Never judge a book by its cover

This is a question that is asked over on the Facebook page of the BBC World Service.

Do you judge a book by its cover? The novelist Maureen Johnson has touched a raw nerve by drawing attention to the way publishers try to market women writers in a ‘girly’ way, with book jackets featuring pink hearts and other fluffy imagery. She says she’s heard from men urging her to choose less girly covers so they feel able to read her books. Her anger has been echoed by several other leading female writers. [..] Polly Courtney, who left her publishers after a disagreement over book covers. Do you think book jackets are gender-stereotyped? And if you’re a man, would you avoid reading a pink book with love hearts on the cover, even if you thought it might be interesting? (link not included due to expected transient nature of the audio)

This is in reaction to this post found on the Huffington Post website regarding Maureen Johnson

I have to admit that I do judge certain books by their cover. I hear that Sophie Kinsella writes wonderful books, as does Jodi Piccolt. Thought provoking, heart breaking etc etc. Have I ever read one? Nope. Have the reviews from the people who have read them changed my mind? Just a little. Am I going to read one soon? Nope.

There is a certain cover that immediately confines a book into that horrible category “chick lit”. This is not the American definition, that includes some serious writers like Macomber and Piccolt (above), but more of the British definition – those books that are the Romance book genre’s fluffy irrelevant cousin. You know, the ones that done quite make it onto the Mills and Boon shelf.

I have nothing against romance novels. As with all other genres I read, they come in and out of favour. I have at least one M&B and one Macomber on my TBR shelf (and I quite fancy reading them).  They are what are known in certain circles as “brain cleansers” – those books you read in little over a day in between the 600 page politician’s autobiography and the latest  800 page Ken Follett. However I dont pick these books up because of their covers. I pick them up because I like the author or because I trust the brand.  Pink covers with cupcakes, shoes and umbrellas? I dont care how good the  story is, I wont consider buying a book with this kind of cover

What do you think?  How does a book cover affect whether you read it or not?

One thought on “Never judge a book by its cover

  1. There has also in my opinion been some strange decisions over the cover art of some of the novels Virago publish. Now I love Virago – one of my fav publishers – eapecially their VMC editions – however the latest covers of books by people like Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Pym, Molly Keane and others are dreadful! Oh all very pretty etc but they do acurately refelect the books or their authors – making them look really fluffy and insubstantial – as I said I love Virago – but I hate some of their latest VMC cover art. (Their designer editions are delightful – but are expensive)


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