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Cover to Cover

Cover to CoverIs the cover art of a book that important to the marketing of a book?  I know that I have some preferences and biases.  For example, if a book is adapted into a film or TV series I don’t like having the version of that book with an image from the TV programme or the film.  In fact I would prefer not to even have the adaptation mentioned on the cover.  There are 3 reasons for this:

The first is as I’m a bit of a snob, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I only bought the book after having seen the adaptation and secretly (although clearly it’s a secret no more) I will also think less of someone else if I found a book with the adaptation cover on their kindle or book shelf.

The second reason is that adaptation covers generally are not very good.  There will be a screen shot showing an amalgam of scenes that always seem to have been done in a hurry.

For example David Mitchell’s novel “Cloud Atlas” was recently released as a film and to tie into this the novel was repackaged:

Cloud Atlas - Repackaged - From AmazonCompare this to an earlier version of the front cover:

Cloud Atlas - Original - On Wikipedia

As far as I’m concerned the earlier cover is more attractive, some thought and effort has been put in the design and it manages to capture the essence of the novel more effectively than some stills from a movie.

The “Cloud Atlas” example also highlights the third reason for my preference; non-adaptation covers don’t have pictures of the main characters.  Having images of stars playing the characters always bugs me, because no matter how hard I try, once that image is in my head it affects the way I began to imagine the characters as I read a book.

Something similar happened to Jack Kerouac’s unfilmable novel “On the Road”:

On the Road - Move Tie In

There is an exception to every rule, the cover I like for this book does have a picture,  but because it’s of the actual characters it has added to my enjoyment of the book:

On the Road - From AmazonWhat is the purpose of the cover?

At a basic level it’s to give sense, however indirectly, of what a story is about.  For example this cover for Dashiell Hammett’s “The Glass Key brilliantly conveys that what you’ll be getting is a hardboiled urban detective story, set in the 30s because the figure on the cover is wearing the classic hat and trench coat of that period.

The Glass Key - From AmazonThis is certainly a better cover than the 1st edition of the “Glass Key”:

The Glass Key - 1st Edition - On Wikipedia

 It’s certainly of its time but not in a good way.  What is the woman frightened of?  Is she regretting appearing on the cover?  Is she shocked by the smallness of the fee?  Maybe there’s a serial killer on the loose?

This cover for “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” is also telling you that there’s a good chance there could be some naughtiness between the covers (excuse the pun), but otherwise gives a completely inaccurate picture of what the book is really about.  But then, particularly where sex is concerned, the context isn’t important.

Lady Chatterley's Lover - From AmazonAnais Nin’s “Delta of Venus” is perfectly suited to this cover:

Delta of Venus - From AmazonOne of my favourite covers was created as a result of a strong collaboration and friendship between the author Hunter S. Thompson and the illustrator Ralph Steadman:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - From AmazonIt’s not entirely clear what’s going on in the cover, you’ll have to read the book to find out, but it perfectly represents the distorted and monstrous nature of the book.

Another favourite of mine is the Anthony Burgess’ “Clockwork Orange”, cover design by David Pelham for Penguin:

Clockwork Orange - From AmazonThough it takes a pretty stripped down approach I think the cover gives a strong sense of aggression and dysfunction.

David Pelham also did some great covers for J.G Ballard novels, “The Drowned World” is a might more unambiguous but still attractive:

The Drowned World

Unlike the crap cover for the 50th anniversary edition:

The Drowned World - From AmazonClassics that are reissued generally are accompanied by poor cover designs which try to incorporate a modern theme to attract new readers.  Is it my imagination or does this new edition of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”  have a hint of 50 shades of S&M, maybe that’s just me.

Pride and Prejudice - From AmazonHowever, this new cover for “Anna Karenina” is not even being that subtle; why are there legs, are they bare legs, on the cover?

Anna Karenina - From Amazon

So what are your favourite or most disliked covers and why?  And if you had to design your own cover for your story what would you put on it?


About Mark At The Word...

Once upon a time, when Mark was 8, he was asked to read a story he'd written about robots destroying the world to the whole school. He read that story, everyone laughed in the right places and a writer was born.

When not writing Mark reads to escape the many frustrations that life has created for him.

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