Thursday, January 05, 2012

In Which I Express My Love For Book Covers

 I have a thing for covers.

I think most people who love books do.

Yes we also know not to judge books by them.

But we also do.

I love covers. I go into bookstores not to check out what the latest releases are about, but what they look like. I go through the stacks not to discover some gem of a book that didn’t make it to table placement, but to discover some gem of a book cover.

And it’s not just the cover. Oh no.

It’s the packaging of the book itself. What is the cover made of, are the words embossed, is there foil? The way the back cover relates to the front, a gorgeous spine. How does each chapter start – is there a swoosh, an ink blot, a geometric pattern? Are there end plates?  How are the “parts” divided?

(This may be why I worry about ebooks taking over the world, I love books as art in and of themselves.)

I always check out an author’s new cover when she makes the announcement on her Twitter/Writing Forum/Blog. I frequent websites that analyse covers. I frequent designers’ websites.

This is currently my favourite blog about covers (of the YA variety).

I even designed the cover for a friend.

I love covers.

And I’m trying to figure out why.

A few weeks ago for no particular reason I shared some of my favourite works of art. I revealed I’d studied a fair bit of art history in University, and had a general passion for the subject. So clearly I love visual art. And covers are visual art.

But it’s not just that.

I think why I love covers best is that a cover artist/designer has to be creative but within a strict set of guidelines.

First of all the cover has to be a specific size.

Then a cover has to get across a wealth of information in a very limited space:

- Title
- Author
- Genre
- Tone
- And a little thing called Story

And sometimes a blurb has to find its way on there too.

I love that. I love that within a set of seeming rigid parameters so much originality can result. It’s the same way I feel about movies. Some of the best films happen through problem solving. The shark doesn’t work . . . I guess we’re not showing it then.  We have a small budget for a short film about aliens in South Africa? We’ll do it documentary style. That kind of thing.

I’ve always believed that the greatest innovations come out of problem solving. Being given free reign with a bottomless budget gives you The Phantom Menace.

Limitations make you think outside the box. Structure can make the imagination flourish. I have recently become quite interested in writing Shakespearean sonnets because of their rigid form. There is also something so satisfying about managing to surprise within the framework of something expected.

So too is it truly exciting to see a cover that seems wholly new and original but still does exactly what it is supposed to.  And it is also wonderful to see covers that pay homage to an old standard.

I also love this box of 100 classic Penguin book cover postcards I got from my publisher as a Christmas present:

I love the evolution of covers, what was popular in one decade and how that changes to the next, especially evident in reissued books.

And I wonder where covers will go now with the need to create covers that are easily identifiable as thumbnails.

It’s all so . . .cool.


I love covers.

Here are a couple recent YA covers that really struck me.  But of course, seeing as I love covers, there are many many more that I adore.  This is just a teeny tiny sample:

This book isn't out yet, the cover is courtesy of ThatCoverGirl's website.  Love!


Josin L. McQuein said...

I'm the same way. I love book covers. I love looking at them and making them (I even blogged about them today, too)

And now, I have a new blog to follow because I followed your link to thatcovergirl :-D


Kamille Elahi said...

I love the postcards!!
I have a thing for book covers though. I pick a lot of books up mainly because of the cover.