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The Reader's Soap Box: Your answers to our questions about the books we all love...
Soap Box Question #10 -- Cliche Covers? Don't you just hate clich?s? Like "That's the way the ball bounces?," "A penny for your thoughts?" or "You can't judge a book by its cover." Actually, that last one is really one of my favorites, because as every reader has discovered at least once in his or her life, it's true! And that brings up an interesting topic and gives me entree into my comments about this month's Soap Box Question: Today's Book Covers. Believe it or not, this is still a hot topic among readers, especially those who favor romance and mystery. Some feel so strongly about certain covers that they write long letters to authors about the inaccuracies between the cover versus the book... as if most authors had much control over what a publisher's art department decides to pair with their stories. And then there's the controversy between which is best: that gorgeous man and woman caught in the midst of an awe-inspiring grip-of-lust stance or a lovely depiction of flowers a'la mode. And while step back covers were once the best of both worlds, publishers seldom print them anymore because of cost. A few years ago we posed the question, "Do you hide your covers?" and had a tremendous response from you. Because of recent conversations with authors and an editor or three, we'd like to get your take on book covers in "today's" market. Covers have changed a good deal in the past few years. For instance, humorous contemporary romances today are just as likely to sport photographs or bright, rompy cartoon drawings as the more traditional painted artwork that was heavily favored in the past. So here's what we want to know: 1) If you see a book but don't recognize the author, does the cover catch your eye enough to make you buy it? 2) What type of cover does catch your eye? Posed clinched characters, pastoral/scenic pictures, photo/real-life characters, cartoons - hot or muted colors? Please take time to let us know. While we cannot pay you a penny for your thoughts we would like to know which way the ball bounces by finding out whether you judge (and buy!) a book by it's cover?
Your replies will be posted below at will also be shared with friends in the book industry. Make your voice and opinions heard!
Add your comments Email us with the subject line: Soap Box #10 - Cliche Covers
-- If I don't know the author of a book, the cover has a lot to do with if I buy it. The blurbs on the inside of the book jacket actually clinch the sale for me but, if the cover didn't catch my eye, I wouldn't be reading the blurbs, now would I? - Joann -- I honestly have to say that I have never bought a book based on its cover. I have been reading 6-8 books a week for 30 years and not once have I bought a book by looking at its cover. What catches my eye when I am browsing through a bookstore is the blurbs about the book on the front or backs of the cover. The covers do not mean much to me. It is the story I want to know about. - Billie Jo, Dublin OH -- Funny you should ask this. I'm an avid reader who is seeing and now seeking out titles which reflect a new trend in books which cross and defy genres. The ones I truly love combine mystery, suspense, romance, passion and lots of HUMOR. There are the cliches which are related to " bodice- ripping" titles of earlier decades, and there are the new generation of slick "pun" titles which use common U.S. cliches' for their eye-catching titles. Some of my favorites are: A Body To Die For - Kate White, The Truth Hurts - Nancy Pickard, Taken To The Cleaners series - Delores Johnsons" series and my latest find, Ann-Marie MacDonald's The Way The Crow Flies. None of these books fall into a specific genre, neither hard core cirme story, potboiler mystery or " bodice-ripper" hide -the- title-when -in- the- doctor's- waiting -room romance but with more than a touch of all three.. - Amanda -- Now that I'm ad advid romance reader, I purchase a book because I'm aware of the author. The covers I dislike the most are the historical novels which feature "muscle bound" men, they insult me. The "passion" within the cover and the story line are what counts. - Marilyn, Seattle, WA -- I must admit that I prefer a book with a lovely cover. At first, it's for an author that I buy the book. But when it's a new author... I love covers with landscapes ! And also some with characters on it. Recently, I do like Kresley Cole CAPTAIN OF ALL PLEASURES cover and THE TIGER'S MISTRESS by Andra DaRif. Fortunatly, the 2 books were EXCELLENT, but at first their cover really attract me ! I think a book is like a beautiful item, like a frame... It reflect the story inside... I put them in my bookshelves and sometimes just took one to read few words and see the cover to recall good memories! - JOELLE (France) -- I think if i don't recognise the author, the cover plays a major part in my decision making.I must confess that I bought lots of books just because of its cover! ... and as to what type of cover catches my eye, I like all of them but real life photo. We have to accept that bookcover is also stereo typed. I like to read good romance, not mainstream or modern-life (like BJ's Diary). If i have to choose 3 books with 3 kinds of covers that I didn't recognise the authors, I will choose a posed-character cover because I'm afriad that the sceninc cover book will be mainstream and cartoon cover book will be somekind of BJ's Diary. - Nat Petpaisit -- A cover with bright colors and cartoon charater will catch my eye quicker than any other cover. I've discovered a lot of new authors that way. The dark and sinister looking cover doesn't appeal to me at all and unless the book is by one of my favorite authors, I'm not likely to buy it. - JoAnn JoAnn Whisenant -- The cover of a novel has no bearing whatsoever whether I purchase or not. I prefer the old bodice-ripper covers [sorry for the political incorrectness] because I cut my teeth on Rosemary and Kathleen and Laurie McBain... -- I have a good dozen extremely favorite authors, I buy regardless of premise, plot, theme, age of protagonists? I branch out each month and try one new author. When I see the word ?debut? you can bet I?ll try to find a reason to buy her novel. Everyone?s first novel is important to me in that one day I?ll be in that classification. - Cat Carol -- I don't like the clinch look but do like when people are dressed in the costumes of the periods and are posed in pretty much anyway but lusty. Cartoons and wild colors would repel rather than attract me. If a person is used on the cover they should like like the person they depict in the book. If I don't recognize an authors name I will skim the book to see if it is a lusty read or actually has a good story line and purchase it if the latter is true. In the past I've purchased romance books written by men but have found them to be over the top on sex so have shied away from any book with a man's name on it. I like a good story, great repartee and strong willed women...and a cover that doesn't embarass! -- Patience Hensley -- I am a little ashamed to admit that "Yes, I do buy a book for its cover". I prefer the hero and heroine or at least the hero to be on the cover rather than some innocuous flowers. - Terry Huie -- I usually look for the author although clinched characters and pastoral scenes do catch my eye. - Joann --Covers do catch my eye if I don't know an author. I intensely dislike,"clinch covers," and covers that are inaccurate. The historical series that Cat Martin is running now, has modern dresses on the cover for Regency Stories--Drives me wild! Some of Jane Feather's latest books are the same! The thing about passionate couples on the cover--they many times cheapen a really good story. Colors, they should fit the story. If a flower or plant or symbol is used it should be from the story. One thing that gets me most of all is how most covers have inaccurate costuming. Before reading your letter, I could not understand how the author could allow that now --I know that they don't have much choice. Covers encourage me to stop and read about the book but not to buy it. - Jean King --Yes, I do buy a book by its cover. If the picture on it catches my eye, I'll buy it. I'll also buy it if the title titilates me also. And I'll always buy my favorite authors' books. - Sheila Gallagher --I check for the author's name. I just bought a book by an author I've never read before because of a good review. A mystery, the cover is very intriguing. Lovely, muted colors. I can't wait to read it! I dislike the clinch covers. Flowers etc are ok. I buy Regency books and wish the covers were different - perhaps paintings from the period, something distinctive. I hate cutesy! - deehend1@... --What draws me to a book... are colorful, lively & vibrant colors. I love funny cartoons, or drawings depicting hints of what the book contains. Or even book covers that have flowers & soft colors on them, they draw me in because the book looks relaxing. Last but not least, I'm drawn to books that have graphics embossed on them. Even if it's an all white cover, if a design is embossed on it, I find that very attractive, interesting & nice to touch. I also enjoy those book covers that let you peek past the cover to show another design on the next page. Those are awesome! ;) What I actually HATE on a book covers, are models, such as what Harlequin uses on their covers. They just seem so out of date/style, & they all look alike. They aren't creative AT ALL!! Soooooo, I guess what I'm saying is, BE CREATIVE with all the bookcovers, to catch our eyes. :o) After all, temptation enters through our eyes first! - Quetzi --I would read the back cover info but I would definitely consider buying a book by the cover. As a historical romance addict I also would like to see interesting poses on the cover of couples indifferent postures. Cartoons may go on books that are romantic comedies if that is what pleases them but not, definitely not on romance dramas. - gramk2 --When I first started buying books the cover was a great help. But not anymore. The covers are important on all the books I buy. I will still buy a book by a favorite author but it wait awhile to be read because a bunch of flowers or a piece of jewelry does not get me excited about reading the book. I don't care for posed clinched characters, real-life characters, cartoons. I do like people in the clothing of the time of the book and they can be in almost any kind of position except lusty. The intensity of the color does not matter to me. - Lillian Nesbitt --I do not judge a book by its' cover at all... I usually buy my favorite authors or I read the back to see if a new author intrigues. I cannot deny that it is pleasurable to look upon some great covers... the best of all are the science fiction books and to see a great looking guy with great abs is swell, but I will not buy a book predicated on that - flordora20@... --...[Sci-Fi]I've read so much that I know 90% of the covers on the shelf!! So the cover that catches my eye is one I've never seen. Then, I identify most with strong women. I don't generally go for covers where there is only a handsome man. If the man is dressed in military gear, I'll check it out. I used to read regencies, and then I was most attracted to again covers with women on them. I absolutely DO NOT read romance where there is the over-the-top romantic clinch happening on the cover. - Zanne --Yes! I'm guilty of buying book if the cover grabs my attention -- even by authors I've never heard of. Sometimes it's a great way to find a new favorite author, but also it can just go to prove that you "can't judge a book by it's cover", bad or good. - Amy --I read certain Authors. Titles intrigue me to an extent(though I have read lame titles that were GREAT books), not pictures especially on the cover. I really don't like a picture of some 2003 guy dressed to look "rugged." - hudiegram@... --There have been times I have picked up a book because of the cover. The last example I remember is the Glenna McReynolds book, River of Eden. It caught my eye, the back of the book sounded interesting and so I bought it. I am turned off by man and woman in heated embrace covers, I might still buy the book but I usually use a book jacket if I take the book anywhere. -Eande41231@... --Personally I like the Cartoon characters and will buy even though I don't recognize the author's name. I read the back and if it is my kind of plot I may buy it. I don't like the suggestive poses... I pay more attention to the inside description... Loud colors also tend to catch my eye at least for a l@@k! - Margaret Hollander --I must admit, I do prefer a clinch scene cover. Although, to be fair, I like the cartoon covers, also. But if it has a cartoon cover, I assume it will be somewhat comedic, which I definitely love. - CN Brown --I guess I go for pastoral/scenic pictures, hot colors are eye catchers, BUT, The Title, background synopsis and PRINT size are what I choose my books by, if I'm looking for a new author. - Evelyn Kiser --This happens to have been a discussion between myself and fellow readers. We all agree that the cover of a book does tend to grab our attention, second only to favorite authors. I personally like a book cover with some texture, usually a scene, beach, lighthouse, mountains something like that seems to grab my attention. I really like the books that then have a visual inside cover and then maybe a scene with a couple, sort of as a tease. - Debbie Troute -- I used to love the Signet Regency covers of the late 80's (mostly because of the ladies' gowns and the neck cloths on the men), but am not too fond of ANY of the covers of any line today. I really like the new Balogh Covers - colors and just the titles. Most of the covers today bother me with semi-nudity... ...guess I just don't care for most of the covers today. The cover does not determine whether or not I will buy the book - but covers like those used on the Christina Kingston books and the latest Layton and Balogh books are much more eye-catching and make me stop and look and more than likely, buy. - Priscilla Schmidt -- I favor tomes with a cover graced by a sample of scenery depicted in the works and paired with an elegant font. Another option is even more simply an elegant font in a lovely metallic on a canvas awash with a single rich color. The former allows the reader a fleeting glimpse of the setting, the latter bequeaths every detail to the reader?s unique imagination. ...the cover effectively, is a form of advertisement and as such, it is the written word being marketed. - Holly Duncan -- I like the covers with the Hot Guys. I do look for the author to see if he, she is familar but what catches my eye are those big, strong males. - Rejar -- When I am looking for books to read a lot of times I will discover them because I noticed the cover. If I like the cover then I read what it's about... I like covers that are colorfully scenic and jump out at you and make you take notice. If a cover looks boring I tend to skip over it. - John Meyer -- ... rarely, if ever will I purchase a book over the counter from a book store which has a romantic couple in the throws of uncontrollable passion! These books I tend to buy through the Internet. I find it just too embarrassing and hate being given "the eye" by the clerks at Borders... I will however, happily purchase a book which somehow tries to transcend its genre, by borrowing on "real art", for example, Mary Balogh's "More Than A Mistress"... The deep, yet soft reds draw the eye, it looks like a painting from the last century, which of course, is the idea! - Elizabeth Currer --Yes, If cover catches my eye I will buy book if I like storyline even if I don't know the author. I am not crazy about posed clinced characters... - nrockgarden@... -- Yes a cover will make me pick up the book and in many cases It will also encourage me to buy that book. If I do not recognize the author, the cover is the quickest way to make me pick up a book. I don't really like the cartoon covers much . I also am not to crazy about the passionate half dressed couple in the woods type either. I like the covers with a couple ( fully dressed ) and child or a nice scene such as the farm, house or street that the book is about. I am attracted to the light colors of a book. -- DebBee56@... -- I prefer a more generic cover so that I don't feel like I have to put a book cover over a book if I want to take it anywhere for reading material... - BO0KLADY@... I never ever buy a book due to the cover. My life is too busy to make my reading choices based on outside appearance... Deb Blaker -- My things is that I only buy books from the authors that I like to read. Sometimes a book cover catches my eye... - Isabel J. Martinez -- If I do not recognize the author, I choose to buy a book by the blurb on the back of the cover. The front of the book may catch my eye, but if I do not like what is on the back - I do not buy it. - Jacqueline Wilson -- Hello, I do not buy a book based on the cover. I always read the back, and some pages and if the story doesn't grab me right away, I don't buy it. I read everything from regency to contemporary and I might pick out a cover that catches my eye, but my decision to buy is based on my likes and this web site for I read your reviews and you haven't stirred me wrong yet. In fact I want to thank you gals for introducing me to some great authors!! Keep up the great information you pass on to the readers!! - Lori D -- When I select a book, I pay no attention to the cover. I like to form my own pictures of the locations, and characters according to the way I perceive them in the book. - Edythe --I always prefer a cover with people on it. I like to visualize the people I'm reading about (a bit of drooling goes on too). I will pick a people oriented cover over the floral ones or the "cutesy" ones anyday, especially if I'm having to pick between two authors I'm interested in. - Mary Lou --I don't buy a book for its cover. I usually buy it for the author or the caption on the back. Also, covers with characters in embraces, or whatever, don't appeal to me. - Michele Baysden --I have to say that... it is the covers that attract my attention. Not neccesarily lusting covers, but interesting ones. Bright covers, simple looking, elegant looking, nice looking. Then if the story sounds interesting I buy it. - Katherine Haslow --I have been known to buy a book just because I liked the cover even though it wasn't by an author I knew. Sometimes the book was good sometimes not what I wanted, but the cover definetly does sell some books. - Ruby Bush --I'm drawn to covers where you see most but not all of the faces of the hero and/or heroine. For example, there are several Jane Feather books where you see the heroine from the back. Or the Amanda Quick books where the heroine is viewed through a veil. Perhaps the partial forms shown can be used as a base upon which to project my own image of the H/H. The covers of Mary Balogh's Mistress books have the added advantage of looking like they were taken from Regency-era portraits. Notching up the heat a bit, several of Susan Johnson's books show the hero's washboard abs and not much else. ...I do linger over her covers. And one of the most attractive covers ever (IMO) was the original for Robin Schone's The Ladies Tutor. ... the image is quite striking and sensual, much more so than the cliched clinch cover. - A Reader -- I like to see a good true life photo or drawing that is realistic of either the couple the story is about or even just one person who portrays a strong feeling. - siamese2wise@... (5/5/03) -- I prefer landscapes with houses I would love to explore. I read for escape/adventure. Setting is as important to me as characters. - Ann Oehler (5/5/03) -- I usually go by author. But if its a new author I look at the cover. I mostly like to see the man and woman in a pose. Next would be the scenic or paranormal cover. -- Emma Metz (5/5/03) --I've got to say that the picture on the cover doesn't get my attention as much as the title. For instance, just the other day I bought the book "The Fifth Victim" by Beverly Barton (the paperback version). When I purchased the book I didn't even notice whether or not there was a picture, I just noticed the title. ...the book was great. - deb_marcus@... - 5/5/03 -- Thanks for the chance to express my opinion, especially in re cartoon covers. -- Cartoon covers catch my eye but in a negative way, especially blinding colors. Unless the author is one I like, I avoid those books. I like humor in romances but hate excessively silly heroines--the ones too stupid to be let out without a keeper. To me, cartoon covers indicate a probable excessively silly plot & characters. Otherwise, people catch my eye, either in photos or paintings, especially those in historical or futuristic dress & settings & handsome heros in particular. I don't care about strict accuracy between the characters on the cover vs. depicted in the text. Examples of covers I really like are Timeless Warrior by Georgina Gentry, In My Dreams by Susan Sizemore, Virtual Heaven by Ann Lawrence, & A Dance Through Time & Stardust of Yesterday by Lynn Kurland. Then I read whatever comments are on the covers & the first inside pages & the first one or two pages to how well the story is written. If I don't know you, you have to get my attention or pique my curiosity at the very beginning. -- Nancy Parker, Bellingham, WA (5/5/03) -- I like the covers with sexy couples in a clinch; they get the imagination started even before I read the back cover. Thanks for asking. - Linda Braden (5/5/03) --I am attracted to a "friendly" font (not too flowery though!), good, modern graphics and use of primary colours. Or... a photo of a piece of original artwork. I'm not keen on the "man clinches" woman type of artwork. - Elaine, New Zealand (5/5/03) --Alas, I am one who will pick up a book because I like the cover, regardless of the author. I have plenty of one hit wonders on my shelves...that's fine. I've never picked a book with a good cover that I didn't like. I especially like those "hidden covers", the ones behind the front dull cover with some gorgeous guy stripped to the waist behind the title. [My kids] would show them to people in stores. How's that for word of mouth advertising? -- Irene Peterson (5/5/03) -- If I am going to read a book in public (like the gym or the doctors waiting room), I will not carry one that has a cover that I wouldn't want my children, if I had any, to see. Therefore, I would prefer a descriptive cover, but one that depict the action of the book, not the hero and heroine in compromising positions. -- Teri (5/5/03) -- I love fiction and yes, the cover of a book will entice me to buy it. A romance novel with a dark or light background with 2 people (centered) on the cover always catches my eye, but when it comes to drama and horror, color counts for a lot. Dark backgrounds with lightening, trees, or other spectral type of pics always get me. That is how I first came across Stephen King and Robin Cook. Yes, a cover can entice someone to buy. - Pam (5/5/03) -- Sorry, couldn't resist!:)Actually, if I don't recognize the author, the cover will make decide whether or not I pick it up and read the back and/or the inside cover. From there, whether or not it piques my interest, I'll buy (or not.) So, I'd have to say, yes the cover does make a difference. If it's an author I like, it doesn't matter what the cover has; if I don't know, yes - I'd like the old stand by - the romantic 'clinch'... Two of my sisters judge the same way so that's a general comment from 3 readers. - Joyce -- You asked! I prefer the title and author on the cover, with maybe art work/photo related to the story inside. It would be nice if the artist at least read a summary so the cover picture related to the book. Those couples in clenches make it embarassing to carry the book around. IMHO - Dana (5/5/03) --The design of the cover has no relevance for me. I always read the summary of the story on the back cover and if the precis of the story grabs me, I will buy the book. However, I usually go looking for my favourite authors first. -Sandra Treble, Sydney Australia (5/05/03) -- I think hot colors, especially if I don't know the author. Second would be a man in uniform. - Linda King (5/05/03) -- A bright cover (red, yellow, orange) tends to draw me to pick up a book. Plus the sales pitch on the back of the book giving me an idea of content, plot is always attractive to this buyer. - Clarice (5/05/03) -- Colors are the first thing I notice. I personally prefer cool colors, blends of blues and greens and lavenders, perhaps. Beauty in pastoral or architectural scenes, and nature in all its variety will catch my eye. People are fine as long as they are clothed and fit into a suitable background. No half naked clinches, please, or Fabio in any guise. And no cartoons, either, unless for a contemporary romantic comedy. (5/05/03) I prefer historical romances to contemporaries, so am fussier about them. I do wish that Signet and Zebra would vary the covers for traditional Regencies. Was it Signet that tried fans, gloves, tussy-mussies and such on their covers a few years back? I liked them very much, but they didn't keep the experiment going very long. They went back to the same old thing and the same old faces with the same old silly grins (Don't they know Regency aristocracy did not display strong emotion?), with an occasional tiny change in those banners. Though I will overlook an unattractive cover on known authors, I would probably ignore a book by an unknown to me writer with an ugly cover. Or one that signaled a chick-lit with a cover of legs in a short skirt, for example. Now that I think more about it, I prefer to picture the characters myself, rather than receive their images from the cover. -- Jane (5/05/03) --I like posed covers with the cover characters in the style of dress suitable to the period of the story. That will catch my eye and get me to try a new author. - Judi Abbott (5/05/03) -- Because I can't afford to spend a lot of money on books, a cover would really have to be interesting and inviting for me to buy an author I'm not familiar with. This naturally rules out flowers or pastoral scenes. However, on the other side of that coin, I like the flower type covers on some of my fave authors..which negates the whole question. LOL! I do like some of the newer, photo quality covers that are now showing up. I'll use Catherine Mann's cover for GRAYSON'S SURRENDER as my example because that is a good one. You can forget the older, posed clinch characters. I think those covers are the main reason romance novels got a bad name that they have never been able to shake off completely. Lately, I have found myself wanting to buy a book because of a catchy title - catchy being subjective. I had never noticed that a title had influenced me until just recently. -- Sissy (5/5/05) -- I've been disappointed by the cartoon covers on Regency novels. It is misleading. When I picked up the book to see what it was about, I thought it was going to be a contemporary romantic comedy. I didn't buy it even though I like that time period. I thought it was going to be too silly. - booklover@... (5/05/03) -- I'm really turned off by fake looking covers that don't look like the people described in the book. She's supposed to have curls and the cover shows straight hair! Hair is supposed to be short and it's down to her back! etc. Thanks for the soapbox. - Edna Dutra --I totally hate the half naked people on the cover, even if they resemble the characters in the book. Hate it! I would rather use my imagination. Makes it horribly embarrassing to buy one as well. If I do not recognize the author, both the cover art or the title will make me pull it off the shelf and take a look. That's how I stumbled across my all time favorite, Outlander. My favorite covers usually do not involve people, usually art. - Ginny Perusse --I want a book cover that catches my eye and makes me wonder is she really that fragile, wicked, etc. and whether or not he's really that baby faced or sexy or charismatic whatever it is that caught my eye). I am so tired of flowers it makes me sick,if not a pic of the main characters, then at least something to do with the storyline. I have almost quit buying new books because they are so much alike there is nothing there to catch the eye and the re-released books are just as bad. Generic pix oh yuk. - Leshea --I don't care for books with pictures of the people in the stories because they don't fit what I had pictured them to look like. I like the books with the setting of the book on the cover - a castle or a ranch. I don't tend to go by what is on the cover when I am looking at books to read I read the back cover .The covers that tend to catch my eye are the cartoon ones like Patti Berg's covers they seem fun ..any story that will make me laugh is a plus! - Sheryce --I appreciate a painted sensual cover with a muted background. I respect a publisher who gives the artist credit in the inside credit page along with the book's author. I would also like to know the background of the artist (maybe a sentence or two about their life/education/location, etc.) The wonderful artists of romance books should always get credit since they really help sell the book itself. - Shirely Levin --I have been snared by more than one book cover and then became a fan of the author. Real life photos and bold colors get my attention first. I have to admit that if the photo is showing an action, running, dancing, kissing, etc., it gets my attention the most. I also have to admit that I hate seeing a cover and then reading the book and the characters don?t match up. I feel cheated and I remember that author by not buying their books again. Their names stick in my minds as well as my favorite authors. - Jennifer Vinson --I think the perfect cover for a romance has either a photo or a realistic painting of what the hero looks like. No skin necessary; headshots are plenty good enough. Covers with steamy character poses are just plain tacky. When it comes to new authors, titles, synopses, and teasers are what do the trick. - Mandee Peterson

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