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“Judging a Book By its Cover”

September 1, 2011

An interesting article…

Of “artwork on covers of recent Young Adult novels,” Cat Yampbell writes “They are intended to attract readers to the promotional material, often referred to as the blurb, on the back cover and/or inside jacket.  Together the cover and blurb should lure readers into purchasing the book. …The packaging of the text, previously neglected by publishers of teen literature, currently is being carefully manipulated and altered as publishers and marketing experts recognize the necessity of visual appeal to succeed within the difficult arena of the teenage consumers.  With holograms, digital art, and metallic jackets, YA book covers are becoming more abstract, sensational, unusual, and eye-catching to allure one of the most elusive audiences – teenage readers.

The materiality of a text is often taken for granted.  A common assumption is that the inner text is the kernel of value and significance while the rest is merely a protective husk. In the world of publishing, the paratext is not only equally significant, but many industry people argue that the cover is the foremost aspect of the book.  Regardless of the quality of the literature, its cover often determines a book’s success. D. F. McKenzie …has defines ‘a text as a complex structure of meanings which embraces every detail of its formal and physical presentation in a specific historical context’. The paratext is the text. Literary merit becomes irrelevant if the book does not, or cannot, reach the reader.

The cover of a book is often the reader’s first interaction with it – the consumer’s initial reading of the text.”

She discusses both Fransesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat and Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series, demonstrating how trends in cover art, book size, etc have shifted and how publishers have been working with these aspects of the text to increase sales.

p348 Cat Yampbell (2005) ‘Judging a Book by its Cover: Publishing Trends in Young Adult Literature’ The Lion and the Unicorn 29(3)Sep; 348-372 [coloured emphasis mine. italics, author’s own]  

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