Is it Just Another Cover Up?

What does a book cover say about its book?

Book Cover

Is it the book’s front man in the guise of an attractive designer coat with the sole intention of luring you in? Maybe it acts as the protector of its book, like a knight defending its worth? Perhaps it feels like something which is detached from its owner to distract you from the monotonous, bland print inside?

Or … is a book’s cover an integral part of the book’s content? This was a point raised on Twitter following my blog last week when I said it’s ultimately what’s inside the book that matters not what’s on the outside and it’s a topic which proves to be greater than it first appears.

A book cover could make or break your book.

There’s no escaping it. A book cover wouldn’t exist without a book and it is marketing which plays a large part in the creation of a book cover. A book needs something pretty to prompt the reader to pick it up in the first place. However once the book has been born the need for a cover simultaneously develops into a fundamental part of the story and if done well it should be hard to separate the two.

A book cover raises curiosity.

For all books (including picture books and graphic novels) the cover illustration is always going to be a strong image we associate with the book on some level. It’s the first impression we receive before we know anything about the book and the one which symbolises the entire sense of the story in one powerful image. It should tell us what we can expect from the book and which other books it is similar to. A cover needs to raise curiosity and encourage the reader to start questioning what the book is all about.

A book cover sets the scene.

Designing a book cover is a complex process. First the illustrator needs to establish the character, setting and plot and maybe highlight any contrasts they’ve picked up on within the story. Then there’s the genre (e.g. historical, thriller, gothic), the theme (e.g. coming of age, everlasting love, desire to escape), the tone (e.g. jokey, tense, cynical), the mood (e.g. foreboding, exciting, calm) and the narrative quality (e.g. elaborate, simple, insightful) which all need to be combined in such an intriguing design that the essence of the book is poignantly portrayed without giving the story away. Finally there’s the practical imagery to consider too. What does the colour scheme say? Even the typography needs to be reflective of the contents of the book.

A book cover gives an unread book meaning.

One glimpse at a book without its cover seems to render the book void of meaning.  Have you ever seen blind dates with a book advertised in bookshops? This is when a selection of books are wrapped in brown paper so their cover images are a mystery to the reader. The excitement and wonder is in the unknown as the reader has only the title to go by and nothing else. It’s a lucky dip. When faced with these clones we realise a book cover is what differentiates each book and adds to its unique personality before it’s even been opened. Each cover and its book are intrinsically linked.

A book cover is a visual introduction which entices you to read.

Although I stand by my comment that it’s what’s on the inside that ultimately matters, this comment is based purely on the fact that a book cover only comes into existence because a book has been written and not visa versa. Unlike a book, its cover design is not about itself, its sole purpose is to represent the book’s contents so a cover cannot be designed before the book is written. However, a cover plays a very important role in the life of a story. It gives us the title, a symbolic image for the story and of course the all important blurb on the back so the chances are that without any book covers we’d probably read far fewer books in the first place… and what’s the point of a book that is never read? It’s at this point we can see that the cover develops into the visual introduction to the story and a highly influential one which sets the readers expectations.

A book and its cover work together.

So it looks like the relationship between a book and its cover has become less a matter of importance and more a matter of mutual benefit in the way that they complement each other. The next time you pick up a book why not give the cover a little more credit and make a point to observe it closer? What’s the book cover saying to you about the book? Then maybe take another look again once you’ve read the book. Did it fulfil your expectations?

Please head over to my new Pinterest board of children’s book covers where I’ve started to collect those which have caught my eye due to their colour, beauty, patterns, intricacy or simplicity. I’ve included three alternative designs for Alice in Wonderland to show how varied interpretation can be. Keep watching as I’ll be adding some more as I find them.

Tweet me @lonerganbooks

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

Library Girl

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oh but we do……every day of our lives. A multi billion pound advertising industry relies on us doing just that – judging a book by its cover. Of course I am talking both literally and metaphorically here. How do you choose a book for yourself or your child? Most people will initially say the cover. Why? Because it’s the first thing we see and the first impression we get. If that’s all wrong we are quick to assume the content must be all wrong and we move on to the next far more captivating cover honing us in. It’s the same with people. Like it or not, everyone’s done it at some point, whether consciously or unconsciously. If we’re not attracted to a person’s looks we make unsubstantiated judgements about them and can be less inclined or perhaps a little bit intimidated in getting to know them. Does that make us a nation of insincere, shallow creatures? The mere existence of this familiar adage shows we do frequently need reminding that ultimately what counts is not what is on the outside but what is on the inside. That is where the true interaction and satisfaction lies but sadly accepting this fact often evolves through experience opposed to instinct.

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on Children’s Libraries Built to Inspire showing photos of some incredibly innovative designs but the reality is that with many of the smaller local libraries struggling to get funding we need to look deeper to truly appreciate their benefits. Without libraries where else do we get free books? No matter how much cheaper books become to buy, a free book will always remain priceless. Even when they cost just one or two pounds to buy, not everyone can afford to endlessly dish out a pound for a new book, it soon adds up. Not everyone can afford a tablet to benefit from the numerous free e-books available and even if we can, there are so many other things a growing family demands.

So do we still think first and foremost a library’s diminishing funds should be spent on making it look pretty? Surprise, surprise this brings me back round to what is important and that is the interaction, connection and experience we gain from visiting a library, the long lasting effects. With National Libraries Day approaching this Saturday 7th February, it’s the ideal time to take a closer look at some of the events libraries are hosting around the UK to help encourage children to read and nurture a lifelong love of reading. Below is a summary of the types of events and library activities on offer, many free of charge.

Reading groups: choosing and discussing a mutual book with other children creates a reading challenge which can boost their understanding of the book as well as encourage them to read a greater variety of books which inevitably entails reading ones they may not have initially picked themselves.

Writer’s Workshops: provide hands on practical tips on creative writing methods and the opportunity to learn from others work and present their own writing. They demonstrate how regular reading can trigger new ideas and strengthen their individual creative writing style.

Illustrator’s Workshops: can inspire children to create their own stories with pictures and develop visual imagination and dexterity. Understanding the entire creative process involved in picture book publication can spark a new perception of what reading is all about. Many reluctant or struggling readers in particular can quickly get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of words in front of them. Understanding what the illustrations and images are conveying can help so many readers to break a book down into manageable sized reading chunks.

Meet a published author: We all know that when someone expresses an endless passion for something we can’t help but be drawn in too. Meeting a professional author in person and discussing their newly published book demonstrates to young writers what is achievable, offers first hand knowledge of the author’s thought processes behind the book and instigates a new found enthusiasm for reading.

New author book launches: in the same vein a new author can quickly spread their excitement of achieving publication for the first time. They can offer fresh advice on how to become an author, discuss the drive behind the patience and determination it took to become a published author and tweak a child’s interest with something new to the book market.

Story time: Most libraries run regular story telling sessions for various age groups. These may involve quietly listening to a weekly featured book being read out loud, incorporating simple book crafts or puppetry to involve the children by animating the story or inviting a professional story teller to perform.

Book Festival Events: are frequently hosted at libraries. Talking about books whilst being surrounded by books makes for the ideal venue. Book festivals are a time when all the above events are multiplied and brimming with excitement, enjoyment and genuine interest.

So go on what have you got to lose? Check out your local libraries for any upcoming book events and let me know how you get on.

National Libraries Day – Sat 7th February