August 29, 2012

Cover Love

I love book covers. I'm fascinated by the concept of designing an image to represent hundreds of pages of fiction. I love the experience of being drawn to a book by a jacket that captures my attention, and I'm also interested by what covers turn me off.

Many of the links I select to feature in my Good Stuff Out There sections are about cover art, such as this investigation of how ebooks are affecting cover design and this review of ugly covers for great books. I tend to read everything on this topic that I come across. I was recently intrigued by the blog Talking Covers, which asks authors and artists to discuss the design process, and I appreciated this detailed analysis of young adult book covers that includes infographics.

The discussion at that last link points out that there are trends in cover art within genres. For example, many bloggers have noted the current proliferation of dead girls on YA book covers, and the latest fad in literary fiction seems to be cover art consisting mostly of handwriting. So I wasn't too surprised when I was in a bookstore with my mom this summer and saw a book with a dog's head peeking out from the bottom of the cover.

"That looks just like the cover of THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN," I told my mom. "I guess that's the requirement now for books about dogs."

A few minutes later, another cover caught my eye. "That book has the same photo as a different book I read."

"Oh, another similar cover?" Mom said.

"No, I mean, it's the exact same photo. That's so weird." I filed this information away and wasn't sure what to do with it until I listened to a recent Books on the Nightstand episode about book covers. They discussed a blog, Caustic Cover Critic, that collects examples of cover art using the the same stock photos or images. Turns out this happens all the time, and there are often even more than two books based on the same source image. I submitted my own duplicate find to the collection.

While books with nearly identical covers are unfortunate, I do enjoy the serendipity when covers with similarities come into my life around the same time. Right now, I'm reading two amazing recent releases, SHINE SHINE SHINE by Lydia Netzer and THE AGE OF MIRACLES by Karen Thompson Walker, and both books feature gorgeous blue, star-filled covers. If I want to extend my run of blue, star-filled covers, I can move on to another intriguing new novel, THE DOG STARS by Peter Heller. Maybe I'll read nothing but blue, starry books from now on.

My love of covers is probably my biggest hesitation about ebooks. I'm reading THE AGE OF MIRACLES on my Kindle, so I haven't been able to really enjoy its cover. The Kindle gives me just a grainy black-and-white cover image to look at, so it's only because of encountering the cover online that I knew of its starry blueness. I still get all the words, and that's the real point of a novel, but I do feel I'm missing out on something.

On that bookstore trip with my mom, I purchased A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING by Dave Eggers mainly because it has a textured, tactile cover that made me want to possess it in print form. You can see in this photo how the letters and patterns are carved into the thick cover. I don't know if the future of publishing will be more collectible editions like this one, or if it will bring the extinction of hardcover books.

At least I have no doubt that there will still be books in print whenever I manage to publish my own novel. One of my many recurring daydreams involves musing about what my cover will look like. I hope my book's cover looks okay in grainy black-and-white, and but mostly I'm looking forward to holding the real thing in my hand.

3 comments:

Henri said...

Comparing different covers for the same book is another interesting thing to look for -- most relevant for books that have been around the longest.

mamagotcha said...

We were at a book signing last night for an author with only two published novels, but both have multiple covers, so it was really interesting to see all the different versions that showed up. There was one where he sighed wistfully, "Ah, the barechested-boy cover! Such a beautiful picture... just the wrong one for this book!"

Lisa Eckstein said...

Yes, different covers for the same book are fascinating! There's the case where a book has been around for a long time, and you can see how the fashions and sensibilities have changed across decades. And then there's the situation of a book being published in multiple countries -- sometimes the covers are fairly similar, and sometimes they focus on quite different aspects of the book. Also interesting when the title changes name between countries and isn't merely a translation of the original title.

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