Loving books first by cover alone

I saw a very interesting request on Facebook today: “Name a book you picked up because of the cover.” (The request was from Kepler’s Books, in Menlo Park, CA.) I have my own version of the request, which adds, “…which you ended up loving.”

I have definitely been influenced by book covers. My prime example of this is when I saw The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay, with cover art by Martin Springett:

Original book cover for the book, The  Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay

I don’t know just what it was about that cover, but I saw it, and the various images made my heart absolutely sing. I peeked just briefly into the book, but bought it primarily because I Wanted That Cover. Here is a later version of the entire cover, back and front. The book I bought looked just like this, except that the title was positioned as in the first picture:

Back and front cover of the book, "The Summer Tree," by Guy Gavriel Kay

There was something magical about that cover — and it exactly matched what was inside. So this was a case where three things came together. The magic of the cover touched the yearning for that magic in me, and the story itself fulfilled that yearning. When I read the book, as I’ve often said, I felt like I had “light flowing through my veins.”

I loved the cover for this and the other two books in the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy so much that I have the three posters in large size, signed by the artist. And I once saw the originals (they’re really big) hanging in the author’s home. The goal of the publishers–that the cover should attract readers so that they’ll buy the book–was certainly successful in my case.

Publishers often change the covers of such books, eventually, to try to attract different readers and give the books new life. The next cover for this book that I was aware of was this:

Second cover of "The Summer Tree," by Guy Gavriel Kay

Do I also own the set of three books with this and the other two new covers? Yes. Would I have bought the book if this had been the original cover? Probably not, though I like the covers well enough. And would I have bought the book for the first time if the original cover had been the one below? Not in a million years. (I kind of think of it as the “What were they thinking?” cover. They did that ordinary, unimaginative, boring cover to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Canadian publication??)

Twentieth anniversary Canadian cover of "The Summer Tree," by Guy Gavriel Kay

It’s fascinating what will attract us to a book so we’ll be ready to look inside it and find out whether or not we want to buy it.



    1. kiirstin says:

      My first encounter with the Fionavar Tapestry was the same covers you describe, and I believe I also picked it up because of the cover and fell in love with the books. Agreed about the anniversary edition, though they do have a simplicity that appeals to me – now that I’m familiar with the content and don’t need to draw me in. Another author I discovered due to her covers was the marvellous Patricia A McKillip, with her Kinuko Y Craft covers that match the feel of her magical texts perfectly.

      • Phyl says:

        Oh my gosh, yes, those covers are absolutely stunning. My first of those was The Book of Atrix Wolfe, and I would have bought that book for the cover alone. But those are wonderful. It would be great to have posters of those too. (Have they ever re-issued the Riddle Master books with Kinuko Y Craft covers? I would soooo love to see what they’d be like. I must google.)

        I think we’ve already discussed (ages ago!) how you found the Fionavar books the same way I did. 🙂 By the way, it’s so good to “see” you again. I’ll be trying to get back to following my book blogging friends again, and posting here more.

    2. I’ve been wrestling with this as I work on self-publishing my books. After many fits and starts, I’ve been pretty pleased with my own efforts. And, even if it’s just self-publishing, I’m really glad to be out there. (If you’re interested, Phyl, let me know at stephanieebarr at earthlink.net)

    3. Phyl says:

      Sorry I’m late in replying! (Damn editing job, grumble grumble, heh.) I’ll email you. 🙂

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