Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cover turn offs (a.k.a. Read Platinum)

One of my least favorite things is seeing a display in bookstore that prominently displays “urban” fiction, when the kinds of stories by and about people I want to read are harder to find.

What I like to read are usually literary novels, mysteries and pop fiction. Unfortunately urban fiction has the reputation of being poorly written and edited. I can be a book snob and I am learning to tame that way of thinking a bit.

Really if someone wants to read something labeled “urban” that also may not be up to my standards, it’s none of my business. (Yes, I need to continue to repeat this).

What does bother me are the following:
Seeing books that don’t belong carelessly placed under an “urban” fiction display (ZNH’s novels do not belong there)
Covers art that trends toward “urban”

Covers on books make a difference. I have walked away from books based on the cover. This is not just about urban fiction. If I see a cover that indicates the book is just about finding a boyfriend or shopping, I often won’t even read the description. Often those covers are just too pink for me. A cover that evokes historic wars will usually be passed over as well – I don’t usually read military stories.

So when I saw Aliya S. King posting on Twitter about her disappointment in the cover for her next novel, I was intrigued. I haven’t been following her on Twitter very long, so I’m really just learning that she has a novel. (And if you write, go follow her - @aliyasking-, she gives great tips on writing via Twitter). Her first novel is titled “Platinum” and here’s the cover.

The cover for the sequel, Diamond Life, is here. The sequel focuses on four men. And there are no men on the cover. Kind of odd and misleading I think.

But based on these two covers, I probably wouldn’t have picked up her books in a bookstore. I am a big library user, so maybe I would pick it up at the library. If it was on display in the front where I couldn’t miss it.

However, King is very engaging on Twitter. She writes a lot of helpful and encouraging content for writers and artists. And after the cover discussion, I read about Platinum and it sounded interesting.

By the miracle that is the Kindle sample, I downloaded it to my iPhone and read it one night before bed. My phone is in airplane mode while I’m in Hong Kong, so I only download when I have access to WiFi. I was reading and really getting into the story and thinking, OMG why is Beth Saddlebrook living this way and wait, what? Is this other character, Kipenzi dead? What is going on?

That’s where the sample ended. And I was just through – stuck not able to download the novel. I knew I had to read it. Even though I had to wait until the next day to download it.

Platinum is a good read – it’s fun, based on characters in hip hop and the music industry. So much drama. But well written drama, not something that hasn’t been crafted or edited. It is what I would think of as an airplane or beach book – and I don’t mean that as a slight at all. It’s the fun book you read when you want to escape and tell your friend, “Girl! You have to read this book. You will not even believe this … “

And yeah, if that book had been on the “urban” fiction table, I never would have read it.

So I have some work to do to change my bias. But maybe the publisher could give us some covers that are a better match for the work.

When has a cover turned you away from a book that you later read and loved?


Literary Marie said...

I am very guilty of judging books by its covers. I tend to stay away from urban-looking books because of experience. The ones I have read were underdeveloped, poorly written, unedited and had the same plot formula. However, thanks to eBook samples and bloggers I give more books a chance. For example, I wouldn't read Platinum based on the cover. But since you recommend it, I'll give it a try. :)

June G said...

I can't think of any off hand, but I know I judge books by the cover and I always feel badly. There are great stories hidden behind less than stellar covers, but with time so short, it's hard to sift through the rubble. I'm going to Twitter to check out the Platinum author! Thanks.

Kara Smith said...

I have turned too many books away to count. I always feel sorry for the poor book later. Most book covers just don't appeal to me for some reason, but a good recommendation will make me pay attention to a book, even if the cover doesn't make it seem like my kind of book.