Sunday, 25 March 2012

Puzzled ruminations on book covers...

I recently read Nick Hornby's novel ,
Juliet, Naked. I like Nick Hornby's writing - About A Boy is one of my favourite novels - and I enjoyed it very much, apart from finding the ending a little unsatisfactory (the offspring agreed). It's consistently amusing and thought-provoking. But one thing I really hated about it was the cover. I'm not even sure which character the man on it is supposed to be. I know authors are given little or no say in the covers that are assigned to their books, but you'd think an author of Hornby's stature would be able to put his foot down.

Researching this post, I looked at dozens of Nick Hornby's book covers, and began to think that he has been remarkably badly served by his publisher, Penguin. The classy and cool US Juliet, Naked hardback cover, seen here at the far right, is a rare exception.

Self-publishers know how important a cover is. Our names won't attract readers (initially at any rate) and we don't have the recognition factor of authors whose books are on display in book shops. A striking thumbnail image on Amazon might attract a reader to look at the blurb, and then the sample, and then maybe buy. All ambitious indies put a lot of work into designing or commissioning covers, changing them if we get a better idea. There are frequent threads on Kindleboards seeking reactions and comments on artwork before the author commits. We take the whole thing very seriously.

So are the bad covers another instance of the complacency of Big Publishing? Or have some commissioning editors just got seriously bad taste?


  1. Of course, the one thing that stands out about all but one of the covers here is that the author name is the dominant feature, and in that one case it is still at least as big as the book title. When Penguin designs these covers the prime directive, as it were, is to make sure browsers know this is a Nick Hornby book. I would bet that the spines feature his name more prominently than the book title. So I think that when dealing with established authors with established readership hungering after his or her work, everything outside of the author's name is secondary, extremely secondary.

    For those of us unknowns, the cover takes on an almost ridiculous importance, a bit like the way a desperate to find love person obsesses over his or her appearance before going out in public because first impressions are so, so important and wouldn't it just be awful if ones True Love rejected one entirely on the basis of a poorly chosen shoe and belt combination.

  2. Yes, I'll agree with all that, except why wouldn't you want a fabulous cover even if you didn't need one? I certainly would, if I were a famous author.

    And if I'd found true love, I'd still want to look good, too.

  3. I quite like the one to the left of the screen! It'll look good next to my lava lamp!

    Take care

  4. Kitty, you have put your finger on it. I thought it looks very 70s, for no reason at all. The story has nothing to do with that era. And what's with the bit of string attached to the man who could be either Duncan or Tucker Crowe? Honestly.