My latest blog entry:
The old axiom is:Â donâ€™t judge a book by its cover.Â Who really does that?Â No one.Â Come on, you think when someone sees me theyâ€™re thinking, â€œGee, heâ€™s fat, bald, and wears glasses but I bet heâ€™s got a lot of inner beauty.â€Â Hell no!
By the same token we do actually judge books by their covers.Â Just looking at the cover you can often tell what genre the book is.Â Check out that cover for Timothy Zahnâ€™s Cobra Bargain.Â Without looking at the back or reading a single page you know itâ€™s a science fiction book because itâ€™s got an alien and a dude with some kind of ray gun on it.
Or if there were a picture of a bare-chested man and a swooning woman youâ€™d know it was a romance novel.Â If it shows some dude with a sword or magic wand then you know itâ€™s a fantasy book.Â Itâ€™s common sense really.
Whatâ€™s on the cover can tell you more than just the genre.Â In romance books the classier ones donâ€™t have bare-chested men or swooning women.Â They feature something more low-key like flowers.Â So you already know just by looking at the cover with Fabio on it that youâ€™re getting something with a little more heat in it.Â (Or if it doesnâ€™t then demand your money back!)Â The more skin being shown on the cover, the more sex there will be inside the book.
The same holds largely true in sci-fi as a cover like the one above means that itâ€™s a space opera, Star War-type story rather than a more serious or â€œhardâ€ sci-fi novel.Â The more aliens and ray guns and spaceships on the cover the less â€œscienceâ€ there will be in the book inside.
For â€œliteraryâ€ novels the main trend is just to take some kind of photo thatâ€™s supposed to look symbolic and throw it up on the cover.Â For whatever reason, pictures of shoes or feet are popular.Â Donâ€™t believe me?Â Check out The Giantâ€™s House by Elizabeth McCracken from 1996 and The Time Travelerâ€™s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger from 2002.Â Â They actually use the same device to convey the difference between the protagonists by footwear.Â Or the book Iâ€™m reading now, In the Company of Angels by Thomas E. Kennedy, has part of a womanâ€™s face with a hand covering her eye.Â â€œLiteraryâ€ covers donâ€™t like to show an entire person, especially not the face.Â It probably costs more money then.
Other literary covers will show a landscape or an object that is supposed to have some symbolic relevance to what youâ€™ll read.Â This doesnâ€™t tell you nearly as much as other genres in terms of how serious or not serious or how much gratuitous sex youâ€™ll find when you open up the book.Â But I guess itâ€™s supposed to make it seem classier than a drawing.Â (Plus itâ€™s cheaper to use a stock image or to shoot someoneâ€™s shoes than to pay an artist to draw something.)
Of course if you get super famous then they might say bag all of that and put YOU on the front cover!Â Though you might already be dead, so it would be too late to celebrate that achievement.
The issue of covers was something that came up for me recently because I didnâ€™t really like the cover of my book.Â It was just a template with some MS Office clipart thrown in.Â Not exactly what I ever had in mind.Â So armed with PhotoShop elements, I tried to come up with something a bit more â€œliteraryâ€ and wound up cruising some stock photo sites.
Behold my more literary cover!
That isnâ€™t the best look at it, but itâ€™s pretty much what youâ€™ll see when you buy the new, improved 1.5 editionâ€“available now!
Like those other â€œliteraryâ€ covers thereâ€™s symbolism behind it.Â First off, itâ€™s a story about a guy looking for a home, so we have this shot of a room in a home looking out a window at the rest of the world to show what heâ€™s searching for.Â Secondly, early in the book he and his best friend Frankie would often sit at her window watching the sunsets, so we have a sunset here.Â (Or presumably itâ€™s a sunset.Â It might be a sunrise too.)Â Itâ€™s not just a random image put on there for no reason.
What does it say to you?Â And have you ever bought a book because of its cover?