Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Do Judge a Book!

by Jo Robertson

Many of my friends say that the book's cover is what draws them to it in the first place. They prefer bright, rich colors and have definite tastes about what's included on the front: hate headless torsoes, love bare chests, hate "busy" or "dull" covers, love glossies or pastels and sexy step backs.

Sometimes they claim they'll buy a book because the cover is so engaging, so brilliant and beautiful, they havc to own it! I've always been a pragmatic gal and think I can have my cake and eat it too. So while I enjoy a striking cover, I've got to be engaged with the first three pages to purchase a book. Okay, sometimes just one!

The cover of my debut novel THE WATCHER (see above) screams darkness, dangerous, and doom, which is exactly what I intended. But I wanted my second book THE AVENGER, also a romantic thriller, to have a sexy hunk on the front. Doesn't the cover shriek alpha male? I confess I'm in love with this guy. I want to take him home and hide him in my room! This book has lots more romance in it.

Be sure to look for it mid-September at Amazon and Smashwords!

Readers often are as rabid about the title of a book as they are by the cover. An unfortunate cover or title, one that may raise snickers upon first glance, could be the mark of death for a book.

Green Eggs and Ham is a title that's iffy. Seriously? Green eggs?

But it's a quirky children's book, so it doesn't make you want to throw up.

Here are some other unusual or outrageous titles I've seen:

1. REUSING OLD GRAVES: Now this book is out of print so I can't really determine how one goes about reusing a grave. Any ideas? However, in used bookstores it's commanding a hefty price.

2. HOW TO WRITE HOW TO WRITE: Catchy enough. There are a lot of books about writing and the writing process, but this one gives a twist.

3. SQUIDS WILL BE SQUIDS: For some reason this title makes me giggle. Of course, it's a children's book, and I like the play on words.

4. THE MADAME A ENTREPRENEUR: CAREER MANAGEMENT IN HOUSE PROSTITUTION: This one made me laugh too, but for another reason entirely. It was published in 1979 and I have to wonder how many states had legalized prostitution back in the day and what kind of sales the book generated. Gotta love capitalism!

What about you, readers? What favorite, interesting or unusual titles have you encountered? Do you buy a book based on the cover or the title? Which influences you most in your purchases -- the title or the cover?


harmonyevans said...

The cover of the book IS important, but I agree with you -- the first 1-3 pages need to hook me in. Sometimes if I'm in a hurry, I'll purchase a book based on the title and cover alone.

Jane said...

Hi Jo,
I do admire some of those chesty covers. I love clever titles and some of my favorites are for Marianne Stillings' books like "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evie," "Sighs Matter" and "The Damsel in This Dress."

jo robertson said...

Hi, Harmonyevans! Thanks for stopping by. As the first commenter you've "won" the virtual Golden Rooster (shhh, don't tell him he's virtual; he's a bit testy about these things). Congrats!

I know what you mean. Sometimes the cover and title just grab me and I know that if I don't like the first pages when I look at it later, I can always return it!

jo robertson said...

Jane said, "some of my favorites are for Marianne Stillings' books like 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evie,' 'Sighs Matter' and 'The Damsel in This Dress.'"

Oh, I agree. I adore those play on words, which is why I liked "Squids Will Be Squids." I admire people who think those up. I never seem to be able to come up with a clever title like that.

Oh, yeah, the chesty covers are just, sigh, well chesty! I was watching HBO's latest episode of TRUE BLOOD which features Alcide, and man, that is one big man!

marybelle said...

The cover before the title, but Author trumps them both.

Sheree said...

It's the cover for me. I'm collecting books with my favorite cover models on them so, in many ways, the content doesn't matter as much.

I also borrow books from the library and buy ebooks and in those cases the summaries matter more.

But paper books with droolworthy covers? Ahhhh....

Helen said...

Well done harmoneyevans enjoy your day with him


For me it is the blurb on the back or the author that makes my buy a book don't get me wrong a great cover will make me pick the book up but I always read the blurb on the back LOL.
Titles well there have been some shall we different ones over the years with catergory romances but I do think they are improving but again it is the author or the blurb that makes me buy the book.
I love Keiran Kramer's tittles of her historicals When Harry Met Molly Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage Dukes to the Left and Princes to the right I think these are fun can't think of any others at the moment just got home from a 10 hour day at work and the brain is not working so good LOL.
I am really looking forward to reading The Watcher it is next up I have been having a real Bandit feast at the moment first Beth's loved it then Donna's awesome I am now reading Kate's great then yours whoo hoo and I do love the cover of The Avenger

Have Fun

Sonya said...

The only time I’ve deliberately not bought books was with that Regency series with titles like DUKES TO THE LEFT OF ME, PRINCES TO THE RIGHT. No doubt the books were fine, but those titles were embarrassingly trashy. How stupid do publishers think readers are?!

As for covers, I am sick and tired of emotional, engaging books with covers that feature naked, waxed, spray-tanned twenty-year old underwear models. I still buy the books, but am so embarrassed by them I only read them in private. The crazy thing is, they’re usually better than the books with more sensible, acceptable covers. There’re only so many naked boy covers you can make before they all start to look exactly the same.

But for the most part I ignore titles and covers because I’ve learnt they’re no indication of the quality of the book.

jo robertson said...

Marybelle said, "The cover before the title, but Author trumps them both."

Absolutely! If it's an author who's an auto-buy for me, I don't care if it's a blank cover or a stupid title. I'll buy!

jo robertson said...

Sheree said, "I'm collecting books with my favorite cover models"

What a great idea! Do you have any favorite models? I see that many of them have websites where they display the various covers they've done.

jo robertson said...

Thanks, Helen! You ARE having a terrific Bandita fest!

I agree with you. It's the blurb that drives my interest. If that short piece doesn't appeal to me, forget about it, especially for a new or unknown author.

jo robertson said...

LOL at your example, Sonya! The trouble is authors often have no say in the title. And publishers DO NOT always know best!

Apparently those half-naked boy covers sell books LOL! It almost sounds illegal!

I used to tear the covers off my books and read them that way in public. One day my dad said, "Are you reading one of those trashy books?" No fooling the Dad!

Nancy said...

harmonyevans, congrats on snagging the rooster!

Jo, a cover and/or title might grab my eye. The example I remember best is A Man to Slay Dragons by Meagan McKinney. It's a contemporary, white cover with a foil dragon on it. I picked it up because of the cover and title, skimmed the first few page, and bought it. A new author needs, I think, a good cover and title to stand out.

The Watcher has a great cover, and so does The Avenger. :-) Looking forward to the latter's release!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Morning Jo and Everyone!

MY OH MY, Jo, I DO LURVE that cover for The Avenger! If you bring him home and hide him in your room, I'll be right over! LOL!

I'll admit, I DO like bright and pretty colors on covers. And yes, sometimes covers in a particular sub-genre do start to all look alike. :-( That's because publishers seem to jump on bandwagons (authors do NOT get a say).

I'm afraid I don't pay much attention to titles. I am not fond of ANY of my three book titles, but as you all know, those were not "my" titles for the books. :-P

I agree with Marybelle, AUTHOR trumps them both!


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

OMGosh, Jo!

You actually TORE the covers off?!?! How bad could they have been?

Oh all right, some of those clinch covers back in the day were pretty racy, but still...

And some of those clever titles like Jane and Helen mentioned WILL grab my attention. But if I don't like the blurb or the first page, no cover or title will entice me to buy all on their own.


jo robertson said...

LOL, Cindy. Back in the day I never kept or reread my romance books, so I didn't mind tearing off the covers. Covers are so beautiful today that I'd have a hard time doing that!

jo robertson said...

Thanks, Cindy. I do love that guy on the cover of "The Avenger," but I'm not sharing him. Be warned.

Actually, I love all your covers even though they have the headless torso thing going. The backgrounds are very evocative of the book, I think.

And yes, your original titles were much better. A pox on that publisher for not realizing it.

jo robertson said...

Nancy said, "A new author needs, I think, a good cover and title to stand out."

Absolutely! I think covers and titles that shine are a MUST for a new author. How else are you going to stand out in a very big crowd?

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Sonya said, "I am sick and tired of emotional, engaging books with covers that feature naked, waxed, spray-tanned twenty-year old underwear models."

Ain't it the TRUTH! ;-) I do find it very frustrating when the cover in no way relates to the story. It's like someone in the marketing/sales dept. said, "Well, we had 3 books with headless torsos sell really well last year. Let's do 27 more this year!"

Jo, I LOVE that your guy on the cover of The Avenger has a FACE! :-P


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

BTW, Jo,
You asked how could anyone reuse old graves... Well, in Venice they had buried their dead on the Cemetery Isle (San Michele En Isola) for centuries. Guess what? Sometime in the late 1900s they started running out of room. So now, corpses are only buried for a set amount of time (I'm thinking 14 years but could be wrong), then they are exhumed and new bodies are buried in the vacated spots.

CREEPY, I know! But practical too.


Donna MacMeans said...

hi Jo!

I think the cover is really important. It should reflect the genre and yours certainly does that.

A catchy title is great. Wish I had that skill to create great eye-catching titles. It's an art. Recent catchy titles I've seen are Carpe Beadem by Tonya Kappes. Doesn't it just sound fun?

Donna MacMeans said...


I was just chatting with a romance reader in Mexico (yes, romance is worldwide) and she reiterated about the importance of those first three pages. I think this smart purchasing. Often the author has nothing to do with the cover and even less with the title. But those first three pages - that's all the author.

Donna - poolside in Los Cabos hehehe

Donna MacMeans said...

Sonya- do NOT follow Jo's example. Buy a book cover. Buy an electronic reader. But do not rip covers off of books. bad karma. Sacrilege. (grin)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Harmony, I think this might be your first acquaintance with our rascally rooster. Watch out - he's tanked up on Tim Tams after spending so much time down under over the last week!

Jo, what a fun post. I love Squids Will Be Squids. I love quirky titles or clever plays on words. Congratulations on getting The Avenger ready to go. Wow, that's one eye-catching cover. As a preference, I must say I'm not crazy on headless torsoes or odd body parts - there was a fashion in historicals a few years ago for legs peeping out of bed curtains, etc. It just looked like someone let loose in the prosthesis factory to me. I love the current fashion for women in gorgeous dresses. Love that pink dress on Christina Brooke's HEIRESS IN LOVE. And Nicola Cornick has had some lovely covers lately too - really rich colors and beautiful glamorous pics.

jo robertson said...

Donna said, "bad karma. Sacrilege."

Yes, I'm a very, very bad romance reader, but in my defense, I was very, very young.

jo robertson said...

Anna said, "It just looked like someone let loose in the prosthesis factory to me."E

I KNOW!! Honestly, sometimes NY just goes crazy with their covers. I, too, like the current beautiful gowns on "whole" women trend. And I've never been a fan of the headless torso.

jo robertson said...

Donna! Thanks for putting down the margarita and leaving Cabo poolside long enough to jump on the blog! You lucky girl, I'm so jealous.

Romance readers and writers in Mexico, too! (being facetious here). Who would've thought it!

jo robertson said...

BTW, in our local RWA chapter, we do a 3-page read periodically. We have a wonderful "reader" who "performs" the anonymous entries and afterward everyone critiques. It's a great experience. Yes, those first 3 pages are critical!

jo robertson said...

Donna said, "Recent catchy titles I've seen are Carpe Beadem by Tonya Kappes."

Oh, that's a great one I hadn't heard of. I'm no good at those either. I'll bet our master puns-person, Anna C., is!

jo robertson said...

Cindy said, " So now, corpses are only buried for a set amount of time (I'm thinking 14 years but could be wrong), then they are exhumed and new bodies are buried in the vacated spots."

So, should I ask what they do with the "old" bodies?

Another good argument for cremation!

jo robertson said...

Cindy said, " I LOVE that your guy on the cover of The Avenger has a FACE!"

And WHAT a face. I'm glad that he's more than a pretty body LOL.

Nancy said...

Donna, you're poolside in Los Cabos and you're on the blog? That's dedication!

I recently purchased a book with a catchy title, cover and blurb. I was in a hurry, so I didn't check out the actual pages. As soon as I started reading, I realized this was not a voice that would pull me in. Nothing at all wrong with the book, and the author has several successes to her credit. It just wasn't a good choice for me.

So I'm once again checking out openings and trying to read some section in the middle, too.

Nancy said...

Jo, Moonlight and Magnolias has done an editor/agent panel for the last few years (don't know if they're doing it this year) that involves reading the first couple of pages of a ms. I think TGN has done this, too. It's interesting to see where the editors and agents say "stop," and it's kind of depressing how few times they ask the author to see them after.

Nancy said...

Helen, I love Kieran's titles, too. Very catchy.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

I have to say that I don't read any of the book before I buy it. I buy based on covers and blurbs and recommendations by friends.

A recent title that just cracks me up every time I see it is "Go the F*** to Sleep." LOL.

Sheree said...

My current favorite cover model is Paul Marron, with Jed Hill and Ewa da Cruz coming in at a close second (Paul posed quite a bit with Ewa on covers and stepbacks - such as Maya Bank's IN BED WITH A HIGHLANDER). Yes, I like waxed/shaved underwear models; if I have to shave, then I want the guy to shave, too. Besides, the lack of/minimal chest hair just makes the abs and iliac furrow pop (see the cover of Terri Garey's DEVIL WITHOUT A CAUSE).

I also have favorite cover artists, such as Chris McGrath and Jon Paul Ferrara. To me, the book cover isn't just about the book; it's an affordable piece of art. I may someday rip the covers off the books and paper my bedroom walls with them. ;)

By the way, the guy on THE AVENGER looks like Francesco Cura.

shannon said...

I definitely PICK UP a book based on the cover. I peruse the books at Costco and look at the trade paperback ones primarily. So when a book catches my eye because of the cover I pick it up and then quickly read the back. THEN if it's something that seems interesting in the first couple sentences of the synopsis I will buy it. I won't even finish reading the back... I like to be surprised. :)

Sonali said...

Hi Jo

I laughed out loud when i read the 4th unusual title that you have in your list. When i have time i like to skim through the first couple of pages otherwise i look at the cover and the author when selecting the books.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Jo said, "So, should I ask what they do with the "old" bodies?"

Families are contacted to make other arrangements for them. If nobody claims 'em, then they are cremated.

I once visited a village in Austria where they ran out of space and had to exhume old bodies to bury new ones. The bones of the old ones were stacked neatly in this small chapel (an ossuary), leg and arm bones one place, ribs another. The skulls were all painted with leaves and other designs and put on display on shelves over the stacks of other bones.

Spooky but interesting, and I always wondered about the people who painted those skulls!


Pissenlit said...

My favourite title is still Julie E. Czerneda's A Thousand Words for Stranger. I don't know what it was but it kept drawing me back to the book so that I eventually bought it. Well, that and I liked the cover and synopsis and that it was by a Canadian writer. But I hadn't actually planned to buy it, you see. I'm glad I did. I also bought the 10th anniversary edition since I'd almost worn out my original copy.

I don't usually buy books because of the title or cover but it has happened on occasion. I bought Carla Kelly's Marrying the Captain and Stephen Hunt's The Court of the Air because of the covers...well, and I like the synopses...but mostly because of the covers. I kept petting the hardcover of The Court of the Air every time I saw it in the bookstore. :D

I'm more drawn to pretty covers than interesting titles and I like painted covers more than photographed ones.

Michael said...

i love this post because it reminded me that i do like to look at the covers of books! but the books i consume the most are children's books, and there is a lot of psychology that goes into designing a children's cover and title. i look for very original ideas and artsy fartsy covers for kids' books. our favorite recent titles: "Children Make Terrible Pets" and "Once Upon an Ordinary School Day." as for adult books, the most stark and intriguing the cover, the more i am interested!

Kennan said...

oops, that comment was published under Mike's name! this is Kennan, of course. Mom, i forgot to mention that i really like the cover of Avenger!

jo robertson said...

Kennan/Michael said, "our favorite recent titles: "Children Make Terrible Pets" and "Once Upon an Ordinary School Day." as for adult books, the most stark and intriguing the cover, the more i am interested!"

I agree children's books have the most engaging covers! I love the names of them too which is why I liked Squids Will Be Squids!

Thanks for stopping by, Michael, aka Kennan :-D.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Pissenlit, thanks for stopping by! I love how you phrased it, "petting the books as you pass by." Made me smile!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Well, I'm particularly fond of the Squid one, and the prostitution one! SNORK! :>

LOVE The Watcher, as you know. Can't wait for The Avenger!!!

jo robertson said...

Wow, Cindy, you know the weirdest stuff! I was worried about all those decomposing bodies, saw another book in the making.

Have you ever visited St. Catherine's Monastary on the Sinai Peninsula? They have all the bones of the dead monks of the past piled in a crypt there. Very interesting and very creepy.

jo robertson said...

Thanks, Jeanne!

Hi, Sonali. I have to read a few pages of the book or I don't dare buy it. One of the Kindle book features is you can download a sample. It's quite a bit and it's free, so if you decide not to buy the book, you're only out a bit of time.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Shannon, glad you could swing by. Did you see the latest book that's out by Jodi Picoult? It has a very interesting premise. Check it out.

jo robertson said...

Sheree said, "Yes, I like waxed/shaved underwear models; if I have to shave, then I want the guy to shave, too."

Good for you! A little manscaping never hurt anyone, right?

I love the idea of you wallpapering a room with romance book covers. Tres chic!

jo robertson said...

Oh, Trish, I've seen that "Go to Sleep" book. I haven't read it yet, but I know the sentiment VERY well. I can just see some sleep-deprived and enraged parent yelling that (in their heads of course)!

I can't believe you don't read any of the book before you buy it. You must trust the judgment of your friends a lot!

jo robertson said...

Oh, Nancy, I know they do that STOP thing with editors and agents, but it's so demoralizing. I'd never put myself out there like that.

Pissenlit said...

Jo - Oh gosh...oh no...I need brain bleach. You were talking about waxed/shaved underwear models and manscaping and then you mentioned wallpapering a room and before I finished reading the sentence, my brain produced an image of a room wallpapered with the removed hair. No, I have no idea where that came from and I wish it hadn't come. LOL

LilMissMolly said...

I have bought several books based on the covers. If the title is nothing like the cover though, I have not bought the book.

jo robertson said...

Pissenlit said, "before I finished reading the sentence, my brain produced an image of a room wallpapered with the removed hair."

ROTFLMAO! Too hilarious. And a little creepy, don't you think LOL?

jo robertson said...

Thanks for stopping by, LilMissMolly!

Anna Sugden said...

Popping in late (blame the jet lag!) to say how excited I am about your new book - I just downloaded The Watcher and can't wait for The Avenger.

I love great titles and may give an author I don't know a try if the book has a great title (and the blurb appeals). Same with a great cover.

One of my favourites is still Donna's The Education of Mrs Brimley!