Judging a book by its cover.

Okay, I am pretty sure that all of you know I write.  As a matter of fact, I write novels of the romance and erotic persuasion.  I also have an apocolyptic novel started (might be YA), and fantasy concepts.  I am not saying that I will ever get published, but it is a goal for me.  Sometimes when I go to the store or the website to find something to read, I want to try something new, so I browse for it.  Yes, I will look for specific type of story, but often, I am just looking to see what they have.  And I have to admit that it is usually the cover art that catches my attention.  From there I will read the blurb and an excerpt.  But if the cover art is atrocious, will I look at the blurb?  Sometimes I will because, really, WTF?  I have to see what this supposed to represent.  Mostly, though, I will pass it on by.  I will be honest and tell you I am the same way with titles.  So it’s not all looks with me.  😉

One of the reader/author groups I belong to discussed this several months ago.  There was someone in the group that had been asked to review the book.  Initially she was very hesitant because the cover was very unattracyive.  She found that it really had little to do with the story itself.  The story was wonderful!  When she sent the blurb to friends to get their opinion, many of them wanted to read it.  But when she posted the cover, most people were turned off and didn’t read the blurb.  Or were confused, so ignored it.  So this poor author who had this, her first book, published two years ago, was missing readers because of a crappy cover.

Now, I can’t say much because, like I said, I judge stuff on the covers as well.  I have gotten to the point where I try to look past the cover, though.  Especially since I, as an author, may have little to no control over the cover chosen for my novel.  Yes, I am sure that Nora Roberts and Mercedes Lackey have a lot of control, but for new authors, we may have no veto ability at all.  We get stuck with what they give us.  If it sucks, the books might not sell.  Too bad, so sad.  I was going to link you to some e-presses that have serious issues with their covers, but they are all in the over 18 realm, so I don’t want to run the risk.  If you truly want to know, let me know and I will contact you privately.  One of the blogs I follow actually has a regular post about covers.

So while we are all thinking about how much we really do judge a book by its cover, what about people?  I am not talking just about skin tone, although that is the most obvious.  I am talking about the boys and men who wear their pants falling off their hips, the girls in cheerleader uniforms, the teenagers in lettermen jackets, the men and women in business suits, those in hard hats, and those in ratty old jeans or camoflage.  Each one of these triggered an image in your mind, didn’t it?  Not only an image, though.  Even the thought of that image said something to you about the person or persons described.

We all know about stereotypes.  The majority of the people I know at least try to get past them.  But what about when we look in the mirror?  Do we judge ourselves?  We’ve all heard about dressing up when we are down to try and improve our mood.  [Yes, I am aware that only works if the mood isn’t actually caused by bipolar or other mental illness.]  But what about those of us who dress down?  Does it damage our mood?  Can our clothing reflect where we are on the emotional spectrum?  If we are unregulated, or only mostly regulated (that would be most of us who are medicated0, can our “cover”, our clothing, give us hints as to where our mood might be going?

I don’t know.  What do you think?

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~ by theartistryofthebipolarbrain on April 4, 2012.

13 Responses to “Judging a book by its cover.”

  1. Hello, theartistry–well, you know the rest…

    I am an artist, and like you, in a sense, aspire to get published, too. We’re almost the same, in that regard, I guess. (I also have a handicap–I am a post-polio victim, right leg, stunted two ribs in my lower spine, which made me hide undercover–ha-ha!, pun, intended.)

    True, people (i.e. buyers) judged books by its cover. Publishing companies either spent through their design departments or hire professionals to make a book a money-earner just by the merit of its cover. Believe me, because I went through the tedious processes of presentation to approval.

    Cover is so important in the publishing business that a committee often decide on its approval. And not unless you’re self-publishing, will the responsibility fall in your own choices, which is terribly difficult to handle, especially, if you’re not trained to do it.

    So book covers, including CDs, DVDs, consumer packages, goods, etc., underwent a looong process of selective decisions made by corporate executives whose talent is to make money–in a rather cheap way. (Designers were often short-changed, because as artists, we–you and I–are inherently kind. H.R.Giger, the surrealist artist, was reported to have been paid only a minimal fee for his Oscar-winning ALIEN creation/design.)

    To look at people around you is to follow the same process of cover(ing) up the content–what’s really inside, the person within–and I am guilty as charged. Since I became aware I am different from other kids I played with, I created a not-so-formidable cover for my appearance, and it was painful.

    For most of my honest friends, looking at the mirror only strengthened their fear of acceptance of their weaknesses, and thus, ably, if not uncomfortably, hide behind a mask of pretensions–full-blown lies carried with a smile all day, every time. Like books on shelves, everyone pretend to be a bestseller, and yet only a handful will admit their misgivings–physically, psychologically, or materially–and come out more the winners.

    So, live and let live…The more you understand others, the more the fear inside you will disintegrate and set you free. Live your life, the artistryofthebipolarbrain, and enjoy every truthful moment of it to the fullest–closing your eyes from the ignoble rests.

    • When it comes to physical book covers, you are right about the process–when it comes to the big publishing houses. With the increase in small e-presses, very few of them actually work that way. Granted, the author may not have any say in the cover. But with the small presses, sometimes the author has to pay for or find/create a cover themselves.

      I definitely agree that we create a cover to protect ourselves, especially when we are young. And shedding that artificial skin is incredibly difficult and painful. There will always be those that grow until they cannot grow any further and become…for lack of a better term, shell-bound.I think that can be what happens to some people to make them so completely closed off to new things. They just don’t have room in their shell anymore. For others, we shed that shell pretty frequently. If we are lucky, it gets thinner as we live and learn about life and others.

      And thank you for the compliments!

  2. This is a big boost for the idea of self-publishing and creating your own cover. You’ve seen some of mine. The good, the not so good- but some are far better than what you see other new authors get. The problem is either buying stock images or getting people to pose semi-naked and knowing that other people are going to see that picture of them, regardless of if their face is visible or not.

    And yes, our clothing can affect our moods- both good and bad. If you’re feeling down or even eh and you put your hair into a hat and throw on a huge sweatshirt and jeans and do nothing to help yourself, do you find yourself going down more? I do. But if I’m awesome, throwing a hoodie and my stretch pants on and some flip flips does nothing but make me feel comfy. I should say though that my depression has nothing to do with BP or MD or any other disorder than attaches to depression.

    I do think though that food goes along with what you’re saying. If I’m awesome and then I indulge in something disgustingly huge- that will generally douse my good mood down a few notches. Maybe just me. Maybe not. I dunno.

    And yeah, I have stereotypes. I’m fairly certain everyone does. It’s how our brains compartmentalize, understand and process information. Acting on them is different though. But I know that I give in to mine sometimes, even if it is just in my own mind.

    Feel free to smack me upside my head if you ever see me actually act on the negative stereotypes I’ve developed.

    • Ummm…Not hitting you. But I will point it out.
      When it comes to book covers I think I would rather make less with more control.
      You said food effects your mood, and I know a ton of people that use food as an emotional outlet. Could it be that it’s part of our shell?

      • We were talking about this in gender class tuesday night, where people may use food to affect how they look (either more or less) to get a desired effect from the opposite sex. I had a bulimic period in high school but during those same four awful years I know that I over-ate to make myself bigger to avoid attention from men. Turns out that just made me slower and more vulnerable but we won’t get into that.

  3. TAOTBM,
    This is one of the reasons I have so much difficulties handing over my “brand” to others, even when I’m employed by a corporation who “hired” me for what I can provide. I hate having choices made for me decided by others. I wouldn’t be able to have a book published and have its cover chosen by a marketing team. I am wait too confrontational… However, I’m charming enough to sway the powers that be to sway on my side…
    Good article,
    Le Clown

    • Yes, but we are not all as charming and spectacular as Le Clown. How could we be? I do agree that it would be very hard to do. As for me, I might even be willing to pay for the cover myself to prevent a tragedy.

      • TAOTBM,
        Your sweet. Seriously though, leaving one’s faith in a stranger’s hands is nerve-racking.
        Le Clown

      • Now do you see why dating terrifies me?
        In all honesty, it is scary to allow another person you really don’t know that kind of power.

  4. I would love to read your novel when you finish it. I don’t care what the cover looks like. People do judge books and people by their cover and it seems to come naturally. Those who seem to don’t seem to must be just ignoring their brain telling them what the first impression is lol.

  5. yes it would be wonderful if we didn’t automatically steriotype things. But there is no sense in pretending we don’t sometimes anyway. But maybe we will try hard enough one day and we will stop. At least most of us stop at being judgemental. Too bad some don’t.

    • I think it’s asking too much from the human brain to stop stereotyping when that is the way it learns and stores information. We can, however, learn to take a moment to see past them to reality. 🙂

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