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  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.

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I am quite prone to pick up a book because of its cover. A lovely photograph, intriguing art work and graphics all prompt me to stop and look. A certain subtlety is always helpful--gold lettering and gaudy colors have to be overcome by the promise of the title. In fact, titles are as important to me as covers (in terms of which unknown books I pick up). I recently discovered Ann Cleves' Shetland quartet because the title of the first is Raven Black and I like ravens. The books are very good mysteries set in the Shetland Islands.


I'm one of those "depends on ..." people. Occasionally, I'll actually pick up books just to see if I can get the sense of them, but other times, my mood makes it so that I will only pick up books whose covers intrigue me, for better or for worse.

I will admit to not liking movie tie-in covers, though. Forget it, I'm not buying that.


I am easily seduced by covers that use works of art or old photos. But having been a graphic designer I can be picky too. I try to realize they are trying to hook me and to at least read the first paragraph to see what the writing it like.

I definitely do not like movie tie-in. Recently saw "The Duchess" and am now searching for a hardcover of the original publication so I can read the real story.

I do like Persephone's covers. There is something rather magical about the plain outside with the lovely endpapers inside. It's like a secret that only you know the answer to when you see them all lined up on your bookshelf.


In the days before I was aware of Persephone Books, I can remember seeing them occasionally in bookshops and thinking grey/boring/worthy and not even picking them up. Having belatedly realised that I thoroughly enjoy them (as long as I don't over-indulge, too much spinster-lit is as cloying as chick-lit), those distinctive grey covers mean that I can spot a Persephone at 50 paces when I'm trawling second-hand shops. Although, of course, the publisher might not be so delighted to hear that!


I don't think I would buy a work of fiction because I actively liked its cover but I would avoid one that had the wrong cover - just because in grazing many books at once my mind is subconsciously filtering out genres I don't want. At the moment there is a confusing genre mix with otherwise quality books beinging give the sugary or glitzy treatment. For me then it is more imprtant not to put off potential readers rather than trying to attract them. I think this is why the branded type covers eg Persephone or Penguin or Oxford Classics that are quite plain or have a 'cassic' painting on predominate on my shelves - they don't put me off in the shop so I pick them up and read a bit and buy them.


Personally, I wouldn't buy a book just because of it's cover/jacket, but it should give a clue as to what the content might be like. A good eye-catching cover obviously helps to bring a particular book out in a display of new books,bestsellers or whatever, in a bookshop or library, and may encourage a reader of genre books to pick up something that looks like a genre read, but is something more interesting - a way of expanding readers horizons. Persephone Books are not the only publisher to avoid the cover design problem - remember the Everyman classics, black and white, which were to be in every school library. I also think the general presentation should match the jacket, ie typeface used, paper layout on the page - all add up to whether or not I want to read that particular book.

Susie Vereker

Actually I liked the cover for The Mysteries of Glass, but only chose it because of the Cornflower Book Group. The other one you illustrate doesn't conjure up a Greek island as far as I'm concerned - the sea isn't nearly blue enough. It reminds me of Douglas Kennedy's covers, in fact. Yes, I think I use covers to filter out what I probably don't want to read. But, yes again, this can be misleading because good books now often hide behind girly covers. I know publishers spend lots of time and money trying to get the cover right.

Barbara MacLeod

A Guardian 'Book Blogs' item of October 29, 2008 [] states "Earlier this month, during an alumni event at Newnham College, Cambridge, Margaret Drabble mentioned that she had recently had a "tense conversation" with her publishers. Novelist Sarah Dunant, who was also at the event, said that Drabble talked about how she suspected they were trying to rebrand her work, and that she was "being dumbed down by my publishers [because] ... there's an agenda of how it should be in the marketplace." So, says Dunant, Drabble decided to confront them about it."

In another part of the article there is a reference to a Canadain book blog [] which decided to have a bit of fun. They ran a competition to "take your favourite literary novelist and 'rebrand' one of their titles to appeal to more popular sectors....." .

The Guardian article states that they are going to hold their own similar competition and will publish the results.


I have often pondered the difference between the UK and US versions of books. For the most part I prefer the UK ones - in my opinion they tend to me more subtle and classy somehow.
US books (novels especially) tend to have more of the wow factor, aka a Hollywood style flashy style often using brighter colours and almost always there is some kind of iridescent and glisteny gold or bright red quality to the cover. I think it makes the book look cheap and trashy - but hey what do I know, I am just the customer!
Persephone sell limited titles here too - but they do not have the beatiful dove grey covers - instead they are illustrated with interesting paintings/drawings. They are actually quite nice and understated containing none of the above trashiness so beloved on most US novels. Disappointingly for me there are no endpapers either, just a black and white token of what I assume would be found in the UK edition on the front inside cover. But at least we can get them here - so I am not complaining.


I couldn't agree more - it's shameful the way that certain types of fiction - mostly decent, intelligent novels written by women, get wrapped in jackets that attempt to sell them to some dumbed-down mass market. Does this mythical entity even exist, I wonder? In any case, publishers are making a big mistake across the board of readers. It must be possible to put decent, attractive and relevant covers on novels, mustn't it? I buy books because of the author or the subject, but I'm sure lots of people would be swayed by an attractive cover - it's only human nature.

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Please note

  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.


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