Spend Some Time on the Cover

A few years ago I took a course from Emily Rapp. Although sometimes I steer clear of reading the work of instructors–at least while I am taking their classes–this time I read her book right away. That’s because I was so taken with the photo on the cover.

Emily is a little girl on a pretty bike with training wheels. Her red hair is long. She looks like a fun but girly girl wearing white lacy socks and white sandals. But there is one thing amiss in the photo–the girl has an artificial leg.

I read Emily’s book not long after reading Lucy Grealy’s memoir. Both are about childhoods filled with surgeries and medical problems.  In this case, Emily’s foot was amputated by doctors as a treatment for proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD).

This memoir pulled me in because the voice is that of a friend, and she tells her story with honesty, humility, and intelligence.

What I learned from this book is that some writers can make a memoir look easy to write. Her book is so graceful and appears as if it has written itself. But I now know better. A lot of hard work went into making it all look simple. She didn’t spend that much time writing it either. And her degree was in theology, not writing. She graduated from Divinity School at age 23.

And I can’t forget why I read this book. Note to self: spend some time choosing a cover for your book because it truly can help sell it.


Filed under Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

37 responses to “Spend Some Time on the Cover

  1. Pingback: Spend Some Time on the Cover | Inspirations from Wake and Sea

  2. Just what I needed to read. Thank you!

  3. We are more often than not judging a book by its cover – I couldn’t agree more. If I already know a writer, really want to read the book – a bad cover is only a minor flaw. If I don’t like the cover, I will take a peek at the summary. And if this doesn’t convince me either – the writer has most probably lost me as a buying customer.

    • Luanne

      Karen, interesting assessment! That is so true about a bad cover being a minor flaw if you know the writer’s work already. I was just thinking, too, that I’ve read a couple of books where I knew the writer in person and I enjoyed the book, but I felt a little “plagued” by a really boring cover.

  4. That is so true, Luanne. When I’m browsing the bookstore, I’ll pull a book from the shelf because of the cover. I would definitely be drawn to this cover. Thanks for the intro, I’ll have to check it out.

    • Luanne

      Jill, do you think if the cover is boring you ignore the book? That it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist? I think that’s how I feel if I am browsing and not looking for something specific.

      • If someone recommends a book and the cover is boring, I’ll still purchase it. But when I’m browsing to purchase a new book, I may read the back and decide it’s not for me, but the cover is what makes me pick it up in the first place. I’m sure I’ve missed out on a lot of excellent books because the cover didn’t grab me.

        • Luanne

          I think you’re right, but there is something more exciting about reading a book with a cover you like. It’s aesthetically satisfying, I guess.

  5. I agree too. No matter what, we often do judge a book by its cover!

  6. A great lesson to learn from the book! And I like the fact that you point out the fact that making a book easy to read is hard work. In many of the projects I work on, people tend to look at the finished product and not realize all the hours that went in planning, writing, revising, revising again.

    Also, I want to tell you that you have inspired me to look into many of these memoirs as future reading material. I’ve downloaded samples from Nook when available, and will select a few to purchase eventually (read when the deadlines calm down a little). I am thoroughly enjoying this series and can’t wait until the day when I’m reading what you have to write about your life. 🙂

    • Luanne

      Deborah, I’m so happy to hear that you’re planning on checking out these memoirs! And thank you so much for your kind comment about my book. I don’t know why I am so slow at writing this book, but I have been learning from the first day what is involved, and it seems to take me a long time to process how to do it and where to go with the storytelling. I want it to be right!
      And, yes, it’s so much work to make it look easy!!!

      • Maybe you need to just write it and let it be wrong first. And you may find the way to “right” in the process. Start somewhere. Just a thought. It sounds like you may be overthinking it. (Damn inner critic! lol)

        • Luanne

          I’m moving along now. I actually have about 200,000 words (!!!), but they have to be PARED and shaped into a book and that is what I am doing with “Blueprint Your Bestseller”! So far so good. Just a long haul.

    • Luanne

      Deborah, I tried to find an email for you, but no luck. If you feel up to it, please email me at writersite.wordpress[at]gmail.com regarding your comment below! Thanks!

  7. Very good point – cover art is more important than you think.

    • Luanne

      It’s probably obvious to an artist like you, but I wonder if everyone thinks about how we are affected by just seeing the cover of a book.

  8. Just bought this one! The sample on Amazon was so compelling.

  9. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    I think personal photos are so important in memoirs. We want to see the person’s face, to flip-back and forth, studying it, as we read. I’d never before thought how this translates to the cover, so thanks for that. One that comes to mind is A Girl Named Zippy, whose baby picture on the front cover says everything you need to know about Haven Kimmel’s delightful memoir.

    • Luanne

      Ellen, you have just named one of my all-time favorites! I love that book! And also “She Got Up Off the Couch”! Isn’t that the name of it? The sequel, about Kimmel’s mother. Such a book of its times, too, and reminds me of how my mother went back to college just before I went, etc. Zippy is a hilarious book. Really really funny.
      And I agree about photos in memoir. So often a book has no photographs or maybe just one, but when I read one with photos, I just eat them up.

      • Ellen Morris Prewitt

        That is the name, but I haven’t read it yet. What I loved about Zippy was I got about two-thirds through it before I thought, you know, she had a really difficult childhood. But it was told from her child’s perspective and she loved her child’s life.

        • Luanne

          I know. That’s what I loved, too. The second book is darker, but it’s still good because she creates such a real place with real people.

  10. I hate to admit it but many people DO judge a book by its cover.

  11. The color is a big factor, too. Several times I’ve seen the same book, same cover picture, but with different background colors and found myself much more responsive to one over the other.

    • Luanne

      Ah, good point, Shel! But then worrying about color could be crazy-making because people have such different opinions about the subject!

  12. That’s a beautiful cover! I hate to admit this, but I’ve pulled many books from the shelf just based off their cover alone. Some have been great reads, and some flops. But it goes to show that readers do take notice!

    • Luanne

      A good cover can go a long way, but it can’t carry the whole book ;). For memoirs I do think I favor the ones with a photo of the writer as a kid on the cover.

  13. What a great series – what you’re learning from other memoir. And how instructive to us, your readers. Some of whom (me?) may want to write (non-blogging) memoir someday. Thanks, Luanne, for your continual support at my place.

  14. I totally agree that time must be spent choosing the artwork or photography on books’ covers. I have passed up books, until I read good reviews that had rather boring covers. On the other hand, I hope and expect readers to choose to read my posts, sans any photos or artwork. I am a confusing writer! Thanks for this post, it did get me thinking… Robin

    • Luanne

      Wow, that is something. I hadn’t made a connection like that. I wonder if an image in a post is similar to a cover of a book? Thanks for your thought-provoking comment, Robin!

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