Sunday, September 21, 2014

Judging A Book By Its Cover

This blog was brought about my recent attempts to find a decent title for my books. Titles are the bane of my existence, the Joker to my Batman, the Darth Vader to my Luke Skywalker, the Master to my Doctor.
Perhaps I'm exaggerating.
But I digress.
This post is all about titles and covers. First impressions are majorly important. Titles can't just be randomly generated or thought up on the spur of the moment (if you can do so, however, you are either not getting an original title, or you're very lucky).
Here I'm going to post my opinions on 10 different book covers and titles, to tell you what I feel was done right and what was done wrong. Some of these are books I have yet to read, some are books I have checked out from the library, some are from my personal library.
(DISCLAIMER: These are not book recommends. Some of them are books I enjoy, others my be ones I do not approve of. Keep this in mind.)

1)To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee

I know this book has many different covers, but this is the one I saw when I checked this book our from the library. Let's just talk about the title for a moment. To Kill A Mockingbird. It immediately made me curious about  what's going on. Mockingbird? What? Why kill one? What's going on? I think it is a brilliant title for an absolutely brilliant book.

2)I Am Number Four

Pittacus Lore

This book. Alright, I will put aside my fangirling about how much I love this series long enough to talk about the title and cover of the first book. To be honest, I had never heard of this book. I simply saw it at my local house of wonders (library) and picked it up. Because of the title. I Am Number Four. Why is this significant? Why does being number four matter? Then you see the text at the top: Three are dead. Alright so, number four is next in line to die. But what has he done? Who is he?
This is what a good title does. It makes you ask questions.
Bonus points for the color scheme of the cover. The orange, black, yellow, and white works well together.
My only qualm is that the name of the book and the author's name rhyme. But that's just a picky little thing that's not a real problem.

3) All Our Yesterdays

Cristin Terrill

This book forever wins my heart with its title simply for the fact that it is a quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet.
I mean, come on. Awesomeness.
However, the cover is amazing as well. It subtly implies what this story is all about: time travel. Coming from a total sci-fi nerd who is writing her own book about time travel, it immediately intrigued me. The clock on the ground stands out starkly against the black-white-blue background.

4) The False Prince

Jennifer A. Nielsen

This title screams fantasy. And personally, I would not choose most any title with the word "prince" or "princess" in it. Now, there are some exceptions (Clockwork Prince/Princess), but overall it's overdone to the point of being ineffectual. 
Despite the name being rather generic, it does make me ask questions. What's false about the prince? Choose to lie or choose to die? What's all that about?
The crumbling crown is very effective, in my opinion. I believe it sets an image in one's mind that is very strong and very gripping.

5) Delirium

Lauren Oliver

A reader, when looking at a book, will normally glance at the cover, then the inside of the cover, then the first page.
I never got past the cover of this book.
Alright, alright. Now this could be a fabulous book. Maybe it's the best book ever. If it is and you think so, there's a comment section below this post where you are free to chide me for my ignorance.
I looked at this book and put it back down. The title did a sort of half-grab. I was curious, but when I saw the cover two words sprang to mind that caused me to quickly replace it on the shelf.
Romance. Novel.
Perhaps I am wrong, but all I can think when I see this cover is that I am about to read a romance novel. This is the reason I have yet to read the book. Covers can turn a reader off. And very easily.

6) Radical

David Platt

No. This is not a novel. This is not fiction.
There is a point to be made here, I assure you.
Titles and covers matter no matter what kind of a book you are writing. Maybe it's a Christian life book, like this one.
The title grabs you. Radical. Radical... what? Taking Your Faith Back From The American Dream. Wait... what? The American Dream has my faith? What is this dude talking about? It makes me ask very good questions.
The cover is beautiful and simple. The upside-down house holds a picture of your entire life being turned head over heels, and the orange makes it a very easy book to find.

7) Great Expectations

Charles Dickens

This is another book with many, many different covers. But what I want to talk about here is the title.
Great Expectations. What great expectations? For what? Or whom?
These are all good questions to get your reader engaged and curious about what your title means, which in turn gets them curious about your book.

8) Looking For Alaska

John Green

Let me go ahead and say that I only read half of this book and do not plan to read any of Mr. Green's other books. Ever. I may state my reasons in a later blog post.
That aside, this is a clean, good cover. The smoke is beautiful, white against black. The title is what drew me to this book. Looking for... what? Alaska? It's kind of hard to miss. Why is someone looking for Alaska? Get an atlas, buddy. It's intriguing and does the job of a good title perfectly.

9) The Hobbit

J. R. R. Tolkien

Ahhh.... the Lord of the Rings. One of my all time favorite series of books ever. 
The Hobbit. It's simple and easy to remember, begging one major question: what on earth is a Hobbit? And why is "the" Hobbit so important?
The cover (again, this is the cover on the copy my daddy gave me) is a bit old-looking, yes, but I think the art is lovely. Clearly there's a wizard about to pay someone a visit. Where is this? Who is the wizard? What's going on?

10) The Knife of Never Letting Go

Patrick Ness

In my little world, the king of titles has to be Patrick Ness. I can't tell you how much I aspire to write titles as good as his. Even his chapter titles are perfect. The Chaos Walking series contains The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and lastly Monsters of Men.
His titles are, simply put, epic. They carry weight and importance and send chills up my spine.
The cover is also well done, with the scratched-in words a nice overlay to the background of orange sky.

Hopefully this blog post has demonstrated the importance of titles and covers in the eyes of your readers.

Want to judge a book by it's cover? Agree or disagree with what I've said in this article? Feel free to leave a comment!