Saturday, March 6, 2010

Faith 'n' Fiction Saturday: Covers

Amy's question this week is about covers. She wrote a post earlier in the week about covers--how she's not liking Christian covers--and how she feels that bad covers are limiting the appeal, the market. This week's directions are open.
You can take any direction you want with this. You can share what you feel about covers in general and then point out some good examples and bad examples or you can design your own cover...whatever you want to do. The truth is that whether we like it or not, people do judge books by their covers!
I touched on covers myself this week. (Though that was just the very tip of the iceberg.) But I thought I'd write about the subject more here. There is something about the phrase, "The truth is that whether we like it or not, people do judge books by their covers" that bothers me. I don't think Amy meant anything at all by the comment. I think it is an observation, plain and simple. And I think every single reader has probably said that at one time or another. But it still bothers me that it is true and that it's just accepted to be true to the extent that no one is trying to change their ways. It bothers me because the cover has very little to do with the author. The author very often has nothing to do with the cover design or the cover redesign. It is something that they have no control over. It just seems wrong that they would lose readers or potential readers because of a cover. It's sad for them. And it's sad for the people who are missing out on good books.

I'm curious if judging books based on their covers is something you learn, something you pick up as you grow, or if it just comes naturally. Because looking back at all the books I loved growing up--as a child, as a teen--none of them had remarkable covers. In fact, a good percentage didn't have cover art at all. I remember several of the Little House books being library discards. They had a plain red cover or plain green cover. But no art. And Gone With The Wind. The hardcover one I read to pieces where it lost both front and back covers and a few pages here and there? Well it was just turquoise. There were so many books that I read and loved that were either used, tattered, or just not that attractive to begin with. Some were a bit dated looking perhaps. Like the Chronicles of Narnia that I first read as a child. There is nothing in the cover of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, that would say read me, read me. Yet, it became one of my favorite, favorite books. I didn't care at all what the cover looked like. I'd already read the series dozens of times by the time my favorite cover was made.

My philosophy was simple: If it was a book, it had potential. End of story. I still feel that way. I don't know if I'm just odd that way or not. But I still see almost every single book (except perhaps those by Hemingway or Hardy) as having potential. Perhaps I just love books too much to really care about the cover.

As for Christian covers. The first series of "Christian" books that I read were Janette Oke books. Love Comes Softly had a yellow cover. With illustrations. I don't remember particularly loving the cover. But then again I don't particularly remember thinking about the cover at all. I just knew that it was a good book, an 'adult' book, a book with romance, love. A book that made me feel all warm and cozy and happy inside. The book was memorable to me. The characters were ones that stuck with me. I know this book has had its cover redesigned a lot. But I don't have one that I like more.

There are some covers I'm drawn to more than others. Books that I think have appealing covers. I've picked six to share with you below.

I won't lie. There are some covers that I personally don't like. That I don't find all that appealing. (A few I think are just silly looking, a bit on the ridiculous side.) But it wouldn't stop me from digging a little deeper. It wouldn't stop me from reading the back cover. From reading the synopsis. It wouldn't keep me from opening it up to read the first paragraph. Especially if I'd read a good review of it before.

Perhaps it's worth saying that I read library books. And it is very easy to take chances at the library. And I'm also drawn to bargain books at my local Christian bookstore. And what you'd be willing to spend two or three dollars on is completely different from what you'd be willing to spend fifteen on.

Part of me is also curious. Are people using covers as an excuse in general when it comes to avoiding Christian fiction? It seems to me that people are very opinionated about what they think Christian fiction is (whether they've read any Christian fiction or not), about what they see as problems and turn-offs. And for some, the covers can be a turn off. But I think it's the content--or the perceived content, the potential content--that is the bigger issue at hand. I think people avoid Christian fiction because they don't want to read what is inside. I think people--even Christians--approach Christian Fiction like it is "less than". They think perhaps it has to be stereotypical, judgmental, undeveloped or unsophisticated, too predictable, too formulaic, too preachy, too moralistic, too naive, too sugary, or too something. So with those expectations, with those concerns, could a book have the best cover in the world and still be a turn off to a mainstream audience?!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

Mimi N said...

Becky, loved your post! I think I'm a book cover snob. Sorry to admit it. I totally get that the author rarely has any input on a cover. That I think is a shame. Are the publishers reading the work before they choose a cover so that they know what the story is conveying? I think that should be an integral part of the process. I feel as though, if the publsiher didn't create a good cover, maybe they feel the same way about the inside.

I also think that we judge a book the way we judge other things in our society, but their perceived "beauty", especially if there's a woman on the cover. With technology, I think we want the image to Pop or grab our eyes.

I immediately thought of Oke's covers. Back then I loved the covers. Not a big deal to me. Now, I'm more particular. Maybe it's because of the changing times, maybe because I'm a reviewer and pay more attention to these things. I don't really know.

I loved what you shared though!! I think Amy is really trying to challenge the Christian publishing industry.

~Mimi @ Woven by Words