The Cover Lover

This is a beautiful cover.

I’m coming right out of the PC closet with this one:

I do judge a book by its cover.

And if this makes me a bad, bad person then so be it. Face facts, 2010 has been a mighty disappointing year in so far as quality adult fiction covers is concerned.  From the shortlisted Booker prizewinners (yawn) to the horrors regularly dished up on Large Print fiction, it has been tough for the visually inclined.

Honestly speaking, cover-wise, is it really too much to ask:

  • that a cover match the content of the book and its title
  • that the cover show a little creative flair and
  • that said cover should be devoid of  glittery raised lettering that can be read like braille?
This is a feast of great covers.

It really was better in the past. Look back at some of the mouthwatering covers that we have feasted on over the years in Seven Hundred Penguins – and sigh.

I am not alone in this I know, and who better to give an incisive, bitingly intelligent slant on it than Lionel Shriver. When I interviewed her on her novel So Much For That, she was extremely vexed over the cover choices on offer to authors. And there is nothing better than Shriver vexed and on a roll. You can read her in full swing here. One of her pet peeves is the “pretty in pink” approach to women writers. As only Shriver  can put it:

“trussing up my novels as sweet, girly and soft is like stuffing a rottweiler in a dress.”

And that I think is my literary quote of the year!

What, I wonder, were your quotes and covers of 2010?

16 thoughts on “The Cover Lover

  1. Andrew 1 December 2010 / 2:49 pm

    I completely agree. I put of reading CJ Cherryh’s “Chronicles of Morgaine” for more than a decade on the basis of the truly awful cover on the original US Omnibus edition. Sci Fi / Fantasy covers in general tend to be very variable.

    That said I have seen a couple recently that I like. I really like the impact of the “Heir of Night” cover (Orbit – H E Lowe) for example.

    • robertafsmith 1 December 2010 / 9:40 pm

      There are some covers I do not even want to touch, so that is a real disincentive to trying to read the books. I’m so pleased that you have mentioned a cover that works for you (Heir of Night), I hope that other commentators will also try to do that. It is much harder to do than identifying the really bad covers.

    • robertafsmith 1 December 2010 / 9:16 pm

      It is as if we are on the same page, but in two completely different galaxies! How about a blog on great titles – surely “Glowy Magic” is a mineral powder foundation and not a book title?

      • Rachael 3 December 2010 / 12:22 pm

        Glowy Magic would be an awesome title… but here’s an element of the cover illustration. There is also a differentiation of damsels IN distress and damsels NOT IN distress. Girl power!

  2. Glynis 1 December 2010 / 8:13 pm

    Have to agree !!! Fantastic quote – great mental picture !

    • robertafsmith 1 December 2010 / 9:13 pm

      I know, that quote just gets me going every time! If you click on the link in the blog, you will see a far superior cover for So Much For That than the one that I put in book club. Shriver hated that white on white cover which defines Glynis as an absence – which we all know she so was not!

  3. Ansa Liebenberg 1 December 2010 / 8:18 pm

    How true about covers! I also have to confess that I buy books ‘by the covers’ and wine ‘by the lables’! It is those very covers that trigger my memory – even years later. So, in true South African style, let us toyi toyi for memorable and aesthetically pleasing covers! Love Ansa

    • robertafsmith 1 December 2010 / 9:14 pm

      Absolutely – if we have to have a political agenda, let it be for beautiful covers.

  4. Anne Schauffer 1 December 2010 / 9:26 pm

    It’s entirely beyond me how somebody can write a life-altering novel, and wrap it in a mind-numbing cover. The cover should be the taste of what’s to come, the teaser that makes you open it. I find myself in bookstores furtively stroking, even sniffing beautiful covers…do I need counselling?

    • robertafsmith 1 December 2010 / 9:32 pm

      No, you are quite perfect just as you are, it is the Publishers who are at fault here. I gather that authors have quite limited control over cover choice – certainly that is the impression I got from Shriver and she is no wilting violet as you know. Personally I blame all the image banks that are so easily available now. the career of graphic designer is just about dead in the water. If I am wrong here, you need to comment now and stop me from perpetuating this as a truth.

  5. clurbee 2 December 2010 / 2:35 am

    When you only have a few minutes to choose your books before your crying baby stretches the limit of ‘libraries – no longer quiet places’ then you have to rely on the cover. Hurray for free libraries – you can grab a handful and if you make a wrong choice its no big deal. But you could be missing out on some gems… unless of course you read an excellent blog during the night feed and have a pin number on your library card to reserve the recommendations. A big thanks to all the reviewers who contribute to this blog (and your website) for keeping me in reading (and listening via overdrive) material for the last few months, you have contributed to me continued sanity!

  6. helen 2 December 2010 / 8:41 pm

    I think I judge most things by their cover, especially books, I look for a cover that invites me into the book, so any bland cover (no matter how good the book) doesn’t really get a second glance…you have to admit first impressions in most cases count!!

    • robertafsmith 3 December 2010 / 7:53 am

      Well, you know what they say about interviews – first 30 seconds and the decision is just about made.

  7. Mette 2 December 2010 / 9:39 pm

    The cover (yes, including smell)
    The heft of the book
    The feel of the paper
    Does the print stroke your eye?
    Is the book in proportion?


    the writing itself.

    All can tot up to an orgasmic experience.
    And I’m doing it today – with Kristi – yay!

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