You know the saying – never judge a book by its cover. But I confess, I am totally guilty of forming opinions of books based on their covers.
The cover is one of the first things that draws me to a book and if the cover doesn’t catch my eye, it’s highly unlikely that I will pick up a book to learn more about it. It has to create an impression on me. Aside from reading the title, the cover is the first thing that I see. I usually don’t look at books that are shelved with only the spine out – the ones that attract my attention are the books that face out.
Most of the time, basing books on their covers works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve definitely gotten burned by a cover before.
I’ve picked up books that have a great cover with what looks like an interesting scene or characters on it. Only to then find out that the book is nothing like the cover portrayed. (I’m looking at you, The Selection, as well as many a historical romance.)
But what information should book covers reveal? For hundreds of years, book covers originally were to function as a protective device for hand-bound books. Books were expensive to print and some even used materials such as gold or silver. As books became cheaper to reproduce, book covers became more than just protection for the pages; they took on the purpose of advertising and conveying information about what was inside.
Now, as the book industry has become more competitive, book covers have become more important. Covers now give clues about the genre and subject of the book. Designs have become more sophisticated and elaborate in the hopes of gaining attention.
I generally like a book cover that tells me something about the book. Books that have bad or cheap looking covers, I don’t bother looking at. If a cover is boring or tacky, I automatically wonder if the book will be boring or tacky. But again, I also want the cover to tell me something about the book. I can’t stand the trend (that I hope is over) that 50 Shades started for erotic books where the cover just shows an item such as a tie, or cufflinks, or a mask. That tells me nothing about the content of the book.
Similarly, I find it frustrating when the cover doesn’t match the book. I’m not saying a cover has to completely mirror a scene in the book, but it drives me crazy when the cover models look nothing like the characters in the book. The character may have red hair, but the model on the cover is a redhead. Or the cover is a scene that looks like the novel is set on a plantation, only to find out the book takes place in medieval London.
What about you? Do you judge books by their covers?