Tag Archives: literature

Why, Yes, I DO Judge Books by Their Covers


For the past 10 years, I’ve nurtured a running list of soon-to-be-released books. These are books – in various genres – that have captured my attention for one reason or another. Often, the first thing about them that catches my eye is the cover art – that little thumbnail image that pops up right next to the title and author’s name.

At least once a week, I stalk the pages of Goodreads Giveaways, Amazon’s Coming Soon and Barnes and Nobles’ Coming Soon sites. I also follow several publishers and try to discover their publishing schedules. If only I could get a sneak peek at the catalogs they send to bookstores of the books to be published within the next year. That would be perfect!

But I digress. One reason I stalk for books is because I want to know – as early as possible – when my favorite authors (there are a lot of them!) will be releasing their next work(s). I also want to see the cover art. This is the most basic way I choose new authors/books. I judge books by their covers.

book-cover-art

Judging a book by its cover

We’ve all heard and/or read the proverb, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I’m not certain of the origin of that cliché, but I’ve learned to ignore it. (I think it mostly refers to prejudice against fellow human beings, anyway…in which case, DON’T DO THIS.) I DO judge a book by its cover.

If the cover catches my eye, next I’ll read the title, then the author’s name. If I’m still interested, I’ll read the synopsis. When I’m searching for a new author to read, the cover art is most important. It’s the first thing (other than the title) that will either grab my attention, or repel it.

Sometimes, even if I’m not attracted to the cover, I’ll pick up a book to read anyway…but only if it’s an author I’ve already read, or the title appeals to me. If it’s the former, I’ll give it a chance to enchant me. If it’s the latter, I’ll read the summary to see if that, coupled with the title, can help me get past the cover art. If so, then it’s a go. And hopefully, it won’t disappoint.

Sometimes this judgment pays off

To demonstrate the marketability of a book cover, here is a short list of books I’ve purchased in which the initial attraction for me was the cover art.

  • Malice: The Faithful and the Fallen, Book I by John Gwynne (I have since read the entire series. Phenomenal – a worthy successor to Game of Thrones series…without all the sex.)
  • Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan (Seems to be a stand-along novel that deserves at least one sequel.)
  • The Progeny by Tosca Lee (I’ve always been fascinated by the legend of Erzsebet Bathory de Ecsed, so almost anything having to do remotely with the legend appeals to me. This is an excellent contemporary thriller with ties to the infamous Erzsebet Bathory, and I count the days until the sequel is released.)
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (I could not get into Jay’s Stormdancer series, try as I might. But this cover grabbed my attention when I first saw it – it’s mezmerizing. And the dustjacket summary sold me on it. I love pretty much everything about this book. Except that it ended. Another count-down-until-the-sequel-is-released series for me.)
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (The original hardcover cover art is what attracted me. Not very fond of the covers of the sequels, but the original had already done its job, so I just ignored the covers and read the books.)

I would recommend these books – and their sequels – to anyone, especially if you’re a fan of the historical and fantasy genres. Even if you’re NOT a fan of historical and fantasy genres (how are we friends, again?), all of these books have at least one bada** female main or secondary character. I’m a great admirer of authors who can write strong, sympathetic (and sometimes UNsympathetic) bada** female characters.

And sometimes the covers just turn me off

Likewise, a list of books whose covers turned me off so much (and made me question the publishers’ and other readers’ tastes) that I didn’t even bother reading the summary to find out if it appealed to me…

  • Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (I didn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird. Had no interest in the first book, and the cover of this book has kept me uninterested. In fact, the cover of GSAW is rather irritating to look at, in my opinion.)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Maybe the original cover on a first edition would be attractive to me, but even so, I’m probably a lost cause as a reader. I know what the story is about, and it’s never tempted me. Never been much of a fan of the Jazz Age, either, so there’s that.)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Again, maybe the original cover on a first edition would be attractive to me. I have actually attempted to read this book, based on the recommendation of others, but again, just cannot get into it. I love the title, but the cover art does not appeal to me – and frankly, neither does the story.)

 

Okay, so there’s another common theme with the books whose covers turned me off – most, if not all, of them are considered to be literary classics. As an avid reader, I’ve always been a little confused as to why the term “literary classics” makes me shudder and shy away. It may be due to all the “literary classics” students are assigned to read and report on for school. “Literary classics” seem to be large tomes that are heavy on narration and exposition, and light on action and drama. But then that may just be my ADHD talking.

How about you? Do you ever find yourself choosing a book based on its cover or title? Do you ever browse brick and mortar bookstores or sites like Goodreads.com searching for your next great read? Why or why not?

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Guest Post: Write Whatever the Hell You Want by Lindsay Fischer


Photo source: Unsplash.com/Green Chameleon

Photo source: Unsplash.com/Green Chameleon

Right this second I’m lying on my love seat. It’s 85 degrees beyond my walls, with land-locked, staggering humidity. Frankly, I’ve never had any desire to be in a sauna. I’ve never rushed to one at the gym, never enjoyed the times I’ve been convinced to go in and sit in my own sweat, and I don’t anticipate this ever changing, which is why I’m inside right now, a blanket tossed over my legs while my bulldog, Frank, snores away the afternoon.

I’ve been writing more lately but that’s not saying much. More is a subjective term I’m tossing out to make it appear I’ve been useful. Just last month I barely let my fingers dance, my creativity abbreviated by life’s circumstances. Now, I’m pushing, resisting the urge to say I’m waiting for inspiration or some other garbage excuse for why I’m not doing what actually fills up my soul.

Last night I wrote a blog about what it meant to be real. It was my third attempt at a blog I was asked to write in early May. In truth, the first two sucked. They were both disingenuous attempts to appease a new audience, something I fight like hell not to do with my words, but when a new person wants my words on their page – well – I sometimes forget that my biggest strength as a writer is my voice.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in what we should be doing. Are my metaphors up to snuff? Have I sufficiently combined both long and short sentences to avoid monotony? Are my darlings dead?

So easy, in fact, it’s really difficult to keep your voice intact when you’re trying to write the next great American anything. I mean, honestly, why do we have to believe our writing is worthy of such praise anyway? Can’t we just let it be what it is and reach who it’s supposed to?

When I started writing my first (and only, right now) memoir, I convinced myself I needed to prove I could write a damn-good book to my former colleagues, my former students, my haters. Instead of writing in a stylistically complimentary way, I did what I thought I *should* do, and it took me 6 months to remove my head from my ass.

And I doubt I ever really “proved my prose.”Lindsay - Self Sabotage

That’s when I realized something:

My talent isn’t in using elevated language or literary devices. It’s in speaking to my audience as if they are sitting on this couch with me, fuming at the thought of having their bangs plastered to their foreheads the second they step outside, certain their upper lips will sweat instantly, too. They hear which words are emphasized because I’m serving up stories like a sermon. They trust me because I’m honest, and that, my friends, needs no fluffing.

My truth, my realness, and my unapologetic stance on just being me is what sells me, not only as a writer, but I’m fairly certain it’s what brings amazing people into my life, too.

Instead of sitting still and telling myself I can’t get good enough words out, I’m talking about it, writing this post like it’s exactly what’s meant to come from me today. No other words matter, no other projects take precedence.

We all deserve to find our strengths as writers and play to them. It doesn’t mean you can’t learn and grow through writing more, but if your fear of being inadequate freezes up production then it’s time to go back to your roots and remember why you fell in love with writing in the first place.

For me? It was catharsis: a chance to purge emotion and connect with others who understand.

Self-sabotage is the old friend we haven’t let go of because they’ve been around too long. You might know it doesn’t serve you but you can’t cut ties because you’re bonded. Trust me on this, that shit is toxic and turns you away from the things you love most.

Divorce it.

Dig deep.

Write whatever the hell you want.

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Lindsay Fischer HeadshotAfter surviving domestic violence (and three years of trauma therapy), Lindsay Fischer saw an opportunity to use her voice against abuse, blogging as Sarafina Bianco since 2009. She revealed her identity in 2015 when her memoir, The House on Sunset, was released, and she now speaks on behalf of trauma survivors on national stages.

Website: http://www.survivorswillbheard.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/linsfischer

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/survivorswillbeheard

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Guest Post: Birthing a Book by Beth Schulman


Birthing a Book Image

Writing and publishing my memoir was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. It was heart-wrenching, messy and full of stress. It was also cathartic and rewarding beyond measure. Life-changing.  A lot like becoming a mother. In fact the experience was so similar to getting pregnant and giving birth, I could create a Venn Diagram to illustrate my point (this will only make sense to fellow elementary school teachers). Instead, I’ve crafted a list.

  1. IT’S NOT AS EASY AS IT APPEARS:You spend a decade of your life trying desperately not to get pregnant. When you’re finally ready to become a mother, you think it’ll be a piece of cake. Just stop taking birth control and poof, you’ll become pregnant. Well, anyone who’s struggled with fertility issues knows this isn’t true. I kept a private journal for over 10 years, recording the scenes from my childhood.  When I finally felt ready to weave those scenes into a book, I assumed it wouldn’t take that long. It took three years of committed writing time to produce something of substance.
  2. FALSE LABOR:You go to the doctor when you’re 8 1/2  months pregnant, feeling sure the baby will be delivered within the hour.  After being examined you learn you are only one centimeter dilated and the doctor sends you home.  You feel depressed and defeated. When I submitted my manuscript to my editor for the first time, I felt like I’d nailed it. I anxiously awaited his response. When he came back to me, the news wasn’t good.  I had to do a complete rewrite. 
  3. REGRET: After being told the baby isn’t ready, you go home and cry. Your feet are swollen and your belly resembles a rock hard, oversized watermelon. You are tired and cranky. You begin to question your decision to become a mother. You suddenly feel completely ill-equipped for the job. But it’s too late. When I reread my memoir and started to make the many changes my editor suggested, I felt overwhelmed. The more I looked at the words on the page, the more I questioned why I’d taken this on. Who was I to think I could pull this off? I wasn’t a writer.  I was a kindergarten teacher. But I was too far in to back out.
  4. RELIEF: Your water breaks and now you’re sure this is really going to happen. You drive to the hospital feeling both elated and terrified.  When my editor reread my revised manuscript, he sent me a text saying I’d done the hard work and it was time to send it off to the proofreader. It wouldn’t be long now. My book would indeed be “delivered.” 
  5. LABOR AND DELIVERY: You experience pain at a level you never knew existed. Then you get the epidural and it’s not so bad. The next step was sending it off to the layout and design team. I agonized over letting it go, worried about whether it was “ready” for publication, but with the release, came great relief. 
  6. PURE JOY: You hold that tiny miracle in your arms and you are overcome with joy. You feel a sense of pride and accomplishment you’ve never felt before.  You want everyone to meet your beautiful baby!  This is exactly how I’ll felt when I held my book, The Gold Mailbox, in my hands for the first time. I couldn’t wait for readers to meet “my baby!”

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Beth Schulman author photoMs. Beth Schulman is a mother, teacher and avid reader and writer.  She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Individual and Family Studies and from Cabrini College with a Master of Education Degree, with a focus on Early Childhood Education. She has been teaching elementary school students for over 20 years.  Beth has devoted her life’s work to creating supportive, creative and literacy rich learning environments for young children. She has also worked with professional teachers at The University of Pennsylvania through The Penn Literacy Network (PLN) as an instructor and literacy coach since 1997.  Beth lives in the Philadelphia area with her two teenage sons, James and Ian. The Gold Mailbox is her first book.

 

The Gold Mailbox cover2

“This dazzling and moving memoir is a roller coaster of loss and transition, held together by the reminder that love and family run deeper than we ever imagine. Written in gorgeous prose, this ultimately uplifting tale will have you savoring every page.”

Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance

 

Visit Beth’s website: http://bethschulman.com

Facebook: Beth Schulman Author

Twitter: @bschulmanauthor and @authorbethschul.

 

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