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How important are book covers?

Joanna Trollope, this year’s chief judge of the Orange Prize, has apparently created something of a stir by suggesting readers are as much influenced by a book’s cover, as by its contents. The literati has of course reacted to the contrary –  hardly surprising given they sweated hours over the words whereas the cover is mainly down to the publisher’s creative and marketing teams.  So naturally they’re going to take a stance that their own work is what really matters.

Joanna isn’t wrong though. I was looking at the cover of my current read – Something to Answer For  – and it definitely isn’t one that shouts ‘Read Me’. It’s mainly an off white shade with a small sepia tinted photo of a man’s face in the middle and just the title and author’s name. The photo doesn’t give any clues as to the genre or the theme. The fact that this edition was published more than 20 years ago has something to do with the uninspiring design I suspect – it looks very much of its time. If I didn’t have it on my reading list just because it was a Booker prize winner, then I wouldn’t have given it a second look in the bookstore.

I haven’t read much of this book yet, but two other things I’m already not keen on:

  • The typeface doesn’t sit cleanly against the paper – the edges are a bit jagged as if it was typed not typeset
  • He introduces too many character names too quickly so I get distracted trying to work out who they all are. I hope this settles down soon otherwise this is going to be hard going….
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