There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Judging Books By Their Covers March 15, 2014

Filed under: Publishing,Reading — thereanddraftagain @ 7:08 pm
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Covers are really on my mind right now as I try to figure out what I would want on the cover of my dystopian, which has led me to think about what makes a really great cover. I know what my personal tastes are, but I also know if I had judged some of my favorite books by cover alone instead of the blurb or hearsay, I would have missed out on some amazing stories. These are just a few that have beautiful covers and are amazing stories, but not the kind of cover that would draw my eye:

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There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these covers, and they are some of my favorite books. In fact, after reading Faith of the Fallen, it became my favorite fantasy cover. If you’ve read the books, you know the impact the statues Richard made had on the story and on Nicci in particular, and I love that Richard stands so tall in front of their glory but looks so small in comparison. It is all very moving once you read the story, but wouldn’t have evoked the same reaction out of me if I had no idea what was going on.

I’m not sure why, but covers that look like paintings don’t draw me in. I prefer covers that have a cinematic, move poster-type feel to them, with the characters front and center and the action surrounding them.

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And yet, some of the best fantasy series out there have covers that are more artistic and classic. If you look at the most well-known and best-selling names in fantasy (Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Mercedes Lackey, Robin Hobb, Neil Gaiman, etc) and you will find their covers match that description: artistic and classic (urban fantasy best sellers tend to be a different story with more cinematic and action-packed covers like Patricia Briggs and Kim Harrison). There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but these are the generalizations I’ve seen.

So what makes a great cover in your eyes? What draws you in? And what are some favorite books you would have missed out on if you had only judged the book by its cover?

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28 Responses to “Judging Books By Their Covers”

  1. aldreaalien Says:

    I tend to overlook covers in favour of blurbs. But I do prefer the classic styles of having it drawn rather than a photo manipulation.

  2. I have to admit that my cover bias let me walk past the A Song of Ice and Fire series many times and they are now my second favourite series.

  3. Lynette Noni Says:

    Great post! I’ve been thinking a lot about covers too lately since my publisher wanted an idea of the sort of visuals I like… There’s just so much to consider! But it’s exciting πŸ™‚

  4. N. E. White Says:

    I read the Map of Time by Felix Palma just because it had such a cool cover. Beyond something like that (that just stuns me on an artistic level), I like covers that have a clear, easy-to-read title and byline. Everything else is just window-dressing.

  5. djgarcia94 Says:

    I think covers are very important, because people will still judge books by them even if they believe the old maxim. There are countless industrial grade fantasy paperbacks I steer clear from because of the covers.

    • Sad to say it, but there are so many that I have been told to read but the cover is meh, and the blurb just doesn’t entice me. I find most of my exciting reads from friends because I very much so judge books by their covers. And sometimes by their movie trailers (Haven’t read Divergent, but the movie trailer has me interested).

  6. deshipley Says:

    I think I’m reaching the point where one of the biggest draws for me is a cover that doesn’t look like the twin of a hundred other covers I’ve seen. I place far more value on originality than I do on trends, so when I start to see too much of the same, it sours me on the whole batch.

    • Alex Hurst Says:

      Yes! I totally agree. When BuzzFeed comes out with those “clone cover” articles, it always cracks me up. Especially the “man walking in fog” and “decapitated-by-cover’s-border-woman in dress”.

      • I haven’t seen those articles yet, but I am going to be on the lookout for them. I’m especially interested now in what has been overdone, or is on the brink of being overdone.

      • Alex Hurst Says:

        Here’s the link to one: http://www.buzzfeed.com/lukelewis/19-book-cover-cliches

        They’re pretty funny, and it definitely shows you the danger of buying a single image from a stock website.

      • Those. Were. Awesome. I love “Bloke with a sword” “Bloke in a hood” “Bloke in a hood with a sword” lol And yes, I always recommend paying a cover artist to create their own images over stock images. I will use stock images for teasers to promote a book, but I don’t look at them for covers. I do understand why people use them since it is cheaper than paying a cover artist, but I shy away from them.

      • Alex Hurst Says:

        Glad you enjoyed them, haha. πŸ˜€ Thought you would. And yep! Unique covers are always the best!

  7. I seem to be the opposite to you – I really dislike cinematic-type book covers! And also ones with people one. The simpler the better, in my eyes. My favourite out of the ones you’ve shared is A Game of Thrones, as there’s nothing really on there that gives the game away, so you’d have to pick it up and look at the blurb to see what’s going on. Perhaps that might put some people off, but that’s exactly what draws me in.

    It’s funny how unintentionally biased we can be with book covers!

    • My husband and some of my friends are the same way. My husband prefers covers that look like paintings, but he would take a blank cover with nothing but the title on it over one that looks like a movie poster. =D I can see how the simpler the better would be a draw–it leaves so much to the imagination and already creates a mysterious air to the book, pulling you in further. I kinda like that, actually. Maybe I will look at those kinds of covers in a different light now. πŸ˜‰

  8. Alex Hurst Says:

    I agree with you! Though I think our aesthetics are almost opposite. I almost always pass up books that have photo-manipulated covers, haha. I passed up Eragon too, because I didn’t like the art (it looked very YA, which I’m to understand it’s not, not really). And recently, I picked up the adult covers for Harry Potter, which got me excited to read the series. (I know, I haven’t read it yet! *gasp*)

  9. Kate Sparkes Says:

    Ooh, a subject very close to my heart at the moment! I’m about to approve the final design of my first cover, so I’m having conniptions over this issue.

    I find it interesting that my tastes tend to run opposite to yours, but I’ve ended up with something in the style you say you love (which, BTW, I find encouraging). I wanted symbolic, but went with what seemed more likely to sell to my target audience, which is a character on the cover. The biggest problem was that I had NO ideas going into this what I wanted, so thank heavens for patient artists! I love my cover, but I know that it can’t possibly appeal to everyone, so I’m really quite nervouscited about it all.

    One of my favourite things about deciding to publish independently is the fact that if I want to try a different cover later, maybe experiment and see which type really sells better for me, I can.

    • I feel you, and was also lucky enough to have a very patient cover artist to work with me on my first book cover. She even gave me two to choose from, and I might experiment with changing it to see if it helps sales. And yes, characters on covers are apparently really trending right now. That can be good and bad, because some self-published authors use stock photos so you end up with carbon copies of other covers. And also, some might try to put the cover together on their own, and you can really tell which authors have experience with photoshop and which don’t. =D

  10. Such a great post and comments! It’s weird to me the different cover choices for the UK / US market. One of my favourite covers is the UK cover for Green Rider http://aidanmoher.com/blog/2011/02/art/cover-art/cover-art-two-covers-for-blackveil-by-kristen-britain/. yet the US cover didn’t really catch my eye at all. This is also an issue where they use different names for different markets.


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