As I was flicking through Twitter this morning, I came across a post by blogger playingbythebook, who admits that she actively disregards pink book covers when picking out new reading material for her young daughters. She interviews author Abie Longstaff, whose book ‘The Fairytale Hairdresser and Sleeping Beauty’ couldn’t really get much more ‘girly’, who tries to defend this marketing choice. I must say, I’m still not convinced. I have always stood pretty firmly in the camp of ‘anti-pink’ when it comes to childrens toys/books/clothing. A little here and there is fine; obviously it’s just a colour – and a nice one at that – and there’s no need to banish it from the spectrum completely. But there is just too much of this and this sort of thing still blighting the high-street at the moment (check out @PinkstinksUK on Twitter for examples which can be pretty absurd at times), and I think it is pretty important that parents of both girls AND boys (gender stereotyping is just as harmful both ways) take any opportunity they can to break away from that.
But I haven’t come to brewandbook to continue that exact debate per se. I don’t have kids, and am of an age where I’m starting to consider myself a grown-up (*gulp*), so let’s take a look at some pet-peeves in the world of adult lit:
1) Cartoon Ladies
Sophie Kinsella’s publisher is probably the worst culprit for using ladies drawn with exaggerated long and curvy lines, mid-step and in high-heels, to reflect the contents of her books. But even though she is one of the top-dogs of the chick-lit market, hers are by no means the only ones using this visual trope. Admittedly, I kind of hate most chick-lit anyway* so perhaps I only hate these cartoon ladies because they’ve become symbolic of that.
*The exception being the Janet Evanovich ‘Stephanie Plum’ series, which I love and adore without the slightest niggle of shame.
2) The Sci-Fi Font
Blocky, angular and often emanating a faint glow, Sci-Fi publishers know what they like when it comes to choosing a title font. Overlay said font on a background that is dark and space-y with too much going on to really know exactly what you’re looking at on first glance, and bob’s your uncle. I like Sci-Fi as a genre, and I think that these cheap-looking covers belie some potentially excellent content.
To be fair, this category is as much about the cringeworthy titles as it is about the cover design. This quirky, higgledy-piggledy, home-made vibe is all over the flipping show. Presumably everyone in the marketing department at these publishing houses is spending far too long on Pinterest and far too little time thinking up anything unique and representative of a novel’s individuality. En-masse, it’s just such an irritating trend – like shabby-chic furnishing which is obviously composed of entirely brand-new, overpriced purchases. In trying so very hard to be cute – slightly off-the-wall and casual – the irony is that it just ends up coming off as a particularly bland and spiritless design choice.
Lest you begin to think that I’ll only give a chance to plain orange Penguin Books titles, I feel like the ease with which I will roll my eyes at these sorts of covers is outweighed by how much appreciation I have for those that are done well. My favourite recent find is this cover for ‘The People In The Trees’ by Hanya Yanagihara:
I will just say that I do have sympathy for self-published or budding new authors whose marketing is not at the top of the priority list at their publishing house. I know that marketing and design teams can’t dedicate the resources needed to create unique and wonderful artwork for every single new book (although I think that’s why the ‘Kooky’ category is particularly annoying – because it is often used for very high-profile authors and has probably taken a lot of time and money). I get that it’s not the author’s fault in any way; judging a book by its cover is the idiom for superficiality at its most negative for a reason.
What do you think?
What are your turn-ons and turn-offs when it comes to book covers? Have you ever purchased a book purely because you were so taken by its cover? Leave me a comment and/or show me a picture of some of the best and worst of the bunch!
Until next time! x