In a comment on my post last week about Katie Fforde’s new novel, Summer of Love, Galant mentioned the design of book covers & how important it is in enticing her to pick up a book in a bookshop or library. Galant picked up Katie Fforde’s first book, Living Dangerously, on the strength of the cover & I did exactly the same thing. You can see that original cover here at the top. I loved Katie’s Penguin covers, those lovely painterly interiors. I was not so impressed with the later chick lit pastel covers (the second cover above) but I was already a devoted fan so I kept reading the books no matter what the covers looked like. More recently there’s been another change to the third cover design which I like more than the stick figures but not as much as the early covers. I’ve read that Katie Fforde’s sales soared when the stick figure covers were released so it was obviously a good move from a sales perspective and what do I know anyway?
I recently reviewed Fanny Blake’s first novel, What Women Want, & I made a similar comment in my post that I wouldn’t have picked the book up in a bookshop if it hadn’t been sent to me for review as I felt the cover didn’t do justice to the contents. I had a lovely email from Fanny Blake’s editor asking me what I would like to see in a cover.
Now, I know that tastes & fashions in cover art change. We’ve been through the historical novel headless women & the bright pastel chick lit stick figures fashions & I’m not sure what’s next. Galant’s comments started me thinking again about the importance of first impressions (and I wonder if Pride & Prejudice would have been so loved & imitated if Jane Austen had stayed with her first title for the book, First Impressions?). I wonder if the increase of online shopping, e-books & the decline of browsing in bookshops is having any effect on our buying habits?
I also find it interesting that both Linda Gillard & Sue Hepworth in their posts here have written that the desire to have some control over the way their books looked that was one of the factors that led them to self-publish their latest titles.
I’m also interested in what we as readers think of as attractive design. There are some publishers who I think do a brilliant job of producing beautiful books. The look of the book is as important as the contents. Of course, it depends on the audience the publishers imagines for the book. Some publishers like Persephone & Virago in the early days, had very strong ideas about the look & design of their books. They had an audience in mind & they were very successful in marketing to that audience. The fact that these publishers have a loyal following of readers who love the design of the books & who lament the loss of the original VMC covers, is a testament that readers feel very strongly about books as physical objects.
Vintage Classics, Oxford University Press & NYRB classics are other imprints that have very distinctive looks. I love their elegant & witty designs. Posts I’ve written about book design & cover art in the past have always generated lots of comment. Here it was Penguin & OUP & here it was forthcoming reprints of Mary Stewart, Stella Gibbons & Winifred Holtby.
So, what do you like or dislike in book covers? Have you ever bought a book because of the cover art even if you have copies already (I know I’m guilty of that – here & here)? Favourite authors that you’re loyal to no matter what the cover looks like? Favourite publishers who have never let you down? If any publishers or designers are passing, I’d like to hear their perspective & they might be interested in the view of the common reader.