Let me start out by saying this: I wasn't intending to write about book covers today. I had it in mind and then nixed it, thinking, "Okay, the Book Lantern followers don't want to read about covers. They want to read about book content, the publishing industry, authors, etc.! Covers are really only superficial, so they really wouldn't care about me harping and ranting about covers and the visual role in publishing, would they?" I was so ready to write about hype itself in the publishing industry, but. . .
Then I happened to go to my Twitter account (note: this is rare for me since I am not a Twitterphile in the least) and saw a tweet from Hannah Moskowitz, author of Invincible Summer (which Cory reviewed last month), linking to her blog post about the cover of Invincible Summer. Reading the post, I got back to thinking about covers and wondered: how often do we let preconceptions about a book cover, any cover, steer whether or not we will read a book and how much (or how little) we think we will like said book before we've even glanced at the inside content?
I would be a liar if I didn't say I was just as horrendously guilty of judging books by their covers. On my Goodreads account, I am notorious for adding books to read based on their covers even though I may have really only skimmed through the book descriptions themselves. I even have a 'covers I love' shelf (made up of books I love, ones I haven't read, and even ones where I hate everything except the cover) though we all know covers have really nothing to do with a book's quality but everything to do with marketing. But, even knowing that, I -- and others -- often go by covers first and foremost as our main judgment pre-reading.
We are a very visual society. Just as we can likely overlook flaws in a person's character and behavior because of a pretty face and a nice body (or, vice-versa, ignore the people who aren't as attractive for that reason alone), so do we consciously and sometimes unconsciously make decisions based on the visual in other areas of our lives. Media takes advantage of that for everything from CD covers to movie posters -- and publishing knows it too, using the visual to help guide potential book buyers in their reading choices.
I'm not saying it's a bad thing from a marketing standpoint (because obviously it isn't since that means the marketers are doing their jobs correctly), but it's still an issue from the consumer/reader standpoint if covers are so detrimental to the book finding, buying, and reading experience. (Note: I'm not saying this is true for the majority of readers, but it is true for some. Even many major book review blogs which I read and respect have 'Cover Love'-type posts.) People would read a lot of bad books and miss a lot of good ones if covers really have such sway! (And, yes, I realize that cover tastes must be taken into account, but that's another issue entirely. For more on that, Phoebe North actually covered the differing tastes in covers among YA readers in a post over at the Interrobangs blog.)
In Hannah Moskowitz's case, I'm with her all the way: don't judge a book until after you've read and absorbed it for yourself. Covers only go so far in giving an idea about the nature of a story, and the author is not responsible for the cover. If a book cover entices or repulses you, take this into account: that story is still the same story even without the good/bad cover.
So I leave you, dear Book Lantern reader, with this challenge (if cover prejudice applies to you): look past the covers, read the descriptions, and judge only after reading. Use less of the external vision and more of the internal. Covers should have no bearing while the stories themselves should have every bearing when it comes to reader opinions.
Who knows? Maybe we'll find books we never thought we could have loved.