by JaneMany years ago when Mary Doria Russell’s first book, The Sparrow, was being published, the publisher sent Mary and me a suggested cover. I remember it well--in fact, when I looked at it, I thought that it was a joke. There, on the jacket of this beautiful first novel was a picture of a dead bird lying on its back with its feet up in the air.
I immediately contacted the publisher and clearly expressed our adamant objections--and several weeks later an eye-catching and much more appropriate cover resulted. The book has gone on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies.
Would that first cover have prevented The Sparrow from selling? That is Joe Queenan’s theory in his amusing essay in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review. In fact, there are many wonderful books that I suspect aren’t read because their covers are so uninviting.
I asked my colleagues at DGLM for some examples of terrible jackets and here are just a few they came up with:
Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances
Ken Kalfus's The Commissariat of Enlightenment
Dana Spiotta's Eat the Document
Alicia Erian's Towelhead, in both hardcover and paperback
I wonder whether if I really want to read a book, it’s cover would affect me. And so I decided to look at the cover of the book I am currently reading and absolutely loving: Kathryn Stockett's The Help. I was shocked--the cover is incredibly uninviting and, in my opinion, totally misleading. Thank goodness I downloaded the book into my e-reader rather than seeing it at a bookstore. Had I done the latter, I doubt I would have bought this book--and then, because of a really unfortunate cover, I would have missed a wonderful read.
Can you think of any book jackets or covers that affected you negatively--enough not to pick up that book?