The Compulsive Reader: Cover Talk: Judging Covers and the Coverflip

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cover Talk: Judging Covers and the Coverflip

"Don't judge a book by its cover."

We've all heard it said, and we even say it ourselves over and over again. But in this consumerist/capitalistic/whatever-you-want-to-call-it age where marketing is king, we all know that book covers actually matter a lot. It's why I blog about so many cover changes mid-series, and why we make a huge deal out of cover reveals (anyone watching Veronica Roth on TV tomorrow morning?).

I think at this point, it's almost a commonly-known fact that authors get pretty much no say in their covers. If they did, I think that the landscape of book covers would be vastly different (and probably a lot better). Sometimes, publishers put out covers that make everyone shake their heads. Sometimes they put out covers that are offensive (we all remember Liar by Justine Larbalestier, right?), and sometimes they do random things, like publish a bazillion headless covers, and then turn around and publish covers with body-less faces. (And to be completely fair, publishers can put out really awesome, gender-neutral covers. They just don't do it often enough in my opinion.)

But I think one of the most rampant issues in book covers and marketing is what Maureen Johnson pointed out yesterday--gendered book covers that don't take in account the story, but the author's gender. You can read this article to learn more about the issue, and check out a gallery of the coverflip challenge. Here's one example, with the true cover of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian on the left, and the feminine version on the right.

Do you think that books covers need to factor in consideration of author's gender and intended audience? Or should book covers always align with the story being told? (In a perfect world, yes, but this isn't a perfect world...) Is there room for artistic expression and creativity? 

As someone who is always worried about whether or not a book is losing some of its teen male audience because of covers, I'm interested in hearing your opinions. There are a lot of YA covers out there that I think really discourage male readers. All I can say is...thank goodness for the privacy of e-reading?


Hell-Bent to Read said...

I don't think book covers should have anything to do with the author's gender. Most readers don't care if the author of a book is a male or female, so I've always been confused as to why covers are VERY gender-based. It's quite ridiculous!

I absolutely think that authors should have more say in their cover art. Like you said, I think the YA genre lacks a big male audience BECAUSE some of these covers are straight-up cheesy.

LinWash said...

I saw the article and had to laugh at the ridiculousness of some of the covers. Which points to what MarvelousCatoReviews said. I really don't see why there are "girl" covers and "guy" covers. Why can't a cover just be a cover.

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

Loved the examples people posted-there are some really true points made in during the conversation! Hopefully publishers will start getting the message and make better covers.