Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Deconstructing book cover & pondering misleading clues

I spend a lot of time thinking about book covers. I blame a slim part of that on being an author, but the rest of it is the result of being a reader and being a person who is fascinated by non-verbal stories. When I was in my late teens, I entered therapy (a much healthier choice than the other "coping mechanisms" I had adopted in those years). The problem with therapy--IMHO--was that it involved talking about feeeeelings. I wasn't very keen on that. If I was angry, I walked away or played music loudly until I was calm. If I was sad, I exercised or cranked the stereo again. So my therapist suggested taking pictures and journaling. I still do both, & I still find them very satisfying--both as a coping with moods & (now) for fun. My interesting in photos & music led to an interest in all of the ways we "speak" without words.

Book covers are very much a case of the visual media speaking, telling us what we need to lure us in (so too album covers* back in the Ancient Years when I bought vinyl & then CDs). One of my favourite assignments as a university teacher was to have my freshman "read" advertisements. Where is the eye pulled? What do those colours convey? Are there models? If so, what do their postures, eyes, expressions, attire (etc) tell us? What is the tone? How does the font fit into the overall message? What about cover copy?

We "read" all of that from both our personal perspective/experience and from our current historical & cultural contexts. We do all of that very quickly.

So while we shouldn't judge a book's MERIT based on the cover, we are--because we are trained to do so--judging a lot of other things. The final decision/judgment is whether we will open the cover* to proceed to judge the contents.

I am thinking about covers extra because my new book just had a cover reveal in USA Today. (Go here to see it.) We went through well over 2 dozen covers to reach that one. It was a verrrrry long stressful process that involved me wringing my hands and (I suspect) my editor and agent pondering ways to get working voodoo dolls. 
On the heels of that, I recently tried to get my kids to read two books I very much enjoyed of late-- Altered by Jennifer Rush and Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry** I had to all but FORCE by daughter to try them, and both were books I could NOT get my son to read. (NOTE: My kids are big readers. They both go through a couple hundred books a year. No, not exaggerating. They both read early, & they both read at a very rapid rate.)

I can't go too much into the Carnival of Souls cover. I will say that the masks are a very important plot point (esp the white mask), and that the burning of the mask is significant. What I can do is take a look at the covers of the two books I read & recommended.  

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