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Cover Love

You know they say…

You can’t judge a book by its cover.

That’s usually true, but we do anyway. I think that a good cover can attract a reader, but the real impact is a bad cover. As shallow as I feel admitting this, I won’t buy an indie book with a hot mess cover. Too many fonts? Obvious photoshop filter over a licensed photo of a supermodel? Just too dang much going on? Sorry. My 99¢ isn’t worth much, but my reading time is valuable.

M.R. Merrick blogged about covers today (I write this a few days before posting to keep ahead of my busy life) and it got me thinking. What do I love about some covers? What are my favorites? Here are five I love (4 indies, 1 from the Big 5) and what I love about them.

Exiled by M.R. Merrick

One of the reasons I first picked up Exiled was its cover. This image caught my attention with its limited palette and the beautiful, stark tree that takes center. The fonts are well chosen, one grungy, bold title and then a simple, classic font for the author credit. There are no characters on this cover, just elements. We see a tree with fire and water. We know from the presence of these elements in a field that their appearance is likely supernatural. Old, awesome-sauce trees like that usually have some mysticism around them. This is just a clean, simple cover that gives us an idea about the themes without giving anything away. It’s perfect for the book and it lured money out of my wallet. It did exactly what it was designed to do.

Looking For Alaska by John Green

John Green hates the candle. I love it. To me, the candle, which is subtle in dark purple on black, is a hidden symbol. The original design was meant to resemble cigarette smoke, which is certainly a prominent element in the book. As a stark black cover with curling smoke, I’m reminded of the simple, symbolic covers of books like The Catcher in the Rye. That classic book certainly influenced Green.

Now, apparently the publisher was afraid to put cigarette smoke on a YA novel’s cover, so they put a candle under it. That’s pretty silly, as cigarette smoke on the cover is probably the least of concerns for the reactionary-censor-moms. What I like about the candle, is that– at first glance– it is cigarette smoke. Then the candle reveals itself. The candle is a symbol. The candle snuffed out stands for death. Death is a central theme of this book.

So John Green may hate the candle, but I like it. It’s like a great work of art, where things reveal themselves as you look at it.

Jenny Pox by JL Bryan

Phat Puppy Art did the cover for JL Bryan’s Jenny Pox. The cover is simple: a girl, some birds, a tagline and a title. The title itself serves the book so well. What this cover does is set a somber mood that is made surreal by the presence of birds. Jenny’s loneliness oozes from this cover. It’s a beautiful cover for a beautiful book.

Edit May 1, 2013: Dude, those are paper cranes!

Fairyland by JL Bryan

The original Songs of Magic covers were alright. They featured some cute art, but the new photographic covers by Phat Puppy Art are awesome. Specifically I like the cover for book four, Fairyland. What do I love? The light. The color. The composition. The mood. The titles. The simplicity. I love an awful lot about this cover.

We still see Aoide’s pink hair, but the wash of gold light gives a feeling of peace, beauty, and otherness that the fairy world should have. It was worth whatever JL Bryan paid to redo the covers. This cover sells this book. It’s awesome.

Vs. Reality by Blake Northcott

I finish off with an awesome self-made cover by Blake Northcott. This cover was made from a few stock photos, but it does everything it needs to with style and flare. The open mouth, tongue hanging out is provocative. The labeled, electric-blue pills conjure images of silicon valley pharmaceuticals. The powers written on them invoke images of superheros. The clean-then-crumbling font tells us that this is not our father’s superhero book. It’s minimal on text, simple-yet-provocative on image, and full of bright colors that pop off the page. Best of all, it doesn’t look like any other book cover out there. It’s a brilliant original.