Saturday, February 04, 2006

Opine away.

Take a look at this cover and give me your thoughts and feelings. What's the first thing that strikes you about it? What would you change (if anything)? Does it make you want to pick up this book and why? Or maybe, why the hell are y ou asking this?

I'll give my own opinions after work.

Edited to add:

I meant to get back to y'all when I got home, but blogger was experiencing much unhappiness. Oh well, bet late than never, right?

I chose the William Trevor novel because I wanted to segue into a column on selling short story anthologies and I happen to love that cover (and the book). I found your comments and idea so interesting though, that I think that’s where I should focus instead. Not one of you remarked on the fact that it says “stories” on the cover, which might be indicative of the fact that the picture is small (although you can click on it to enlarge), but I find it remarkable given the fact that a couple of you recognized the name (although larger, it is positioned above his other title and the word “stories”).

For those of you who don’t know who William Trevor, he’s an Irish novelist (currently living in England) whose book, The Story of Lucy Gault, was a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2002 and a New York Times Notable Book pick. He’s known for his prose (beautiful) and his ability to craft stories that are both gentle and insightful as they exam the often darker side of human lives. A Bit on the Side refers to the title of the last story about two people having—and ending—an affair.

What I love about this cover is that it does attract so much attention and opinions even though its not bright or eye-grabbing (despite the use of that lush purple for the woman’s blouse/dress, which I’m not sure comes through in the picture I used). The photo was done by Stephen H. Sheffield (Photonica) and then hand colorized by Viktor Koen.

I thought about cropping out the title or just the author’s name, and letting the cover stand on its own merits, but that’s now how you would see it in the store. I doubt that the publishing company had the time to get the feedback that you’ve just given me, but imagine if they had. Would they have changed anything? Probably not, it is a lovely cover.

Does it represent the book within? In my opinion, yes. Trevor’s stories have this same kind of soft quality, as if they could take place anywhere in time. It’s not the time period but the issue that his characters deal with that’s important. I think that you showed that this came across in the cover with your comments (and whether or not this type of thing attracted you). Books, like opinions, don’t appeal to everyone, and so covers cannot appeal to all.

But if this cover has caught your interest, check it out. His stories are amazing.

I’ll get to the “short stories and how the sell column” later this week.


Sara Walker Howe said...

I certainly would pick this up to learn more about it. At first I'm drawn in by the hidden whisper. But the longer I look, the odder the picture seems. The woman is wearing a dress that looks Victorian, but her hair looks modern. His clothing is not from the same period as hers. Also, her body posture is closed, and his is open. The contrasts are certainly interesting.

But if the story doesn't prove as juicy as the cover, and the writing is not good, it goes right back on the shelf.

Elsandra said...

My first thought, glancing at the cover, was that the "male" didn't look right-there was a reason why "his" face was being hidden. I would want to pick up the book to at least see why we didn't get to see "his" face. I like the water in the background (probably because I live near a very large lake)and wondered if it meant anything to the story. The back blurb and a quick glance at the writing style would determine if I bought the book to find out the meaning behind the cover.

Beth said...

I love it an I'd pick it up to see what it was about. The picture draws my eye, and then when I see "A Bit On The Side" is the title - and look at the photo to see the woman would seem to be the bit on the side - I start thinking it looks playful and fun and very tongue-in-ear-I-mean-cheek and hey, I'm always up for that.

Michele said...

I admit. I'm usually the odd duck anywhere I am.
My very first thought, impression is,
Michael Jackson. The hiding behind a hat and pose is eerily similar. (even w/o the glove)
Obvious NOT the intent.

Then, I think they may be sitting on a pier bench near the ocean on a breezy day, based upon his tie drifting sideways and the breaking surf in the background with the hazy/gray sky overhead. She's leaning over to whisper something in his ear,perhaps a wildly delicious fantasy. Her forehead bumps his hat forward, and he clamps it to his head to keep it from blowing away and allowing himself a chance to catch every word she whispers into his eager ear. He clutches the notebook to hide his raising interest while she keeps her hands stready and demure like, so if anyone is watching, they couldn't guess the true extent of the heat between them. Perhaps,towards the end of her speech, he'll feel himself "get bit on the side" of his earlobe or neck.
Bet he doesn't stay seated for long! *grin*

So, How'd I do????

Maya said...

My first instinct was, "Oh, good, William Trevor."

Then I looked at the picture and thought the "male" looked feminine.

The title implies an affair. However, the male is not wearing a ring, and the female's left hand is hidden.

I'm thinking secrets and more secrets. Hidden face, no clear sense of what's going on.

Because of the author, I would definitely pick it up. Can't say whether I'd buy it or not.

jmc said...

Okay, I must just be a perv, 'cause when I look at that cover, the first I see is a pair of hands pressed to a place best not stroked in public. Only upon review did I realize that said hands both belonged to the woman...but they look masculine to me. My second thought is that I would have chosen a different tie to go with that brown suit. Like the title, though :)

Lisa Hunter said...

It looks charming and amusing. But I'm definitely expecting a period piece -- something from the P.G. Wodehouse world, though not as fluffy.

Maya said...

Lisa's comment brought me back for a second time.

Knowing Trevor, I know what to expect from his writing. I didn't stop to think when I wrote my first comment that the cover could encourage readers to think he writes light and charming fiction.

While he certainly has a wonderful sense of humor, this cover might be wrong for his kind of stories which, although compassionate and astute, are filled with people encountering all sorts of nasty little problems and not always happy endings.

christine fletcher said...

First impression: I'd definitely pick this book up. There's a sense of imbalance...almost precariousness...and impulsiveness, too, that's really appealing. I can't recall seeing a couple posed in such a way. Intriguing.

The clothes convey early to mid 20th C. The colors suggest a more serious tone.

Yeah, I'd be reading the blurbs about now, then flipping to the front page.

Kate R said...

first reaction I like it.

second reaction is what a cool way not to show the face--because I know that hiding faces so the reader can imagine the face on his/her own is a big trend with covers (or was last year. Who knows about this year?) More creative than torso shots.

lady t said...

I'm familar with Trevor,too and the cover says to my mature side,"This is VERY SERIOUS LITERATURE" but the kid side of me is giggling"It's the attack of Hat Face Harry!"

I don't know what the story is about so it's tricky to suggest a different cover-generally speaking,it doesn't really catch my eye.

Buffy said...

It looks like a set up picture doctored up in photoshop to give in an 'antique-y' feel. I see the book, I think Nicholas Sparks. I dont know who the author is. Would I pick it up? Depends on where in the store it was positioned.

The Gambino Crime Family said...

It's so sad. My first thought on seeing that picture is "My Goodness! That fellow is way too old for her!"

I know Trevor has a great rep but I wouldn't buy this if I saw it in a bookshop. I know it's a short story collection but I can smell "mid-life crisis disguised as existential angst" a mile off.

Michele said...

After seeing everyone else's comments, I guess I called myself right.
Odd duck.or Whacked duck, take your pick.
Oh well.
Great post.

Bethany K. Warner said...

Oh dear. I looked at the cover picture first, and read the title as "A Bite on the side."

Ami said...

my first response in seeing this cover is..."It's so different from the Vintage Canada cover for the book." (stained glass window, two straight-back chairs, a table set with two almost empty 'masculine' one 'female, author's name plays largely 2/3 down the cover)
you can see it here:
A Bit on The Side
The one you posted draws me in. I want to know more. I'm a Trevor fan anyway, but the even if it wasn't a Wm. Trevor book I think I'd still find the cover to be compelling enough to take a peek.
For those who might be interested in book design...
I recently posted an interview with Random House Canada designer Kelly Hill at my blog.
Under Cover