Reviews

Invisible’s got an excellent, tense plot, shifting between the two main characters, with a good number of surprises along the way. Poulson always has great, strong women characters, with real lives and feelings . . .  I liked the fact that the depictions of violence and injury were realistic without being over-detailed or gloating . . . It was a pleasure to find a book that did the excitement, the jeopardy and the thrills without putting off this reader . . .  a very good read for anyone.’

- CLOTHES IN BOOKS

Judging a book by its cover

UnknownI was thrilled when my friend Moira over at ClothesinBooks.com gave me a copy of this splendid book which brings together Tom Adams’s original cover designs for Agatha Christie’s novels. They are works of art in their own right. If I am looking to buy a second-hand paperback of an Agatha Christie, I always prefer one with an Adams cover. My copy of The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side has the one that is featured here on the dust jacket and I think it is one of the very best of his designs. It inspired me to reread the novel (a late Miss Marple with a dazzingly original motive for murder!).

Moira’s gift set me thinking how important book covers are – and how few really good and memorable ones there are these days. The current Christie covers are pretty insipid, though perhaps by now she is so famous that it doesn’t really matter.

Authors do not have the final say, readers may be surprised to know. Though publishers do generally want their authors to be happy, untimately it is the marketing team who will judge what is most likely to sell the book. And it is not a neutral thing: a bad cover can actually deter a reader. I dislike covers which feature seductive women who have nothing to do with the plot and it has put me off buying one particular series.

I have been lucky with Lion Fiction, my current publishers, and with St Martin’s Press, a little less so with Hale. Perhaps it is because of my background as an art historian, but it really matters to me what a book looks like, and I have been known to buy the US edition of Andrea Camilleri’s novels rather than the UK ones because I prefer the covers.

I’d be interested to know how important it is to other readers. Do you judge a book by its cover? Any that you think are stunningly successful?

10 Comments

  1. Margot Kinberg
    August 25, 2017

    I’ve thought about that a lot, Christine, and I do think covers matter. I think they need to get the reader’s attention and draw the reader in, without being lurid – a tricky balance. And that book about the Christie covers looks fantastic! Lucky you to have gotten it.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      August 25, 2017

      Yes, I agree, a tricky balance. I really enjoyed the book and was reminded of some wonderful Christie covers. Hope you are having a good summer.

      Reply
  2. Helen Hardie
    August 25, 2017

    Robert Dessaix has a beautiful dust jacket on his book Night Letters. I don’t seem to be able to attach a copy here, so I shall send a pcture direct. I don’t know how anyone could not by a book with this lovely cover. Best wishes: Helen

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      August 25, 2017

      Yes, thank you, Helen. Some covers make you want to buy the book almost irrespective of the content. Will look forward to seeing this one.

      Reply
      • Helen Hardie
        August 25, 2017

        Sorry Christine….. have tried to send you that picture but it does not want to go to you website …. and I can’t seem to paste it! But I know you would like it! Helen

        Reply
        • Christine Poulson
          August 26, 2017

          Could you describe it very briefly and I could look it up online? I’m curious!

          Reply
  3. tracybham
    August 25, 2017

    This is a topic dear to my heart. I do care very much about book covers and I have bought many books solely because of the covers. This would apply mostly to vintage paperbacks, however, and I usually won’t apply the same standards to contemporary fiction because of the reasons you have mentioned.

    I do buy a lot of old paperbacks featuring seductive women who have nothing to do with the plot because the I like the artists who created the covers. It is true that there are many novels with those covers that have nothing to do with seductive women in any state of dress.

    Tom Adams’s covers of the Christie books are my favorites also and I have two books of his cover art. But I have had some trouble getting some of the paperback copies. Moira has sent me a few postcards with illustrations from those covers, and I will continue to pursue them.

    On another topic: The last book I finished reading was your most recent book, Deep Water, and I enjoyed it a lot. I loved reading about the world of pharmaceutical research and the characters were very convincing.

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      August 26, 2017

      Now that you mention it, I have no objection to covers in vintage paperbacks featuring seductive women and enjoy their over-the-upness.
      Thank you for telling me that you enjoyed Deep Water. I am so pleased.

      Reply
  4. Moira, Clothes in Books
    August 26, 2017

    So nice for me to feel it was such a successful present, I’m delighted that you liked it so much! I do love those Adams covers – as Tracy says, I like the postcards of the covers too. Covers ARE important, it’s not trivial or shallow to think so, and they can be very helpful. I have bought books because of covers, I have laughed at ridiculous and inappropriate ones – and I’m dying to look at the one Helen mentions above. I’m going to have to look it up online!

    Reply
    • Christine Poulson
      August 26, 2017

      I loved it! So much agree with you. Yes, we must know about that book cover – but there are several and I am not entirely clear which it is.

      Reply

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