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An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-07-21 16:32
Subject: [books] Cover art
Security: Public
Tags:art, books, green, poll, publishing

I was thinking random thoughts about publishing as I walked back to my hotel from dinner. (This is a sign that I continue to feel better — I’m no longer thinking random thoughts about cancer, by and large.) Back in stone age of the 1970s when I first started buying books myself, right through the mid-to-late 1990s when the Internet came into general use, my book-buying habits followed a specific pattern.

When I’d find an author I liked, I would spend time in the bookstore trying to figure out what order to read their stuff in, and whether I missing titles. Otherwise, I’d browse for interesting titles and covers. This explains the preponderance of authors with surnames beginning with /A/ and /B/ on my shelves to this day — often I wouldn’t get much further.

Judging a book by its cover is a proverbially tricky business, yet that’s what most buyers do outside of genre-specific or author-specific Fandom. There’s a whole art to cover design which is way beyond my comprehension, except for me to shout out to Tor yet again about what a wonderful job Irene Gallo has done with my covers. The Dos Santos art for Green is a trifecta in the cover lottery.

What I wonder about is how cover design has changed in the years since the Internet disintermediated detailed bibliographical information, as well as book reviews. Do people buy differently now, armed with information? I certainly do. (That, and all the ARCs and courtesy copies people mail me.) But am I an outlier? Or has the role of the book cover changed in the past 25 years?

Beats me, I have no intuition about that, but it’s an interesting question. Poll here on my LJ if you’re interested in adding your observations to a very unscientific survey of book buying habits of yore.

Other thoughts?

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

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User: sheelangig
Date: 2008-07-21 23:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Oh well, yes. I don't buy as much in stores anymore. I have such a long back log on my Round Tuit list for Amazon or Alibris or Bookmooch, that I usually get books in the mail these days.

I also don't browse the library anymore. I just use their web site and pop in and out to drop off and check out the next batch.
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Willis Couvillier
User: will_couvillier
Date: 2008-07-21 23:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I have always loved good genre art. So, yea, I did get books by the cover as well as the book.

Probably why I still collect Magic game cards. It surely attracts some good artists.
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Willis Couvillier
User: will_couvillier
Date: 2008-07-21 23:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, and I can even recall the artists that impressed me back when: Frazetta, Vallejo, Rowena, Freas, Barr are just a few.
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User: mroctober
Date: 2008-07-22 13:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Spicy Slipstream Stories
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linda saboe
User: lsaboe
Date: 2008-07-23 03:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
good, artistic, interesting cover art will draw me in but is rarely the deciding factor. the title, blurb and the first few sentences/paragraphs are what will influence me to make a book mine.

i will say tho' that bad cover art will turn me away, so guard against bad cover art--especially the ones with overly muscular men with square jaws and sweaty brows or women with parted lips and pointy boobs. ickickick
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