You Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover...

Saturday, August 27, 2022

 ... Or can you? Perhaps more importantly, do you?

I've seen this book for years as I spent way too many hours time in bookstores. Never even took it off the shelf to read the inside flap or the back... all because the cover (in my opinion) looks too sweet. I don't do things that smack of saccharine. So, this book never appealed to me.

This summer, a good friend (Tracy, who has impeccable taste in books) was giving away some books, along with other teacher friends. This book was in the heap. I picked it up, and Tracy said, "That was mine. I had an extra copy."

"It's good?" I asked.

Tracy said, "I had the biggest cry I've ever had when I read it." That did it. The gauntlet had been thrown down. Tracy sometimes is on the over-emotional side. Would it impact me the same way? * (I adore dark stories. Depressing tales. Sunk-ever-after in a black abyss.)

Right away, it was obvious the story and the cover (for me) didn't sync. As I immersed myself in the story, I tried to think of a cover that would fit. The problem (again, for me): the story was shrugging off every cover idea I had.

Now that there's a Netflix movie, the book with a new cover is available.

The new cover... not any better. From the couple on the front, it looks like a sweet teen romance. It's not.

In writing this post, I reflected on my own book's cover, along with reading some articles. One article had just a few suggestions, but they were good ones. Make the cover bold, and keep in mind the audience. Young adults who enjoy depressing stories... I am not sure either of the above covers would make them buy the book.

When working on my book's cover, I didn't know what I wanted. I did know what I didn't want. I didn't want a busy cover, with lots of scenes or elements all over the cover.  I wanted something bold. Thankfully, a friend of mine (Jessica Esfahani--a high school art teacher) created the perfect cover (in my opinion). My editor (Margo Dill) added the finishing touches on the front cover, and did a kick-butt back cover.

I really enjoyed this article. It included suggestions from a number of authors, and had some great advice. One was this: the writer needs to write down what the point of the story is, and keep that note in front of them as they consider covers. Another: a cover should not make the potential reader think... It should make them feel something.

Do I recommend Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places? Most definitely, if you want a well-crafted and well-plotted story about a serious subject that will make your mascara run (if you wear it). Do I recommend my book, Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story? Of course (and I've got great Amazon and Goodread reviews to back up my opinion).

Will I still judge books by their covers? Probably, but perhaps I'll be more willing to crack open a book with a sweet cover the next time I see one...

* Did All the Bright Places make me ugly-cry? It did indeed. The biggest cry I had ever had over a book. Not when I predicted it would (because the reader can predict one of two things will probably happen at the end) but during an unexpected journey at the end. When I finished the novel, I sent a text to my friend Tracy--cursing and thanking her. 

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school ELA teacher, the proud author of the historical fiction novel Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story, and dog rescuer. You can find more about her by checking out her blog.


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I've been thinking about cover design a lot after hearing a really good talk on it. It is definitely important that the cover have the right feel for the book and the audience. Yours does a great job.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Thanks. Some authors put their cover choices out for the public to vote on. That might get some great feedback.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Both covers for All the Bright Places are terrible, IMO. I haven't read the book but the number one rule: the cover should match the content. Your cover does that, Sioux!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

That's a good idea. I don't know that I've seen people do that with covers but I have seen them do it with Author Photos.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--Thanks. I appreciate that. I was incredibly lucky my art teacher friend had such a brilliant concept, along with the talent to pull it off.

Sue--Sean McLachlan ( had done that in the past. I am not a Facebook person, but would you get a good response if you put it there? Or on your blog/website...

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

For something like a "cover vote," I would post it on my Facebook Author page and Twitter.

Renee Roberson said...

I believe I was in B&N one day and happened across a table with YA reads. It was the colors on "All the Bright Places" that first drew my attention, but it was the jacket copy that made me buy it. It is beautiful, heartbreaking, and I stayed up late crying the night I finished it, too. The Netflix adaptation did it no justice, in my opinion. You make some excellent points about book jackets, and yours was an amazing concept! I need to start brainstorming ideas myself for "Between" so this is a big help.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Twitter is a foreign language to me... I'm also not fluent enough in Facebook to know there is such a thing as "Author Pages."

I'm sooo pathetic.

Renee--I'm glad you too engaged in a sobfest. It tells me it's not only Tracy and me. You're part of the same club.

A cover for "Between"... Another wonderful collaboration with Margo. I am SO excited for you.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I don't think Facebook calls it an author page. But it isn't a business page. And it isn't my personal page. ::shrug::

Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, boy. I have been doing A LOT of thinking/researching about book covers since I'm fixing to spend money on that. And I agree 100% with Ang--that cover doesn't convey sad/tears, etc. And I'd be VERY annoyed if I bought that book thinking (as the cover leads one to think) that it's a light read.

Though admittedly, I know YA and I'm not sure there is such a thing as light reading in YA. :-)

Anyway, yes, YOUR cover tells the reader exactly what to expect. And my research tells me that's the way to go. So well done, Sioux!

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