Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Fair Book Cover: or Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover (Or its Title)

How do you decide how to title your book or make a cover? There must be a lot of marketing involved in these plans because covers, and even titles, sometimes, change depending on which country the book is going to be released in. For example, if you look at the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella, I noticed that the US released books are very bright, colorful and cartoonish. This is in contrast to The UK released editions which are still cartoonish but dimmer in color hues and more emphasis is placed on the words in the title. (Se below):

UK (Left)     Vs.     US (Right)

As you can see the UK versions of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series all conformed to the same style of cover. The US also had unity in their covers, however, by the 5th book in the series, Shopaholic and Baby, they no longer maintained the Shopping “tag” look and instead, conformed to the Shopping “bag” covers which were created for a second release in the US. The latest Shopaholic novel, Mini Shopaholic has deterred from the convention of both the UK and US art work (as you can see below). However, the UK edition still maintains a “duller” appearance using softer colors, whereas the US edition maintains its vibrancy:

     UK (Left)  Vs.  US (Right)

An even more obvious example of the difference between the UK and US editions of a book’s release is evident in Lindsey Kelk’s debut “I Heart” series. The UK books have more emphasis on the words in the title and the color palette of the novel is much plainer. This is in stark contrast to the US released “I Heart” novels in which the covers portray a cartoon woman with luggage in tow, staring off into the distance of the city of the book’s title. In fact, I recently ordered the first novel of the series, I Heart New York, and was somewhat disappointed that I received the more “bland” UK edition (See the difference below):

UK (Left) VS. US (Right)

Having received this book, it really got me thinking about what makes a cover so much more appealing to me than others? You know when you walk into a bookstore, solely to peruse the shelves and you don’t really know exactly what you are looking for but there is a brilliantly colored book (or two) that catches your eye like a diamond shining brightly in the middle of the masses of other books in the room. Or you keep taking books out by their spine to see what they are called, maybe they are written by a familiar author or maybe it was because that flashy cover caught your attention – either way, something about the title either grabs you and keeps your attention or causes you to gently place it back on the shelf (or maybe not so gently if it arouses something displeasing in your mind). So what is it that makes or breaks these books? Is it the bright cartoon characters on the cover or lack thereof? Is it the alliteration, irony or satirical nature of the title? You know the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Do we really live up to this demand on readers? Is it really possible not to form a preliminary opinion on a book, its author and/or its content based on our first glance impression of its cover page? I’m sure if you ask the marketing team that created that cover, they would most gladly (and proudly) shake their heads, “no”. After all, if we did not all make an initial judgment on the book, they would be out of a job!

So what I want to know is: what draws you to pick up one book over another? What kinds of titles make you think “Now that’s a book I’d like to read?” And if you are an author (aspiring, published or otherwise), please share with me how you chose your title and what kind of input (if any) you had on your book’s cover? As a psychology major, I am always curious about the inner workings of the human mind and spirit. So what makes a book signal out to the brain that feeling of happiness and glee that comes when we make our final purchase and bring it home to place amongst the rest of our collection on its proper shelf? I know for me, I love bright, nail polish colors, I love the cartoons and I love the vibrancy I see on each chick lit cover. As far as titles go, I also really love books that make a play on words, like a double entendre, or those that use alliteration, irony, an allegory, historical or other reference. For example, even when I create blog posts, I often try to make my titles a play on words by using the existing title of a book I'm currently reading and twisting it up to reflect the post's content. Now your turn: What books draw your eye?