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:
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:
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:
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??)
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.