The Art of the Ooh!

The cover just might be my favorite thing about a printed book. The character has to woo me from page one, but the cover has to woo me even before page one. And for me, the first aspect of a good cover is the “Ooh!” factor.

The “Ooh!” factor is what snags you, makes you pick up a book. It’s only after I’ve ogled that I flip that bad boy over or look at the jacket and find out what it’s about. But a cover isn’t really just about stopping book browsers in their tracks. They have to be true to the pages being covered.

Agents, editors, and authors, in conjunction with marketing and art departments, are dedicated to finding balance: a strong image that also speaks to the essence of the book—what the story is about, the tone, the character’s voice and appearance—everything. It’s rare that everyone agrees, and authors are sometimes hit hard when they have to relinquish creative control to the “Ooh!” factor. It helps to remember the folks in marketing are as much experts in the Art of “Ooh!” as the editors, agents, and authors are experts in the craft of writing. Ideally, everyone’s working to tell the same story.
I love First Contact’s cover because it captures the book’s quirk while also being an eye-catcher (how many yellow covers does one see in Borders?). I think You has that balance too—that stark, white pronoun seems to refer to you personally. There’s the in-your-face cover of The Duff (launched yesterday!). Are there covers that have particularly struck you recently? Any pick-this-up! images that also whispered hints of what you’d find inside?

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suzie townsend said...

I'm shameless addicted to covers. I've even avoided books before because the cover made me go "eh" instead of "ooh!"

But I loved Jeaniene Frost's cover for Halfway to the Grave, and I love love loved the covers on the hardback edition of If I Stay and The Sky is Everywhere. And I love the covers for Charlaine Harris's Sookie books and Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson Series. Oh, and I love the covers for Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore.

And I have to say I love the forthcoming covers for Hannah Moskowitz's Invincible Summer and Allison Pang's Brush of Darkness. IS is so stark and well striking, and I love the color scheme for BoD.

So did I mention I'm shamelessly attracted to covers? :)

hannah moskowitz said...

My friends and I were just talking about this yesterday. I think my favorite cover ever is from Sins of The Fathers (which is the best book in the universe, and no one has ever heard of it and it kills me) by Chris Lynch. It's all about the tagline. Which hits me so hard every single time.

Dustin said...

Agreed- it's difficult for me to not judge a book by its cover. I scoured for days to find Shannon Hale's-Enna Burning with the original illustrated cover so we could have a matched set (the 2nd run photograpic covers were 'meh' at best). I love covers so much, that it became the deciding factor between the iPad and the Kindle for me - I wanted color covers on my bookshelf. Oh, that and Plants -vs- Zombies but I digress.

Also, while not a big Twilight fan, her covers are such strong branding that I can't help but notice. That cannot be undervalued.

I think in the last 10 years, book covers have really become the Movie Poster equivalent for film.

Janet Johnson said...

I absolutely judge a book by its cover . . . but once I read it, I totally forget about it. I can't think of any that have wowed me recently. Though I'm sure there are plenty.

Joseph L. Selby said...

I love covers. Love them, love them, love them. The background on my phone is a cover a couple friends made for my first ms. LOVE covers.

I notice this is not the first time I've seen people qualify covers as relevant to print books. I still think they're relevant to ebooks as well. The color panel on the nook lets you scroll through by cover. I've thumbed along until I find a book that looks interesting.

Likewise, each reader has its own online marketplace. The color cover isn't going to go away. It will still be relevant (maybe more so in a graphical interface like the web) in a digital world.

Meredith Barnes said...

I love the comments bringing this to the digital platforms! I'm glad that platforms like the iPad have kept covers relevant to their offerings--the cover is, after all, a part of the book's soul (touchy feely, mushy, yeah).