Judging By Cover

I love books. I probably have more books than anything else in my room; they’re double stacked on book case shelves and piled in baskets and on every other surface.

I’ll be the first to admit that I judge books by their cover.

Everything from the artwork/photography to the print techniques and papers to the quality/uniqueness of the typography have to say something to me before I’ll even consider picking the book up (after that, it’s up to the inside jacket flap).

When it comes to the cover, though, it almost feels as though if it doesn’t have enough attention to detail or interest to it, neither will the content of the story. 9/10 times, that’s proven true (*gagTheNotebookgag*).

Why this sudden talk about book covers?
It might just have two reasons… number one being that I have an assignment for class to redesign a specific book cover (1 of 3 novels)… and the second reason being that I’ve been asked to produce a mock up cover design and illustrations for a good friend’s children’s book manuscript! Now, I know that publishers don’t always accept the artwork that accompanies a manuscript, but hey, it’s worth a shot. And great overlapping practice.

My friend wrote this kid’s book when we took a writing course together, and even a year later I remembered that A) the story was adorable, and B) I immediately had a visual style in mind that matched the story. So it was super exciting that she asked me out of the blue if I could do some artwork. (Sidenote: I won’t be uploading those images for legal reasons.)

Favourite (Book) (Covers)
I decided to start rooting through my book collection to analyze what book covers I personally like, and what I hate (e.g. I’ve come to the conclusion that I hate anything that just takes movie posters and plops them on the cover of books, or that just looks tacky *coughNicholasSparksBookscough*)

So, in no particular order:

  1. "The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer" by Michelle Hodkin

    “The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer” by Michelle Hodkin

    “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” by Michelle Hodkin
    Besides being incredibly well written –to the point where one minute the reader is laughing, and the next they’re so scared that they have to turn on all of the lights– and being my favourite book to date, this book cover appeals to me in so many ways. Sort of a paranormal kind of novel, the photography instantly drew me in. It’s creepy, for sure, but very intriguing. Is the man saving her? Drowning her? Is she drowning him? The exclusion of the man and woman’s faces has a hugely creepy effect, with the greenish hue of the water. The font is odd– I wasn’t sure how I felt about it before reading the book, just with the way that everything is overlapping and messy. But on reading the novel, nothing could fit better.

    But my favourite thing might just be the texture of the book. I’ll never convert to an e-reader if I have anything to say about it; I love the tactile experience of a book and turning pages. This cover has a soft/satin-y/pearly kind of paper– it’s almost rubber-ish, but not quite. It’s hard to explain. There are metallic inks that give the book an interesting sheen. All of this paired together drew me in enough to read the inside jacket flap and to buy the book. There is a just-as-well-written-sequel, but I feel that the imagery is stronger on this novel; it really reflects the main character’s state of mind and the essence of the novel.


  2. "Wildwood Dancing" by Juliet Marillier

    “Wildwood Dancing” by Juliet Marillier

    “Wildwood Dancing” by Juliet Marillier
    Maybe one of the most intricate and detailed covers I have ever seen, the whimsy of this cover drew me in to the point of making me redraw it once. I’m a sucker for intricate, beautiful, detailed art, and this cover was so beautiful that (when I saw it five years ago) I had to buy it instantly, even though it wasn’t in hard back. The story was pretty great too. More could have maybe been done with the type, but meh. I can’t complain. Every time I pick this up, I notice and appreciate something new.


  3. "Cybele's Secret" by Juliet Marillier

    “Cybele’s Secret” by Juliet Marillier

    “Cybele’s Secret” also by Juliet Marillier
    Might as well put sequels beside each other. Again, this cover is beautifully intricate, and makes sense upon reading the story. Detail, detail, detail, I really love it.


  4. "Possession" by Elana Johnson

    “Possession” by Elana Johnson

    “Possession” by Elana Johnson
    In sharp contrast to the intricate detail of the Juliet Marillier series I showed above, Elana Johnson’s “Possession” stood out on the shelf for it’s sharp minimalism, interesting photo, and again, for the beautiful pearly, tactile paper stock that the jacket was printed in. It gave me extremely high hopes for reading the book; what was with the butterfly in the ice? I can’t say that I was satisfied with the book, though. It was written very abruptly without enough development. But hey…the cover works (even if the proof is in the pudding ultimately).



  5. "Delirium" by Lauren Oliver

    “Delirium” by Lauren Oliver

    “Delirium” by Lauren Oliver
    One of the best books I’ve ever read (with the worst “ending” in writing history in its third following novel), I was really drawn to this book on the shelf for the imagery. The direct eye-contact that the potential-reader makes with the woman is almost startling. I’ve heard that books with close-cropped faces sell more because the eye-contact draws people in; I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true after going through many of the book covers on my shelf. In general, though, the colours and the type of this cover appealed to me. Again, this book has a deliciously tactile texture to it that made reading it really enjoyable.


  6. "Insatiable" by Meg Cabot

    “Insatiable” by Meg Cabot

    “Insatiable” by Meg Cabot
    I don’t like vampire books. Which was especially ironic not only because the cover of this made me pick one up, but because the main character is jaded by the concept of vampires because of this vomit-content vampirisim that’s been swarming youth culture. I digress. Again, the eye contact of the photo drew me in. The eyes are a startling blue, and there is an element of mystery by having the face partially turned away. Paired with the cheap price tag and the desire to read a light book (which turned out to be great!), this was a good buy. The cover was also embossed and had a neat matte texture to it that I quite liked.


  7. "Ashes" by Ilsa J. Bick

    “Ashes” by Ilsa J. Bick

    “Ashes” by Ilsa J. Bick
    Another cover with another face and more direct eye contact. I’ve barely gotten into this book, but I liked the cover when it was sitting on the shelf. There’s a metallic ink/foil overlaid into the image which made it stand out that I quite liked. It’s some kind of post-apocalyptic world, I think, so it seems like this photo almost captures wist for the past or tough times.


  8. "Fearless" by Francine Pascal

    “Fearless” by Francine Pascal

    “Fearless” by Francine Pascall
    I haven’t started this book yet, but the stark white imagery stood out in sharp contrast on the shelf at the book store along with (lo and behold) another face! Amid a section full of grisly blacks and greys and reds (vampire invasion into youth novels), the white was a major beacon on the shelf. I’m pretty sure it has a pearly effect to it, as well. Either way, the cover has me excited to read it. It’s also interesting to note that many young adult novels have the faces of young women on the covers; I don’t usually see male faces on teen/young adult fiction covers.


  9. "Serephinah" by Rachel Hartman

    “Serephinah” by Rachel Hartman

    “Seraphinah” by Rachel Hartman
    In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this book cover when I first saw it. It was different from everything around it. While young adult/teen fiction is saturated in photography, it was interesting to see an etching/engraving/woodblock kind of effect on a cover. That difference was enough to intrigue me, along with the jacket description and the rave reviews featured on the book. (And hey; it was a great read!) The title is also embossed and foil stamped, which I quite appreciated.


  10. "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee

    “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

    “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
    I don’t know if I ever fell so deeply and quickly in love with a book. This little paperback redesign from 2010 is one of my absolute favourite cover designs (and pieces of literature). It has a sweetness and an innocence to it that really reflects Scout to me, and yet it feels modern and funky enough to draw in a new generation of readers. The vector illustration and the hand rendered type are really quite quirky and beautiful, and I even like the relationship between the back cover type and the silhouette of Jem.


Final Thoughts
It’s interesting to notice that in the world of young adult fiction, there is a LOT of photography these days, with a lot of close cropped portraits.

My advice of the day: judge all books by their covers.


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