Reading 2017: Importance of Book Covers (from the IndieBRAG Cover Contest Series)

A few months back I visited with Stephanie, who at that time helped organize indieBRAG‘s cover contest. It was another opportunity for me to chat about book covers and the role they play in my reading and blogging, and it was a lot of fun!

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Book cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories, and often times readers first judge a book by its cover. This year indieBRAG has put together a cover contest of books chosen by the indieBRAG Team. These covers were chosen based on several factors including; 1) professionalism 2) visual appeal 3) creativity and 4) fit with the story/genre.

This week we have asked the ladies of the indieBRAG Interview Team to discuss with us the importance of book covers, what they like, want to see more of and so on. Today Lisl talks with us about this.

Lisl, on the scale one to five, how important are book covers to you?

I’d probably say in between four and five. Though I add the caveat that there have been books with solid color covers I’ve enjoyed. If a work’s premise appeals to me, I won’t not read it because of a dull jacket, but it is so that such a cover lessens the chances I’ll be drawn closer and discover the richness between the pages.

Why are they important to you?

A fantastic cover often draws me to a book, even from across a room (or stack). It will make a statement or offer some insight or perspective to the story, or even provide food for further thought that wasn’t necessarily addressed in the book, at least not directly. Sometimes it’s just beautiful or striking in a way that makes me want to experience the pleasure of simply taking it in.

What do you not like in book covers?

Despite my comment above about solid covers, I really don’t care for them. They’re bland and don’t provide any kind of visual peek into the world the story’s characters inhabit, which I really love. I can understand an author preferring not to have images of characters; some want to leave that visualization up to reader interpretation, and I respect that. However, not to have any image, pattern or design detracts from the experience of reading a book—reading the cover is an integral part of the event. The lacking even strikes me as a bit lazy.

What would you like to see more of in covers?

Hmmm … I wasn’t really sure how to answer this at first, so I did a quick examination of five covers I especially like. One, for 1066: What Fates Impose, by Glynn Holloway, is fairly straightforward, with minimal but forceful design that takes a stand, replicating the martial tone threaded throughout the novel. The image on Sarah Bruce Kelly’s Vivaldi’s Muse is the partial reproduction of a Lefebvre painting, which in particular sets a tone, with its creative beauty and expression, and absolutely spot-on colors, that exactly matches the personality of the historical character portrayed within—plus it’s a picture not often seen within the reproductive market (greeting cards, coasters, books, etc.) The other three show images with lots of detail and space for commentary on the themes: Anna Belfrage’s A Rip in the Veil’s girl walking away from the viewer is surrounded by a host of detail meaningful to the theme, as is the warrior on Paula Lofting’s Sons of the Wolf (first edition). And finally, Annie Whitehead designed a magnificent cover for Alvar the Kingmaker that reflects—literally even, what with items mirrored in a crown’s arch—contemplations of the past and present for the people involved, as well as their future and that of others: strands of life that touch multiple lives, including those yet to come, in this world and the next.

Despite the various styles these book covers all have, it’s easy to recognize that the statements made by or the reading of them provide strong and meaningful links to what happens within the narratives. The characters might even recognize themselves or something close to their identity within the images, and if that’s the case, then surely it is all the more striking for a reader. Moreover, the various styles of these covers indicate that there are many ways to achieve this intimacy and insight. 

So I suppose the short(er) answer would be that I’d really love to see covers with more connection to the people and places that populate the books. Their lives and events depicted meant enough to put them to paper, so why not go all the way?

How many books have you read this year thus far? 

Well, 34 to be precise, though I confess I haven’t even looked at one portion of my goal (sci-fi), which focuses more on genre this year than numbers.

Do you participate in cover contests by voting for your favorite? 

I would if I knew about them! I love examining and interpreting covers, though it is true I haven’t been online quite as much recently as in the past, so I’m sure I miss a lot. Which is why I was so excited to learn about indieBRAG’s contest—even as an observer.

When writing a book review do you consider the covers to be part of your rating the book?

Truth be told, I’m not in love with star ratings, and don’t use them (except within online social cataloging sites that make me, in order to post reviews). My reviews tend to be non-linear and contain a touch of the analytical; how much I enjoyed each work can be determined by my words. But as a more direct answer, I typically don’t talk about covers, at least not at great length. This is partly because my entries are a bit longer than many other reviews, and adding too much more might on occasion become a bit weighty for some readers. Also, for better or worse, not all books have covers that bear much discussion.

How much do you blog per week and how much do you talk about book covers?

Also for better or worse, my blogging has to be scheduled around my family and work, so I don’t have a set number of entries per week, though I try to do at least one. (That doesn’t always happen!) I have done a couple of cover crushes, after the practice initiated by a fellow blogger and indieBRAG reviewer, and would love to do more. Sometimes I make mention of covers in reviews, though for the reasons stated above I don’t always.

It’s been great chatting with you, Stephanie, about book covers—and as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the get-together!

A pleasure, Lisl! Thank you for visiting today.

Link to another interview with Lisl here.

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Well, my book count has increased since this interview originally published, and you can see what I’ve read here (and what I’m still reading, here). I do confess, however, I remain behind in my sci-fi ….

Also, you won’t want to miss: Stephanie’s blog, Layered Pages, and her fun new endeavor, Novel Expressions, a Facebook page that in January shall be expanding into a blog well worth marking your calendar for. She’ll be partnering with Erin, whose own blog, Flashlight Commentary, is birthplace of the cover crush spoken of above. 

Previous entries in the Reading 2017 series:

Readers’ Chat with Stephanie Hopkins

Origins of the Challenge

Reading Challenge 2017

New Genre Library (True Crime): Murder in Greenwich

The Importance of Book Covers (Book Blogger Group Chat)

New Genre Library (Graphic Novel): The Metamorphosis

New Genre Library is a three-part spinoff series of Reading 2017

Upcoming:

New Genre Library (Science fiction): Title TBA

And a fun entry to round out the year!

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Reading 2017: Readers’ Chat

Back in June of 2016 I had a lovely conversation with Stephanie Hopkins, of indieB.R.A.G. and Layered Pages, one which contemplated different angles of the reading experience. I decided to re-blog it here for the benefit of my and other readers, and merge it into a series focused on my progression of reading between that year and this new one.

To get us started, Stephanie’s interview elicits a few responses that will be re-considered in future entries of the series, some answers or ideas of which I already have thought about, others that have yet to arise. Here’s how our summer chat went.

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Lisl, why do you blog?

I’d like to say it’s a way for me to journal without actually having to use pen and paper—I’m often so lazy about writing in an actual book, despite loving the idea of it. The flaw with that answer, however, is that I don’t blog much that people might perceive as journal-y.

When I first considered the idea of a blog, I knew I wanted whatever I blogged to help me think more deliberately, to articulate ideas rather than experience them instinctively and without further growth. And I wanted to write. I’d always loved reading and writing, and research and writing analytical papers in university to this day remains one of my happiest set of memories. I wanted to do something that picked back up on that.

vivaldi's muse
Vivaldi’s Muse by Sarah Bruce Kelly, subject of one of my first reviews, remains a favorite to this day. (Click image)

A few years ago I started to write book reviews and found the challenges of doing this led me from idea to idea and also kept my mind active, always contemplating something or other, always learning. It kept me looking for meaningful angles, and this is where my training with close readings came in, something we did in our literature classes with a particular professor. I also became a little more confident about stepping outside my comfort zones in terms of reading material, and I more easily began to see threads even in genres that before I might not have chosen quite so quickly.

I’m also happy to say that writing for my blog, even when 80% of what I end up with never gets published, has helped me toward my goal of writing creatively—this had been much more challenging to me than analytical writing—and has also led to many rewarding partnerships and alliances, including being a part of an indie writers’ community where we help each other.

How many books a year do you read?

Well, I never really thought about counting until the end of last year. I’ve had a Goodreads account for a while but wasn’t really recording anything on it apart from remembering to add a book here and there that I wanted to read. Then when 2016 began I saw the reading challenge and decided to pick a number and aim for it. To be perfectly honest, I have zero interest in competing with anyone for numbers—there will be loads of people who read many more books than I, and that’s absolutely OK with me.

What I saw in the challenge was a chance to add a little more discipline to my life, even in a smaller fashion. I also liked the idea of looking back at my reads last year, and thought it would be nice to have a set of steps leading me from one attraction to the next as 2016 progresses; at the end I might see a pattern of thought or recall events surrounding those choices—a bit of nostalgia.

What are your favorite genres?

Phew, that’s a bit rough! From childhood I would say anything to do with King Arthur and Merlin, but I also developed a serious interest in history and historical fiction, especially the Wars of the Roses era. But I also am a longtime fan of ghost stories and like to read accounts of travel around the world, especially humorous ones. I’m quite fond of other genres as well, but I think perhaps these are my favorites. You might get a slightly different answer next month!

Where are the different places you read?

I’m not sure if you’ll believe this, but I often read standing up. Because I never really paid attention until recent years, I’d assumed it resulted owing to discomfort following an injury in a car accident. I also have this crack about the designers of chairs hating humans—so many seats are so uncomfortable! My mother, however, says I was always a restless reader.

I do adore an overstuffed chair, though, and sometimes I’ll curl up in the corner of my sofa, and I especially love this if it’s snowing or raining like mad outside, which I can see from that spot.

What thrills you the most about reading?

The-Crystal-Cave
The Crystal Cave, a perennial favorite.

There are some characters who completely speak to me, and Merlin was one such. Though I had books from an early age (albeit not a lot at first), my mother told me tales of Merlin, so I didn’t actually read about him until later. Once I did start to, it was as if he had been waiting for me and I chased him everywhere. Becoming part of his world when I picked up a book made me feel thrilled and at home at the same time.

When a character gets that close to me, I feel a crucial part of my soul being filled and it is very rewarding. Naturally I want to write my experiences, and that leads to further discovery of that character as well as myself.

I want also to say that now is a really marvelous and remarkable time for storytellers and readers alike: the independent and small publishing community, as I have discovered, is simply chock full of tales so thrilling and magical and thought provoking it takes your breath away. Imagine reading book after book after book that wow you enough to either write about them or tell people, “You must read this!” Humans have an instinctive desire to be told stories, and this market, unfortunately ignored by traditional publishers (and their loss!), is filling that coded desire in a big way.

Name your favorite childhood book. 

Oh, wow, it would have to be The Crystal Cave. I’ve read that book so many times I’ve lost count. But I also was a fan of Nancy Drew Mysteries and Trixie Belden, another mystery series I first discovered on my auntie’s old shelves.

What is the first thing you consider when buying a book?

Ha! The one thing we are always told not to—the cover!!! Whether it’s a book I spot in passing or a title I deliberately seek out, I always examine the cover, perhaps as an attempt to get an advance glimpse inside that world.

In a story, what is the most important aspect of that story?

Well, is has to be believable, have a sympathetic character and a riveting plot. Even non-fiction should capture me, so to speak, as opposed to being just a lot of fact-filled pages. You might be interested to know I recently re-visited this very question, combined with a bit of walking down memory lane, and decided to write about it, which you can find here.

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Many thanks to Stephanie Hopkins and indieB.R.A.G. for being one of the rewarding partnerships in my reading and writing experience! 

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Next up: A look back at Reading 2016