Of the impact of the cover art

“Thou shalt not judge thy book by its cover!” Of course we all swear by this principle, don’t we? But in truth, are you sure to be fair to books that have cover art you don’t like? I will show you my recent personal experience.

I discovered a few years ago the British YA writer Mary Hooper at my local kids’ library. I was sold on the book by the cover art of the French edition, made by artist Pierre Mornet (I just looked him up today!) for Les Grandes Personnes publishing house (ie The Grownups). The French title is “Waterloo Necropolis”, which immediately sounds dark and Dickensian. I liked the dreamy, naive girl in the cover.

Recently, remembering the great experience I had reading this book, and looking for some YA historical novels, I typed “Mary Hooper” in Goodreads to know what else she’d written. I never knew she was so prolific an author! No less than 129 books were listed (I didn’t check for duplicates, but you get the idea…) But I barely recognized the book I’d loved from the cover art of the book “Fallen Grace”.  Why is this read-headed girl turning her back on me? I would have easily put the book is the gothic fantasy category, or perhaps in the Christian lit shelf. Anyway, I probably wouldn’t have even picked this book up with that cover. Would you?

This morning I was back at the kids’ library and while chasing my toddler I crossed the YA shelves, letter “H”. The idea of Mary Hooper came back to me, especially thanks to the memorable cover art. Mr Pierre Mornet, you probably don’t know how much you’ve changed my appreciation of the book and the writer! So I borrowed another one from the same publisher, who cleverly kept the same artist for the art cover: The Disgrace of Kitty Grey (very close translation this time).

Out of curiosity I checked the English cover art and the difference of treatment is quite shocking! While the Pierre Mornet’s art tells of a serious, possibly tragic fate of a very young girl who seems almost like a servant, the girly pink-and-blue bared shoulder-and-back view with flourish tells me of an almost adult girl who seems very shallow, possibly a princess with intrigues. I would never have given Mary Hooper another chance with this cover. Perhaps Mornet gives away too much of the story (which I haven’t even started yet), but in my opinion the English publisher dumbs it down, and is almost misleading in its promise.

What do you think? Is the French cover changing the orientation of the book? If you’re interested in whatever other painting Pierre Mornet is doing, you can check out this Pinterest board.

7 thoughts on “Of the impact of the cover art

  1. Ah-HA, I do not swear by that maxim, because I know all too well that I wouldn’t keep to it. I love a beautiful cover, and a crummy cover will put me off until someone tells me firmly that I should try that book. I so admire artists who can capture a book and make it beautiful and appealing — wish I had any of those skills. 😀

    • Of course covers are useful and beautiful! Otherwise we would be buying grey rectangles with only the author’s name and the title. I’m grateful for cover artists, and just wish publishers didn’t make any lazy choice!

  2. I don’t know anything about Hooper so, judging the books by their covers, and I do it all the time, I would be much more likely to pick up the books with the French covers than the English ones. The English covers say to me girly romance, something I have no interest in. The French covers say drama, tragedy and possibly intrigue and those things I do find appealing!

    • Isn’t it surprising how different our first appreciation of the book is depending of the cover? This particular example is the biggest gap I noticed so far, but now I’ll keep my eyes open!

  3. Yeah, we need to let the maxim go. Book covers are advertising. Publishers know this. Readers should know this. The maxim just makes us feel guilty for doing something publishers expect us to do.

    End rant.

    All that said, I really hate it when a publisher totally blows it by creating covers that give readers the wrong impression about a book. Some of the covers you’ve got in your post, smithereens, would lead me to expect adult romance fare from what you describe as YA novels. Hmmm. But the French cover might skew too young…?

    This is why I prefer to learn about books just from reviews rather than browse the bookstore. I know this makes me an outlier in the bookish community, but I like that I don’t have bad covers ruining the experience for me by giving me the wrong expectations.

  4. Pingback: The one with the dairy maid in shackles | Smithereens

  5. Pingback: The One with the Deceitful Cover | Smithereens

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