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Podcast Episode Discussions > Episode #137 -- Book Covers

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I may pick up a book because of its cover, but I won't buy it until I've read the jacket copy to see if it is something I'll read. I will also NOT pick up a book based on its cover. What's funny is that both situations happened to me with the same book, A Changed Man.
The hardcover jacket turned me off: A Changed Man by Francine Prose ; and the paperback got me to look at it, purchase and read it: A Changed Man by Francine Prose
The hardcover's jacket is much more in line with the topic of the book, but maybe it didn't sell enough copies?


message 2: by Louise (new)

Louise | 279 comments I'll pay more to get a book I want in a nice edition, but I'd never buy a book for the cover.
I'm saving up for some of the classics in this lovely lovely hb series, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Hard Times by Charles Dickens The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde The Odyssey (Penguin Classics) by Homer Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
and I have a copy of

Flappers and Philosophers The Collected Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Penguin Hardback Classics) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
that is absolutely beautiful :-)


message 3: by Callie (new)

Callie (calliekl) | 646 comments I was wondering- how much say an author has in the cover design? Does it depend on the author/publisher?

The cover that caught my eye, that I just loved was Little Bee by Chris Cleave . The bright color, the image, just adored it.

On the other side, the cover for A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan just didn't grab me at all. If I had never heard of it, I probably wouldn't have even picked it up to read the jacket, because I would have assumed it was a story about a garage band called the Goon Squad. I don't know how I would redesign it, just something else.

On a side note, the paperback of Goon Squad had the most lovely paper I think I've ever touched. If you haven't felt it, and you're at the bookstore, grab a copy and see for yourself.


message 4: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Some authors have cover approval written into their contracts, but it's rare. Most authors have little input -- perhaps a courtesy approval or something. And occasionally, authors will get their agents to make a fuss if they are really unhappy about a jacket.

Basically, each case is individual.


message 5: by Kirsty (last edited Jul 15, 2011 12:07AM) (new)

Kirsty (kirstyreadsandcreates) | 116 comments I have to admit to being one who judges a book by its cover, at least I am when I'm browsing in a bookstore. If I don't have a specific book in mind and am just wandering then I am drawn by interesting covers and am put off by ones that I don't like the look of.

Online, I love to see the difference between the US and UK covers. For instance, our cover for Goon Squad is A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan which, although I don't think it's a brilliant cover, it definitely stands out more to me than the one Callie posted.


message 6: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Roberts | 59 comments I realized after listening to the podcast and then pondering it for a few days that I use the cover design--not necessarily to buy or not buy the book, but it helps me decide which book to listen to next. I have lots of audiobooks downloaded from the library on my iphone. I scroll down and look at the covers and titles. If a cover, albeit small as a thumbprint, catches my eye more than another, that is what I chose next. I've already made the decision to read these books and I have them available to me immediately. I just need to decide what to read next.

Here's what I currently have on my phone:
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson
The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Mistress of Nothing A Novel by Kate Pullinger
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
West of Here by Jonathan Evison
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

What would you chose to read next?
I chose Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan .


message 7: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (tracemick) | 217 comments Lisa wrote: "I realized after listening to the podcast and then pondering it for a few days that I use the cover design--not necessarily to buy or not buy the book, but it helps me decide which book to listen t..."

Definitely Maine with Case Histories being a close second. I adore Kate Atkinson!


message 8: by Katie (new)

Katie | 9 comments Louise wrote: "I'll pay more to get a book I want in a nice edition, but I'd never buy a book for the cover.
I'm saving up for some of the classics in this lovely lovely hb series, [bookcover:Pride and Prejudice|..."


I love that series too, so gorgeous. But I've noticed that the binding isn't particularly strong, so they're better for display than reading and rereading. Don't get rid of your trusty Penguin/Oxford classic edition!


message 9: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Lisa, nice list! I don't think you can go wrong with any of those (but I do love MAINE) :)


message 10: by Jason (new)

Jason | 1 comments The two best book covers I know of are The Virgin of Flames by Chris Abani and the Modern Library's edition of The Sorrows of Young Werther. Both covers are pertinent to events in each book. I recommend both of these works, and in the first book's case, I may never have noticed this novel without its great cover art. Notably, the worst book cover relative to the quality of the novel is Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart.


message 11: by Callie (new)

Callie (calliekl) | 646 comments By the by, I finally saw The Last Werewolf in the store yesterday, and the book is stunning to look at. I'll definitely be picking up a copy.


message 12: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Callie, don't wait too long, those red-edged pages are only for the first printing.


message 13: by Trish (new)

Trish (bowedbookshelf) Suzanne wrote: "I may pick up a book because of its cover, but I won't buy it until I've read the jacket copy to see if it is something I'll read. I will also NOT pick up a book based on its cover. What's funny ..."

Excellent example of a big cover switch. I thought the naked, tatooed man a real eye-catcher, but must admit love the pb cover. Can you believe they'd both be used on the same book? GLad you pointed it out. Someone wrote the audio was a great way to enjoy this book, so will pursue it.


message 14: by Kathy (new)

Kathy I'd be curious to know whether the rest of the BOtNists find, as I do, that most current U.S. book covers are annoying. Three-quarters of them seem to be out-of-focus photographs of people from the rear and/or without their heads. The remainder feature angular, obviously computer-generated artwork. It's almost as bad as that period in the late 1940s and early '50s when all covers seemed to contain the title alone. Do today's publishers have something against paint-and-brush or sketch artists?


message 15: by Amy (new)

Amy | 463 comments Louise wrote: "I'll pay more to get a book I want in a nice edition, but I'd never buy a book for the cover.
I'm saving up for some of the classics in this lovely lovely hb series, [bookcover:Pride and Prejudice|..."


I love these editions!


message 16: by Trish (new)

Trish (bowedbookshelf) Kathy wrote: "I'd be curious to know whether the rest of the BOtNists find, as I do, that most current U.S. book covers are annoying..Do today's publishers have something against paint-and-brush or sketch artists"

Speaking of great artwork on covers, I think the Craig Johnson covers are spectacular. A verey good reason to pick up this wonderful series set in Wyoming. The Cold Dish is the first in the series.


message 17: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Kathy wrote: "Do today's publishers have something against paint-and-brush or sketch artists? "

Well, I know that commissioning a painting specifically for a book jacket is very $$$, so that may explain some of it. Pat Conroy's jackets are painted by illustrator Wendell Minor, and I think Maeve Binchy covers are original paintings. So I think there must be a certain level of author who gets that treatment. I do see an awful lot of stock photography, which at least the better publishers somehow enhance or modify.

I think the best book designers now tend to work a lot with type and imagery, and general design. I know that the cover for Stieg Larsson's
The Girl Who Played with Fire was taken from a photo of the jacket designer's daughter's hair, and then manipulated to make that cool design. More about that here (caution, minor spoilers, but nothing you probably wouldn't have already figured out): http://knopf.knopfdoubleday.com/2010/...


message 18: by Trish (new)

Trish (bowedbookshelf) very nice story on the history behind The Girl Who Played with Fire. thanks for that.


message 19: by Frankie (new)

Frankie (thefranklynn) The Bookrageous folks talked about this in one of their episodes on literary pet peeves, but am I the only one who thinks that literary fiction directed at women seem to have the worst covers ever? There seem to be lots of out of focus beach shots, pictures of shoes, random gardening equipment, and umbrellas. Seems to be overly sentimental and really, really turns me off. I have to get a personal recommendation from someone I trust to overcome my prejudice and pick it up.

On a positive note, I just picked up The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier and I LOVE this cover! A simple line drawing that is so pretty to me... and it has those fancy pages that are different widths and makes it seem old-timey (what is this called?). Anyways, if a book has those pages, I'm sold.


message 20: by Kate (new)

Kate | 9 comments Frankie wrote: "The Bookrageous folks talked about this in one of their episodes on literary pet peeves, but am I the only one who thinks that literary fiction directed at women seem to have the worst covers ever?..."

Do the pages look somewhat like they are ripped? They are probably deckle-edged; a fancy paper term. I haven't seen it, though, so I could be wrong!


message 21: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Yes, deckle-edged pages! They tend to be on the more "literary" titles, as an homage to the way books looked when they were handbound. Here's an explanation from a longer post on The Millions: http://www.themillions.com/2010/02/de...

"The deckle edge dates back to a time when you used to need a knife to read a book. Those rough edges simulate the look of pages that have been sliced open by the reader. The printing happened on large sheets of paper which were then folded into rectangles the size of the finished pages and bound. The reader then sliced open the folds."


message 22: by Frankie (new)

Frankie (thefranklynn) Exactly, yes- deckle-edged pages! I love them. And I love that term... Now that I think of it, I want to say that one of the Shakespeare books I've read (maybe Will in the World or Interred with Their Bones?) talks about the value of a Folio with the pages uncut.

Thanks for the official term - I will enjoy feeling well informed the next time I see those beautiful pages at the bookstore!


message 23: by Ben (new)

Ben | 1 comments I just heard my voicemail played on the most recent podcast (July 18th). Silly me - only after having heard it did I realize that I didn't say who I was. The comment was about how I really like the cover of The Time Traveller's Wife . . . and this is Ben in Dallas. There - all is right with The World, now.


message 24: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Hi Ben! Thanks again for calling, and thanks for stepping up and introducing yourself :)


message 25: by Gerald (new)

Gerald Miller | 821 comments Lisa wrote: "I realized after listening to the podcast and then pondering it for a few days that I use the cover design--not necessarily to buy or not buy the book, but it helps me decide which book to listen t..."
The cover of "Maine" is somewhat controversial because it really is not supposed to have anything to do with the story.


message 26: by Elaine (new)

Elaine | 2 comments Something that might interest folks about book cover designs -- One of the Princeton University Public Lecture Series events in 2010 was Knopf art director Chip Kidd. [It is a free video podcast that you can get through ITunes or you can download from their site here. Required disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Princeton in any way.]

He goes through some basics of graphic design and how he came up with some of his famous covers. Not being involved in the publishing industry myself, I found it an interesting peak behind the scenes.


message 27: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Kowaczek Anyone know what New Comment -1 means?


message 28: by JO (new)

JO | 7 comments I will NEVER EVER by a book that has the movie version as the cover!


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