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Monday, June 24, 2013

Reader's Pet Peeves

Teens can be picky readers. We're no longer the passive middle schoolers who accept bad grammar and repetitiveness. When we don't like something, never doubt that we can make a big deal out of it. We've had many a conversation about the little things that can drive us up the wall, so it is only natural that we would have a group meeting solely dedicated to complaining about things we don't like. These literary offenses range from tiny niggling annoyances to poor writing to the point of illegibility. The most common problem is reading about the same things over and over again; reading the same vampire love triangle romances and the same apocalypse dystopia. But no matter the problem, if they are avoided it would probably lead teens (us particularly) to enjoy more books.

It's not just the writing that will banish a book to the dusty rejection shelf. Everyone does this even if there's a proverb against it: we judge books by their cover. It can make the difference between hordes of people grabbing up a book and nobody grabbing it. A bad cover is not only uninteresting; it can repel readers like we avoid a filthy bathroom stall. Publishers usually have complete control over what the cover looks like, but sometimes they really need to get some outside opinions.

Take for example these next two photos of books. On the top are galleys that we agreed have interesting (if not superb) covers. On the bottom are galleys with covers that are clearly sub-par.

On the top we see clean text design along with stylish graphic design, appealing art, and appropriate colors. There are people in almost all of them, but they are all interesting due their posed actions or appearances. The boy on the cover of Wringer has a bloody tissue stuffed in his nose, a gash on his eyebrow, and his clothes are rumpled. This cover tells the story that he was beaten up, enticing us to find out more. Golden has the least interesting cover subject with simply an attractive girl. She doesn't tell anything about the story. However, a beautiful graphic was superimposed which heals all wounds.

When a cover is bad it's pretty obvious. We voted unanimously on nearly every bad cover. On the bottom there's an effort for original text design, but on Over You, The Tribe, and The Neptune Project the font is cheesy or cartoony. It just looks bad. Similarly, the art and graphic designs on these galleys are unoriginal, cartoony, or simply bad. The cover of The Neptune Project looks interesting at first glance, but on closer inspection the graphic design looks fake and cheap. I was interested in The Tribe when I read the back, but the front tells me that it's for middle school. The cover of Promise Me Something on the lower right has nothing going for it. Too often publishers think that picture of an attractive person with some scenery is all they need for a cover. It tells us nothing about the book, it's not interesting, and we're all secretly assuming that it's chic lit (which is, if you noticed, on that list of things we don't want to read).

By themselves bad covers don't seem harmful, but they wither in comparison to good ones. To drive this matter home, here is a great comparison of similar covers. One is a terrible cover while the other is excellent.
Both have a large white background, large title text, bold colors (particularly magenta), seem to be about a girl, and have sparse subject matter to look at.
We all hated the crayon-like font which subtracts from the cover of Over You. The only other thing to look at there is the fashionable girl who is nothing more than, well, a fashionable girl. Their strategy to make the title the same color as her hair didn't do much.
The cover of Spoiled is very similar, but the makeup arranged into the text is tasteful, artistic, interesting, and unique. It is basically everything the cover of Over You failed at.

Publishers, here's a T-chart to help you put more great covers out there and what to avoid.

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