Never Judge a Book by its Cover
Everyone always says ‘never judge a book by its cover’ but do you know the one time that really isn’t true?
When you’re judging a book.
Before I became an author, I worked as an editor for a major children’s publisher and every week we would meet as a department to review the proposed covers for every single one of our books. Everyone was there; editorial, marketing, sales and of course, design. Hours and hours went into the development of every cover and everyone has a role to play. The editor has to make sure the cover reflects the story inside, the marketing team’s job is to communicate any pertinent information a potential buyer might need to know, like the author’s previous books or bestseller status while the sales team advise on retailer preferences and gives feedback from buyers. And of course, the designers take all this information and turn it into a work of art – literally.
As an editor, my job would be to act as the middleman between the author and the rest of the team, explaining certain cover choices to the author (who might not always agree) and helping the sales and marketing teams understand a book that might need a cover before it’s even finished.
Not that I’ve ever delivered a book that late as an author.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, all these people absolutely want you to judge a book by its cover. How else are you supposed to pick something out from a crowded table or Amazon page? It’s a nightmare! Cover art was one of my least favorite parts of my old job. No one ever agreed on anything and we were constantly being challenged with statements like ‘green covers don’t sell’ and ‘So-and-So at This Bookshop hates one word titles but Whats-His-Name at The Other Bookshop will only buy one word titles’. It was exhausting.
But as an author, I find process fascinating. I’m fully aware design is not my area of expertise but I’m sure my editor would happily tell you I’m far too emotionally involved in the process. Once it’s your baby you’re talking about, it’s hard not to get involved. The idea that you can spend months of your life working on something and then hating the cover is incredibly difficult to adjust to. It’s like saving up to buy a Chanel handbag then watching the shop assistant wrap it in dog shit smeared newspaper.
The thing I find most interesting is how the exact same book can have completely different covers in different countries. Take my first book, I Heart New York for example.
The UK covered featured a whimsical, pastel illustration of a girl looking out at New York City while the Canadian cover was considerably more stylistic.
The US cover was just as different again, photographic this time, but with the same sense of wonder and discovery as the UK cover. And don’t even get me started on the Dutch cover…
The covers for About a Girl were even more different – here are the UK and US covers for comparison. So, how can two identical books speak so differently to people who do the exact same job in order to achieve the exact same end? It will never not baffle me.
Whether you’re looking at the photo-real US approach or UK illustrative designs, whole departments full of people sat down, judged my book and these were the covers they came up with. So the next time someone tells you not to judge a book by its cover, please feel free to tell them a lot of bloody work went into that cover and you will judge as you please. As long as they really are talking about books, of course.
LINKS TO PURCHASE
(just a FEW of the many amazing books available for sale by the fabulous Lindsey Kelk - she is my chick lit idle! She was the one who got me hooked with I Heart New York! And of course Hollywood, Paris, Vegas, London, and Christmas JUST TO NAME A FEW!)
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