Thursday, March 3, 2011

Judging a Book By It's Cover

OK, so I know we're not really supposed to judge books by their covers and all. But we're all friends here and we're all readers, so we can admit it right? We all do it. We see something shiny or pretty that catches our eye and it doesn't matter what the book is about, but we're going to pick it up. Or something about the cover we don't like so we pass on the book.


I'll admit it-I'm guilty of this and I do it all the time. But I have cover lust first, then I read what the book is about and if it sounds intriguing, I give it a try. I think it's this way for most people. But I was thinking about how I've judged books in the past and how I passed on books I probably would have liked because of the cover when I was younger.


When I was in elementary school I came across this book:
And I totally judged it by it's cover! Well, maybe not the cover so much, but the title for sure. I was a good Christian girl and to me the book was about a girl who was questioning God so it sounded bad to me, so I never read it.

I read Are You There God, It's Me Margaret a couple of years ago for my children's lit class and I really liked it. And yes my idea of what it was about as a kid was totally off. Most likely I would have loved this book as a young girl because I was asking a lot of the same questions and worrying about growing up. But I judged it by it's cover and never read it.

I still have major cover lust over books (anything with a beautiful dress on the cover-I'm sold!) But I don't just look at the cover-I actually research the book, read a little bit about it and then decide (and OK pretty covers help A LOT!) But every day at work I see tweens and teens look at only the cover. I can booktalk the book and make it sound awesome, but if they don't like the cover, most of the time they won't pick it up.

I try to booktalk Airborn by Kenneth Oppel all the time, but my teens pass on it! My library copy has a boring cover (I don't think so, but the teens tell me it is).


So I'm interested-What books did you judge by their covers as a kid or teen (or recently!)? Did you judge books more as a kid than you do now? If you're a librarian or have kids or teens-what books do you notice tweens and teens passing on and juding by the cover-good and bad?

14 comments:

  1. I don't know that I ever refused to read a book because of it's cover. Actually, I hardly ever noticed covers until I started blogging. Or at least it wasn't a factor that influenced whether or not I read a book. Now, a good cover is much more likely to affect me.
    I do remember loving the cover to Just So Long As We're Together - my fav Judy Blume book.

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  2. Y'know, I don't recall judging books by their covers when I was a kid, but I'm certainly more aware of them now that I'm trying to get kids to pick up books! And of course I definitely pick up books because I'm intrigued by the cover.

    We asked our teens what they consider when browsing for books and the #1 answer was the cover! I think as our world becomes increasingly visual, covers are becoming more and more important. So that'll be really interesting as we progress into ebooks - I wonder if books will always have cover images or if we veer more towards digital media if "covers" might become a thing of the past...

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  3. I'm not a teen or tween, just an adult who reads a ton of YA fiction and the one cover that strikes me as "off" is Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. I can't tell you how many times I passed over this book even though Amazon kept recommended it to me. The cover looks like a tacky YA paranormal Harlequin romance - the exact type of book I avoid. I finally read the book and loved it! The cover now confused me even more. The book is humorous and witty and NONE of that comes through on the cover.

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  4. When I was a teen I don't remember judging books by their covers but YA then wasn't what it is today.
    Then when I started reading YA again I did judge books by their covers. Amazon kept recommending Janette Rallison but her covers just looked too juvenile. Then I remembered a book I had loved as a teen & found out it was the first book Janette had ever written so I got her books with their not so pretty covers and loved all of them. And thankfully her covers have gotten lots better!

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  5. Alison-I don't know if I did it a lot as a kid, but I just really remember passing on Margaret as a tween. I see my teens pass on books all the time because of a cover!

    Abby-Great point! What will become of covers and will they still be a selling point with ebooks? I hope they don't go away!

    Jennifer-I like the cover of Paranormalcy, but I agree, it is a bit off and doesn't represent the book very well. But as I mentioned earlier, beautiful dresses and I'm sold so that's probably why I like it!:)

    Connie-Yeah, when I was a teen all the covers were bad so there wasn't as much to judge-haha!:) I do hate when a book looks more kidish than it really is because it's loosing some of the audience.

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  6. The controversy over the last couple years about whitewashing cover models has driven me nuts, because I will grab a book with an 'exotic' looking character* before one with a wimpy looking white chick. But, that makes me wonder, am I just as bad as those who think white models are better? After all, I'm reacting based on race.

    *and as a wimpy looking white chick myself, anybody else looks 'exotic' to me. Hmm...that might be an interesting study...number of readers who gravitate towards characters like themselves vs. those who gravitate towards their visual opposites.

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  7. Three Turtles-that would be an interesting study. We always hear that readers want characters that are like them, but as you pointed out, that's not always true. I wonder if we just think that and say that without actually talking to the readers.

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  8. First, gotta say that Three Turtles...Pet Librarian is my favorite blog name ever! But, seriously, as an author, the cover experience can be one of the most traumatic moments of the publishing process. It reveals a sense of how does your publisher, marketing team, etc. envisions your story and characters--and by extension, you as a writer. Wild. I'm not one to be too concerned w/covers but I certainly think about it more now. Also, my 14-year-old son practically grabbed an arc of LEVERAGE from my hands b/c he thought the cover was cool. Hmmm?

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  9. bad covers are for me, the cheap looking ones with pictures. karen kingsbury style. i love little brown publishing's covers. they are oh so cute. and the hunger gmaes, and harry potter.
    LF

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  10. Stasia-Fun you should comment-I was just drooling over your cover yesterday!! And I need to get over to your audition blog and share my story-I'll have to think of one. And it's good to hear from an author's point of view-I'm sure seeing your cover can be exciting and scary at the same time. You want something that people like and that reflects your book.

    Paper Bird-I love the HP covers too! And The Hunger Games covers are simple but beautiful!

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  11. I try my hardest not to judge a book by it's cover. Sometimes it is hard, but I try to keep an open mind. I do not want to let a good book pass me by.

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  12. I love strolling through a bookstore or library and checking out the covers. That's how I found 'these boots werent made for walking' and loved it! but sometimes theres the opposite too. all in all, i think i'm more guilty of it now that my reading time is more precious...but I'm always looking for good recommendations :)

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  13. I also passed over Paranormalcy for a long while because of the cover. She doesn't look like a strong kick-ass girl on that cover but when good reviews trickled in, I picked it up and loved it.

    The teens I order for also judge books by their covers and I'm sad to say that I can predict very well what books are going to be a bit and what books aren't, based solely on covers.

    Do I stop buying books with 'bad' covers? No, it just means that I have to blog about them or talk them up more than the books that sell themself.

    I myself judge books by their covers too, but a good review will beat out a beautiful cover any day.

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  14. What a great topic! I don't remember judging books by their covers, exactly, but I was very judgy about titles. I totally avoided Robert Cormier's I AM THE CHEESE, because I just thought it sounded like the stupidest title ever. What could such a book possibly be about? Some kid who likes dairy products?

    And then I read it for my YA class in library school, and was like I WAS SO WRONG! Seriously amazing book. Shame on my young self!

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