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Smithfield: 4. You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover. Or Can You?

Thursday, September 9, 2010 , Posted by Sandy Fussell at 9:58 AM

Have you ever picked up a book just because the cover attracted your attention? I know I have. Lots of times. This is one of my favourites - The Eye of the Beast, the first book in the Moonshadow series by Australian author Simon Higgins. Set in feudal Japan, there's samurai, ninja and plenty of action.

Book covers are a very important factor in our reading choices. First of all, the over tells us important basic information – the title of the book, maybe a subtitle and the author’s name. Sometimes this alone is enough to help us make a decision. I know I wouldn’t hesitate to read every book that had the words Skulduggery Pleasant on the front or Derek Landy’s name. (Is anyone else a Skulduggery Pleasant fan?)

The style of the book cover is designed to catch the reader’s eye and most often this is the one feature that decides whether we pick up a book. A cover might encourage us to ask questions about the story. It might indicate the target age of the readers. It might also indicate the genre of the book. One look at the cover of Eye of the Beast and I immediately thought:- Japan, manga, sword and samurai. I couldn't tell from the cover whether it was historical or fantasy but I suspected a bit of both. The cover told me enough for me to know I wanted to read it.

Don’t forget the back cover. There you might find a ‘blurb’ – a few lines or maybe a paragraph designed to tell you just enough to hook you into reading the story. There might also be endorsements from other writers who write similar novels. On the back cover of Andy Griffiths ‘Just’ series are quizzes to determine if the reader is just disgusting, just annoying or just shocking.

Here’s a chance for you to judge a book by its front cover picture:

What can you deduce about each of these books? Things to think about are the target readers (age, boys, girls), the genre, the story, where it is set. Let me know in comments what you can work out. Bonus points if you recognise the book. I have been very sneaky and cropped off all the titles and authors! (Hint: There is one clue in this post!)

There are awards for the best book covers. You can see the Australian Publishers Association Award winners for 2010 here. What do you think of the choices? Do you have a favourite book cover from a book you have read or seen in the library?

Here is a YouTube on how book covers are made. While the book is one for adults, it is interesting to see how the elements are carefully chosen to convey a particular message about the story.

Currently have 8 comments:

  1. Jamez says:

    Hello sandy,I just read your post just then, personily my favourte book cover

    Then by morris glietzman
    its very plain but it suits the story
    Maybe you should read one of the series of morris glietzman

    Thanks, Jamez

  1. kelsie says:

    hello sandy i just want to say i love your books and wow i never thought that it would take that long and that much work to do a book cover.

    from kelsie

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello sandy
    how long does it take to make a book cover!

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Sandy,

    I would like you to answer this question, when an illustrator ilustrates a book do they have to read the book or does someone tell them the story?

    From Sonali

  1. Hello JAMEZ,

    I like the cover to THEN too. In fact I am a big Morris Gleitzman fan and have read all his books. I don't have favourite although the last one I read, GRACE, was really good.

  1. Hello KELSIE,

    I think book covers are amazing. I would love to have posters of them all over my walls. Of all my books, my favourite covers are JAGUAR WARRIOR (the eyes are so bright) and SHAOLIN TIGER (I like orange!)If I had to do my own book covers it would take years. I am not very artistic when it comes to visual things.

  1. Hi ZAK,

    You are the first person to ask me a question I don't know the answer to! And now I want to know how long it takes to make a book cover as well so I will ask my publisher and get back to you.

  1. Hi SONALI,

    The illustrator is one of the first people to read a book. In fact it's just a pile of pages when they read it. They have to know everything about the story to make sure they draw characters and places in such a way that they use their imagination but don't contradict anything the text says such as whether someone's hair is short or long.