Last night, I started reading Margaret Atwood’s new nonfiction book, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, which has incredibly awesome cover art, and in which Atwood talks about cover art:
“The earliest mass-market paperbacks of my first two novels, The Edible Woman and Surfacing, had pink covers with gold scrollwork designs on them and oval frames with a man’s head and a woman’s head silhouetted inside, just like valentines. How many readers picked these books, hoping to find a Harlequin Romance or reasonable facsimile, only to throw them down in tears because there are no weddings at the ends?”
Side-stepping all of the complicated issues and problems with marketing a book towards a particular genre, and marketing a book written by a woman, reading Atwood’s reflections on her own covers made me want to gather all of the covers of the last novel I read, 2006’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrel, and review their aesthetics as well as their ability to capture something about the novel:
The cover of the paperback edition I read. I like the photo – I think this image does the best job of capturing the essence of Esme: a daydreamer, out of sync with what she is supposed to want (mostly, a husband) and vilified by her family for it.
I don’t like the peachy-cream color of this cover, but I do like the way Esme seems to vanish in the page. This cover fails to capture any of the difficult, violent feelings expressed in the book.
I’m not sure if the girl on this cover is supposed to represent Esme or her granddaughter Iris, the book’s other protagonist. I like the image, because the way the girl regards the dress captures the thematic nature of the novel quiet well. I don’t like it when graphic designers mix fonts in a title like this.
This cover is the sister of the second cover. I like the aggressive red script font the designer used for the title. I hate that cream color more now that I have to look at it again.
This is the first foreign-language cover and it uses the second best image (after the image on the first cover). I like the colors on this cover as well.
Mixing an image of Emse’s face with a swath of text works thematically, Esme’s love of reading is essential to her character.
Esme spent much of her life in an asylum, and this image does the best to portray her anxious and troubled side. I like the sickly sepia color.
Second-worst cover. There are no mansions or places or estates or castles in this novel. It takes place in England – does England always mean palatial estates to marketing teams?
This is the worst of all the covers. It makes the novel seem like a Robert Frost poem. It never snows in this book.