Over at Oz and Ends J.L. Bell has a pretty funny (to me) story about some wrong-headed research, and it concerns a book whose cover is all wrong.
It’s the cover that has me thinking. Why do books, especially in YA, feature photo representations of the main character? Why are we being shown a person selected by an art department’s interpretation of the author’s description? I mean, why bother describing a character at all in a book if someone down the line is going to find a face (or in some cases just a torso) that they feel embodies the mood and tone of the book?
I had a chance last week to sit in on a book group that included some 12 year old boy sand found them to be very astute readers. Not just in content but in marketing. They admitted that they do judge a book by its cover, and that they felt most covers we deceptive (they actually said “lied to them”), and that because all they normally see is a photo of a person on the cover they can’t tell what it’s about and might just ignore it.
Huh. All this talk about what makes a “boy book” get’s totally thrown out the window if you don’t know how to appeal to boys on the visual level. Seems to me like half the fight in making books appealing to teen boys requires making them look more interesting. Maybe some graffiti artists could help, or the designers of Urban Outfitters catalogs.
Or movie posters. Hollywood has some pretty tried and true ways to sell a movie based on posters. Sure, they almost always have people on them, but rarely is it just a moody head shot; there’s usually something to clue you in to what the movie is about. You could put three posters side by side – even in a foreign language – and still be able to pick out the horror film from the comedy from the spy movie. Aside from period-set books, put three titles side by side and it’s doubtful you could guess anything about the content.
So why do all the YA books look like they were conceived in the 1980s, but with modern production values?