Very. Well, in my humble opinion they are very, very important and while there might be some moral truth to the well known saying, I think you can judge a book by its cover (even if you might not be able to judge the book by its author’s name – see J.K Rowling/Robert Galbraith!).
I am a very visual person so I find that I am regularly drawn to books by their covers. In this way, I often discover a new author purely on the basis of an appealing/intriguing/beautiful cover which makes me pick it up, read the back page and pay my cash to take it home.
Familiar covers can guide us towards what we like, and publishers and booksellers use this to their advantage. Shields and swords; sumptuous, period dresses; grey ties and whips – these all suggest (rightly, or wrongly) what the reader can expect from the book. Then, of course, there is the occasional, intriguing curve-ball, such as this:
Covers are especially on my mind this week because I have started initial cover design discussions for my novels with my editor (even typing that sentence brings a huge smile to my face!). I love the whole process and can quite easily get lost for hours finding images, thinking of themes and layouts and colour schemes which suit the subject matter, style and feel of my books and when it comes to getting the perfect cover for your own words, there is an undeniable element of wanting – so much – to get it right. I am excited at what the coming weeks and months will bring, on that front.
With covers in mind, I have been so excited to see two lovely covers for debut novels this week. Firstly, LETTERS FROM SKYE by Jessica Brockmole which launched in the US and UK this week. There is something wonderfully compelling about this cover – the woman, the colours, the water – stunning, and I cannot wait to read the book.
Author Heather Webb revealed, today, the cover for her debut novel BECOMING JOSEPHINE, which is released from Plume/Penguin this December. Heather’s novel is already receiving wonderful praise and with such an elegant, evocative cover, which is sure to make us all want to find out more about Napoleon’s Josephine, I am sure it will go on to be a huge success.
I wish both authors all the very best for their novels.
Of course, books didn’t have artwork on their covers when authors such as Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Jane Austen were writing. Their novels were simply plain, leather-bound or cloth-bound and, in the case of the Bronte sisters, didn’t even carry their actual names. Dust-jackets only became more common during the late 19th century.
How fascinating, when we think how universally successful so many of those classic novels have become, because – of course – the decorative cover is the image which guides us towards a novel, but it is the words, the prose, the narrative, the dialogue, the characters and the experience the writer offers the reader which really stays with us as we turn all our beloved books sideways and display a lovely collection of book spines on our shelves!
It may be a truth universally acknowledged that a book will ultimately be measured on the merits of the writing, rather than the cover design, but I, for one, will always love a brilliant book that little bit more, if I also love its cover.
And just out of sheer interest, here is the hardback cover for ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ – debut crime novel by ‘Robert Galbraith’ aka J.K Rowling. I’m not a fan of crime, but I actually really like this cover (it doesn’t ‘feel’ particularly crime-y to me). Perhaps you can judge a book by the cover, but this fascinating ‘pseudonym’ revelation makes you think twice about judging the author!