I am obviously wrong. But I still have an opinion. It is mine, and it is not my intention to insult people. In the end a book is a book, and it’s the contents that really matter. Not the cover. If I don’t like the cover, it is the artist’s work I am complaining about. Not the author’s. Unless they are one and the same.

And whereas I’m mainly thinking of what might put me off buying or reading a book, the same could be said for the prospective reader whose taste in covers is the opposite to mine.

Until just the other week I was so certain of how right I am. Then Adèle Geras went and informed me that I was wrong about the new covers of Ann Turnbull’s Quaker books. (I thought the old ones were better.)

My main hang-ups are the covers featuring a girl’s face. I’m not anti-girl, or even anti-face, but if they don’t look like they’d be my friend at school – and they usually don’t – then I feel alienated. (I know. I’m no longer at school. But you never lose that sense of insecurity.) But if the face appeals to countless of young readers, then that’s good.

Celia Rees, Witch Child

The book which demonstrates this best is Witch Child by Celia Rees, which is a marvellous novel. I have always hated the cover. I understand it’s reckoned to be a perfect success. But it’s actually a book where I’d want to cover the book in brown paper. (And wouldn’t that lead to misunderstandings on the train!)

It’s the historical teen novel that I feel suffers the most from these girl-faced covers. The girls are modern girls, looking nothing like the period of the story within or even like the heroine. On the other hand, if she looks like a potential friend, you’ll want to read the book, won’t you?

More Bloody Horowitz

When I got Anthony Horowitz’s More Bloody Horowitz I thought it had a fantastic cover. So did the Resident IT Consultant, who as you will recall liked the book enough to want read it anew. But when I asked Daughter if it would make her read the book, she said it would do the opposite. And she’s a fan of Anthony’s.

Fem söker en skatt

Then there are the nostalgics. I used to love (still do) the Swedish cover of Five on a Treasure Island as it was in the early 1960s. I’d have wanted that book even had I not seen and loved the film first. I like the old British cover too.

You have the new-old nostalgic covers that can sell almost anything. At least to us old ones. Maybe today’s young readers only want modern pictures to describe their books, whatever they are about.

I like the new Harry Potter covers, despite having ‘grown up’ (yeah, right) on the original ones. Whereas my faithful commenter Cynical didn’t. Perhaps it was too early to redesign them?

How about the covers that look good enough to eat? Or to stroke or just generally slaver over? Those covers can never be wrong as far as looks are concerned. They might just be covering a story that you don’t like, of course. But at least the book looks lovely.

Perfect to caress and perfect to read, describe Debi Gliori’s Pure Dead series.

Velvet by Debi Gliori

For the most part, the covers don’t really matter, as long as they don’t prevent you from buying an extremely good book.

One of my childhood favourites, which I can no longer recall either the title of or its author, came with no cover. And no end. Ouch. It was ‘inherited’ from Eldest Cousin, who had presumably cut it out of a magazine, published in bits every week, to be collected in a Dickensian fashion. (No, she’s not that old.) Hence the lack of cover. And possibly also hence the lack of an end, whether she never got it, or it was lost. Still, it was a very good book. You could sort of imagine the end.

And as I finish this post I will endeavour to remind myself that I am not young. These books are not made for me, however much I like them, and make me forget myself. So my opinions are irrelevant. (I just wanted to share.)

10 responses to “Covered

  1. Interesting thoughts – and a tricky area! I’ve been having the cover of my book designed recently, and we did have deep discussion about who the proposed ‘target’ audience was. I just hope it doesn’t alienate too many potential readers.
    I do agree with you on historical novels with modern girls faces – sometimes a portrait of the time is more appropriate and fetching.

  2. I agree with you about the rash of faces we had on covers a while ago. Some of them seemed a bit snooty to me. But Debi Gliori’s covers? Shudder! I hate touching them, and would definitely need brown paper.

    Personally, I’m a sucker for any book with medieval-ish lettering and designs on the cover. Ain’t diversity grand?

  3. I suppose it is, Linda. We seem to have something to disagree on, at last.

    Katkasia, it’s an impossible task, really. But what is worst is the sameness of covers. Like clothes or interior decorating, you could easily place them in the right decade, once we get past this black vampire or girl-face period.

  4. ”We seem to have something to disagree on . . . ”

    Oh, no!

  5. Oh Bookwitch, I never said you were wrong! I loved the original covers for Ann’s books, too, esp the first one but just said I liked these as well! I don’t mind a girl’s face nearly as much as a torso with no head which seems to be a fashion. I liked the Witch Child cover but agree that perhaps she’s a little too modern looking for accuracy. But very striking. I love that Horowitz cover. It’s an interesting area!

  6. Don’t talk to me about covers. Just. Don’t.

  7. I know, Adèle. Just had to blame it on someone.

    Meg! Covers! Covers..? (Yours are fine, aren’t they?)

  8. I wish I could copy this article to my publishers!

  9. You can. You could. Or I could. But we won’t, will we?

  10. They are rejacketing all my Casson books. Soon I will be getting the usual preliminary battle lines “Everybody here thinks this is absolutely wonderful…”
    There will be great pinkness and hard faced wenches glaring from the cover roughs. Harsh things will be said. References to W H Smiths and other potentates will be flung about. The polite illusion that we are all in this together will be swept away as if it never was. It will get all Gothic and cross…

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