Ah, the joy of summers. Is there a better time to talk about looks and appearances of well, all the living and non-living things around us, than July, the middle of what seems like it’s going to be a freakishly hot summer?
So while I force myself to go and workout even though I’d much rather sip some strawberry mojitos and scroll on Instagram – okay, I’ll stop with the Instagram jokes though I might introduce some hashtag jokes, just to keep up with the trends – I can’t help but wonder just how much we judge things, people, and what’s going to be the topic of this post, books, by their covers?
By the looks of it, it seems like a lot – most of the time, without even being aware of it! I and my workout buddies would definitely agree with that since no one seems to be thrilled about busting a move while the thermometer hits the upper end during our workout session, but we keep bouncing around anyway.
While I like to think I’m not that shallow in life – readers might disagree considering the amount of Instagram jokes I do – I have to admit I definitely judge actual books by their covers. I mean, sure, I like to find worth in people and things and I usually dig deep beneath the surface, at least for the things I care about, anyway…
For me, nothing ruins the first impression I get about a book rather than its cover.
I have to – unwillingly – admit that I’m guilty of often not buying a certain book just because it has a terrible cover. And boy, some of those covers can get really ugly, especially around here – again, we all know how the whole translation and book publishing process in Macedonia pains my heart.
Unfortunately, I have to play the bad cop once again and talk about how various publishers just don’t do the book-cover thing the right way. Just go to a random book fair and have your eyes bleed to death by the things you see. Most of the time, book covers look like a third-grader art project gone wrong.
If you think I’m overreacting, here’s a short list of the horrible things I’ve seen: books with a tons of typos and misspelled words on the front and on the back; books where no one even bothered to adjust the font size of ALL the words on the cover because duh, who has the time to do that? I’ve seen covers with smudged pictures because no one was willing to buy out the copyrights of the picture so they just used some cheap, low-quality version of it.
I remember the first time I visited a Barnes & Noble bookshop. It was summer again and with me all by myself on the other side of the pond, I decided to spend an hour or two lurking around the bookstore. A kid in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory or Dijana in Barnes & Noble, it was basically the same thing. Saying I was fascinated is an understatement here; I’ve never seen a bookstore like that, spanning on multiple floors, light, spacious, wonderful! I went around secretly taking pictures of book covers, sniffing the paper on some, touching the golden letters on others and thinking how I’ve never, ever seen books so pretty!
Shortly after that, I got so sad during a visit to the Boston Public Library, where I was greeted by a large quote by Dr. Seuss on the wall:
I got sad because I’ve read and seen and been to so many places to learn that we, in Macedonia, treated books the same way we might as well treat… well, we all know which four-letter word I want to use.
I mean, of course, I’m aware that I’ll probably grade half of those books with decent covers with 3 stars or less on Goodreads but it just felt nice, you know? It felt like I was getting to experience and enjoy the whole package when it came to books and I didn’t have to settle down for anything less.
I get fairly upset by the way various publishers ruin good books with terrible covers because I find it disrespectful: toward the readers who bought it, toward the author who wrote it and has zero clue how his/her book is handled somewhere around the world, toward the translator, the editor, and most importantly – toward the book itself.
This doesn’t mean my bookshelves are full of good-looking books that are all super-awesome. Oh God, no. I do have books of all sorts and once, I even corrected a misspelled word with a pen on the cover of The Girl with the Pearl Earring because it bothered me so much I couldn’t keep reading… but the book is still one of my favourites. See, I’m not that plain.
My point here is that we need to learn how to do things the right way. Once you print out something, it stays forever the way it is – so why not take the time to make it look nice? By the right way, I mean that publishing houses need to stop looking for ways to save money and instead, invest more in professionals that will make sure the reader is getting the final product – the book – in its best possible edition.
No one expects gilded pages or hardcover copies that’ll cost a fortune but just… a bit of common sense when it comes to fulfilling the needs of the reading audience. I take pride in the work I do, no matter how big or small the project is, I give my best. So, why can’t we all do the same?
Dijana Boshkova is an eternal child working as a full-time writer & translator who uses humour and wit to attack everyday routine.
Hailing all the way from Macedonia, Dijana will be here guest blogging once a month and next month, she’ll be talking about judging books by their covers. If you want to know more about her, check out her LinkedIn profile.