Friday, December 18, 2009

Judging a Book by its Cover

Irving Ramsey Wiles (American, 1861-1948) - I’m always looking for something for my 7th grade son to read. He gobbles books up instead of savoring them. And—he’s a picky reader. He’ll read 30 pages and, if he isn’t grabbed, he’ll look for something else to read.

I was relieved to discover there was a popular fantasy series, Discworld. And that there were 37 of these books (which are extremely popular in the UK.)

I decided to pick up the first title at the library to make sure my son liked it before investing a lot of money in the series.

It took a little while to work through the library system, but I picked up a copy a couple of days ago, told him I’d heard rave reviews, stuck it in his backpack, and sent him off to middle school with it.

He came home and said (only half-jokingly), “Did you want me to be laughed at all day in school?”

The book’s cover? It was pink.

This wasn’t something I’d even noticed, of course. But it was—hot pink. That might not bother a secure guy in college…but a 12 year old boy?

Which made me wonder. Why would a publisher’s art department sign off on a cover that would turn-off one segment of readers automatically? Aren’t many fantasy readers young men?

Looking online, I found other editions of the first title in the series in non-pink colors. :) I’m planning on getting one.

Authors don’t really have a say in their covers. I’ve felt really appreciative when I was asked my opinion on my last couple of covers. It’s a nice courtesy. And, fortunately, they were great.

No, we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But do we? Are we influenced as buyers and library patrons by book covers? If we see a really standout cover, is there something inside us that assumes the story must be just as good?

And, Discworld fans—don’t worry. I know how awesome that series is supposed to be. He’ll try the book again.