Do you judge a book by its cover..?

Jul 19, 2012 | Literature

Some years ago I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic creative writing course led by the (sadly late) great author Frederick E. Smith, best known for his 633 Squadron books. Having just learnt of his recent death at age 93, I could go on and on about the wonderful Mr Smith, but that, perhaps, is for another day.

During the course, he talked about the importance of the cover of a book, and it is a discussion we have had on many occasions here in our book-mad office. Often the choice of the book cover is made by the publishing company and can have the power to make or break a book. Something FE (as Mr Smith was sometimes referred to, as are we!!) knew to his cost.

He told us about one of his books which was all set around a top secret mission during WWII; the whole point of the book being the secrecy of the target, which was not revealed until the final chapters. The publishers, in their wisdom, printed a picture of the target (a bridge) on the front cover… Hmmm.

Books very often have different covers on subsequent print runs – sometimes updated for a contemporary audience years after their original publication. The Harry Potter series famously sported alternative ‘grown-up’ covers when the publishers twigged how many adults were reading them. And some people even go to the extraordinary lengths of creating their own alternative book covers – with sometimes stunning results. Take a look here at shortlist.com’s list of their 30 favourites.

How much does the cover of a book influence you?