Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cover Considerations

My co-worker and I were discussing YA cover art today. Specifically the new paperback cover for Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (my favourite Hale title). But also generally the trend within YA to show photographs of girls. I guess the idea is that readers get into books when they can relate to the cover girl. Like books for babies have pictures of babies in them. But, have a look at these very different covers of another Shannon Hale book I love, Princess Academy.

There's something that happens when Shannon Hale novels go from hardcover to softcover. They take on photos of girls, full-on face and body shots. Where the hardcover has a more whimsical, less obvious cover, the softcover becomes a portrait. And none of the girls remind me of the main characters. Well, maybe the blue cover below looks more like Miri than the rest. But that cover also looks like it could depict a bible story re-telling, with the goats in the background and the white sheet dress.

I have a bias for the hardcover children leading each other down a beautifully painted mountain. Maybe because this was the edition I read initially. But the colours are beautiful, the setting is evoked in the cover, and you only have an idea of what these girls looks like.

The pink cover just scares me. It looks like Paris Hilton's journal. Although it has some redeeming qualities like the attractively drawn clouds and mountains. The diamond-heart at the top is a bit much, though. And pink explosion doesn't say anything even remotely close to the story in Princess Academy.

Actually, I don't think any of the covers perfectly captures the story. The hardcover edition is really pretty, but it reminds me of Madeline (not a bad thing, just confusing). I'm not about to shout "more goats!", but there is something unsatisfying about this cover, despite being the best one of the lot.

I'm not sure what my conclusion is to this, but I wonder what other people think of these covers. Which one would you pick? And has there ever been cover art for a book that absolutely matched its story? Something so perfect you couldn't think of that book being packaged any other way? What book would that be?

If you haven't read Princess Academy yet, I really recommend it. It is a great story and has more depth than I expected. This and Book of a Thousand Days are my favourite Shannon Hale books.



Cecelia said...

LOVE this book! And I have to agree with you - I like the first cover. More than 'like,' I suppose - the others don't do it for me at all. Nice post!

Tales of Whimsy said...

I know what you mean.

It's amazing how covers move us.

For example:
The soft cover to is adorable. When my hardback copy arrived from the library I was disappointed.

Maybe they figure they're dealing with a different demographic in who purchases what kind of bindings.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read this yet, but the cover that I would most likely pick up is the one with the girls and the mountain. The others are far too generic.

However, I do know from cover meetings here at the office that people do tend to pick up covers that have a human face on them. Must be inherent curiosity.

Amy said...

This looks like a good book.

Charlotte said...

I love Princess Academy too, and have a soft spot for the first cover--it is distinctive, and all the others blur in my mind with other books.

I'd never made the Madeline connection though!

Linda Nguyen said...

I like the hardcover version of Book of a Thousand Days, but I'm not liking the softcover version as much. That's just me though. I personally don't like it when the cover changes from hardcover to paperback, but I'm more understanding of cover differences from country to country, publisher to publisher. I don't know, but often times, it doesn't really feel like you're holding the same book when the cover are different. Again, that's just me. Other readers may hold a different opinion.

I've also heard that covers with girl portraits on them appear to sell more. Is that even true? Is this down to a science? Can we see the numbers? I have yet to find out.

This is a great post. =)

Oh, and the pink cover of Princess Academy scares me too. I would have to read this someday.

By the way, I have an award for you. =)

Mandy said...

Your comments are awesome. Really really. Thank you for the visit!

Book covers are a spot of delight and sometimes contention with me, working in the book SELLING business vs. a library. I get why they publish HC vs. PB versions, to "sell" a new product than last season. But then I see things like Shannon Hale's paperback covers dealt with in a mediocre way (for such a goddess!), and it makes me a little sad.
Hmmm, I have Shannon Hale's e-mail address here...*there will be a possible addendum to this post, dedicated to you guys for your wonderful comments*

Linda Nguyen said...

Wow, that would be so cool! I'd love to hear what Shannon Hale herself thinks of all this. If the author gets back to you, please share with us! =)

Mandy said...

Linda Ellen: Totally! I sent off an e-mail already. Check back in a few days!


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