friend telling me to start reading the series for me to even turn to the first page in the first chapter of Dead Until Dark. It's probably a great book (I'll be sure to say when I'm done), but I've always passed it by for nicer looking books.

There are several instances where this worked particularly well for me. I picked up Dreams of Stardust by Lynn Kurland because I liked the way the cover looked. The colors were nice, the picturesque setting was nice. I was intrigued by the jewels and wondered what meaning they had to the story. All in all, a good cover. And I love this book. Love the entire series in fact. Here is the reading order.

The simplicity of the the cover for Outlander by Diana Gabaldon caught my eye and I was incredibly glad I read it. It’s still a favorite – even if I haven’t stayed caught up on the series.

Otherland by Tad Williams featured a golden city on the cover. Someplace fantastical and beautiful. I wanted to learn more about that place. This was a book I picked up not knowing it was part one of a four part series…

This cover led me to one of my all-time favorite authors, Nalini Singh. I think her Guild Hunter novels have some of my favorite covers.

More books I picked up solely because of the cover and really enjoyed:

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Almost a total exception to my person/face rule...
Touch the Dark by Karen Chance

The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe

Welcome to Tempation by Jennifer Crusie

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

Books I’ve picked up strictly based on the cover, but haven’t had the chance to read yet.

Sebastian by Anne Bishop

Steamed by Katie MacAlister

Greywalker by Kat Richardson

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Nightlife by Rob Thurman

Lord of the Fading Lands by CL Wilson

Of course this isn’t always fool-proof. I can’t think of many examples of books where I loved the cover, but didn’t like the book (though I know there have been some). But I do have a very good example of a cover I hated, and a book I enjoyed. In fact, the author of this book became one of my very favorites.

On the left is the original cover for Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning. On the right, the more recent version. I strongly dislike the original version of the cover. I can’t even remember what prompted me to pick it up, but I like the newer version much better.

So I try to remember this when I see a cover I can’t stand, or don’t like…but I still find myself picking up more books based on the cover.

Anyone else do this? What are some of your favorite covers? Are there books you love, but covers that just don’t do them justice?


Kat said...

I'm more of a title-judger than a cover-judger. I've picked up books many times based on their titles.

A good cover can be eye-catching, but I think I've only picked up one book because I liked the cover (and only because I was reviewing it so it was free).

As for bad covers......I started reading romance in the mid-90s where historicals were just starting to move out of the truly awful bodice-ripper covers. If I judged a book based on its cover I'd have missed out on a lot so I learn to grin and bear it.

That being said, the one kind of cover that can turn me off is the cartoon cover. I was SO upset when Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night - one of my favorite Kresley Cole books - had this fugly cartoon cover.

So to make a long story even longer, no, covers don't really pull me one way or another, though I frequently cringe over ugly covers.

Now favorite covers, hmm....off the top of my head:

- Devil May Cry by Sherrilyn Kenyon
- Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon
- Dark Need by Lynn Viehl
- Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh
- Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn
- Velvet Valentines by Violet Summers
- A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole
- The Dark Tide (Loose Id cover) by Josh Lanyon

I'm sure there are more, but that's what popped into my head :)

Angela said...

I am beginning to learn to live with the bad covers, and do read ones that I don't love. But more and more often for me to pick up a new author without a recommendation I need an attention-grabbing cover!

Those are some other good ones! I do love the Acheron cover as well and had forgotten about it. A Hunger Like No Other though I have issues with his hands. I can't explain it well, but they just freak me out! LOL

Kat said...

I totally get you. For me it's the same kind of thing, just with titles as opposed to covers.

You're not the first person to mention Lochlain's hands to me, lol. For me, it's Emma's top that catches the eye so much that I don't notice his hands. Her top and the way her hair falls just catches my eye and I really like it. I just don't notice him as much, lol.

I forgot to put No Rest for the Wicked on there O_O. I love that cover as well. Kaderin's outfit catches my eye, as does her dagger and the way they are set off against the rest of the cover.

Angela said...

LOL. See and all I can see when I look at A Hunger Like No Other is his hands. *shudders*

I am with you about No Rest for the Wicked though. There's actually quite a few I left off of here.

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