.... except that we do. It is the first thing we spot when browsing in a bookshop or online and it can make or break the buying decision. Sometimes the covers are wildly inappropriate for what is actually inside and can really trivialise a story. Others can be totally deceptive. It is a Fact Universally Acknowledged that all books in shades of pastels, be it pink, or lime or mauve are chick-lit and are for women only. They are lumped together in this genre which can make readers turn up their noses (I know I have been guilty of doing this) when sometimes a really good and well written story is lurking there and is missed. Over the last few years we have had a proliferation of books with headless women on the front. I could never fathom out why and nobody I have spoken to can work it out either. One assumes that it is to make the female mysterious and remote and it certainly works as nobody can see the expression on her face but it has now become a bit of a cliche and think it time it was dropped.
I have mentioned on Random the Morland Dynasty by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and the decision by the author's publishers to stop printing them as 'they don't sell enough'. I gather they have back tracked a bit but the future of these books is still a bit uncertain. I simply cannot understand why some bright spark in the marketing department hasn't suggested re-designing the covers, which are now a bit boring, and republish with a big marketing push. There are so many people around who would simply love to read these books but they are increasingly difficult to find and the earlier ones seem to be only traceable in libraries. Delighted to hear that Source Books in the US are publishing these titles starting at No 1 and hope they managed to do the lot in due course. Their covers and designs are lovely.
Which brings me to my next point. Sweeping statement coming up. Why are American paperbacks of better quality than those in the UK? Whenever I visit America and find myself in Barnes and Noble or wherever, I love looking through their paperback editions of books I already own. I find them in all ways so much better. The paper is of a much higher quality, the print is clearer and, most important of all, they open and fall back wihtout that awful cracking and bending of the spine which we seem to have to do all the time over here.
A prime example of this and one which links in with the cover design, are two books by Sarah Bower. A few years ago I read Needle in the Blood by this author, all about the Bayeaux Tapestry and simply loved it. One of the best historical novels since Kathryn by Anya Seton in my humble, and then her second novel The Book of Love all about Lucrezia Borgia. Both these books suffered badly, again in my opinion, from the quality of the design and publishing process, particularly the Book of Love which had small print used on low quality paper. The story was wonderful, but its presentation poor.
It is not just me saying this. Earlier in the summer I had lunch with Sarah in Aldburgh and we discussed this matter of covers. These two books are being published in the USA, again by Sourcebooks, and as a series all about the Borgias was on TV over there, the Book of Love was renamed and a new cover designed and the book did well. OK the TV tie in would have helped, I know but Sourcebooks very kindly sent me copies of Sarah's two books and the difference in production values is most marked. You may well think that the UK cover designs are better or more tasteful and I can agree with you to some extent, but the paper and the fonts used were the stumbling block for me.
I know that the death of the hardback has been foretold for many years, but with the advent of e-readers and the change in the market over the last few years, I think that hardback fiction will gradually diminish. Many new books are published as a 'paperback original' and skip the hardback edition completely which makes economic sense so, in that case, why can't paperbacks be produced with a bit more care and attention? I am talking popular fiction and non-fiction here, those titles with a certain time limited turnover not the core library such as the classics. OUP World Classic paperback series is a shining example of how a paperback should be produced and I will always seek out a classic title with this publisher more than any other. Then of course we have Persephone books which are paperbacks though it is hard to believe as they are just so beautifully produced - great thought and care went into the decision making process when this publishing house was founded and it has paid dividends.
I would be really interested to hear readers views on this subject. Let me know if you think I am totally wrong or if you agree with me.
I look forward to hearing what you think.