Covers & Titles

Temporal Contingency, written by Joseph Lallo.I really couldn’t resist using that book cover for this page . The woman on it a future incarnation of an advanced AI known as ‘Ma’ (Ma, as in mother, because she nags her creator like she’s his mother).   And yeah, that incidence of ‘Ma’ is well worth buying the book forand the several novels and shorts prior to it.   And the title is very enticing to sci-fi geeks and very relevant to what is happening in the story.

So, onto what the page is about, but before i begin, i’d just like to point out that i’m not discussing a favourite, proven writer, like Ursula Le Guin, who could send me a plain cardboard covered bundle of photocopied pages with ‘read me’ as a title scrawled on the front in red crayon and i’d be in literary heaven.   Neither am i discussing a book that comes highly recommended from someone whose thoughts on literature you respect and trust.   I’m discussing those random book purchases where you’re just looking for something different to read — maybe a few books to take on holiday to read on the beach or something.

And so, with that in mind…

We’re all told we should never judge a book by its cover, but why not?

I mentioned to someone a while ago that i’d bought a book because i liked the cover and title — ‘The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George’.   She looked at me, aghast, like i was some kind of literary heathen… ‘You don’t judge books by their covers, do you?’

‘Absolutely’ was my reply.   ‘And the title too’.

Needless to say she was appalled.

So i explained my reasoning… That if a writer has spent many months, or even years, imagining, writing and editing a book, and then many more months, or years, trying to get it published, then they would take the time and make the effort to give it a good title and a good cover if the book was any good.   What kind of writer who considers their book their very best work would give it a crap title and a shit cover?   What kind of writer who cares at all about the initial impression of the book on the reading experience of the reader is going to let that initial impression look crap?   It’s never going to be a good start to a story if the book looks as dull, cold and greasy as dirty dish water.

A good writer should be more than capable of giving a book a great title and finding an artist to do a great cover for it.   If a writer can’t give a book a great title then they aren’t a very good writer — or at least not one i’m inclined to read.   Likewise, a writer who can’t be bothered to find a good artist to do their cover work for them doesn’t really think much about the content they’ve written.   And a good artist will convey through the cover art what they themselves felt from the book.

Anyway, i asked this aforementioned, appalled person, what made her buy books if not the cover or title?   I still haven’t got an answer.

For me, the reality is, that we all judge books by their covers and titles.   Sure, some of us read the synopsis, but that’s only after either the cover or the title has caught our attention and we read the synopsis to see if it ties in nicely with the impression we got from the cover and title.

So having read all the above, you can probably see why this website is published the way it is — with a big, clear picture of the book’s cover and the title in nice bold font.   And it’s not going to change any time soon because i don’t see myself judging books by any other means.

Or maybe i’m missing something?   If anyone has any other ways of choosing random books then i’d really like to know what that is.   So send me a message if you have any thoughts on this.