What’s on the outside does count.

I listened to a radio show today as I was cleaning my apartment and the presenters spoke about how important it is to have a good CD cover if you want to sell your music, especially when it’s aimed at the ‘impulsive’ buyers. People are much more prone to pick up a CD if the cover intrigues them than when there’s something ugly and boring on it. It’s human nature, we reach out to beauty.

I realized that this was very true for book covers as well. Many years ago, I was drawn to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, not by the synopsis on the back (it was pretty vague) but the cover in front. I had been looking for a new book to read as I had all but exhausted the authors that I knew. I have to point out that I was about 13 at the time, (still in primary school) so different things mattered to me than they do now. For one thing, I was very fussy about the way a book was presented. I didn’t touch Terry Pratchett’s novels because back then, I considered the art to be ugly (now he’s one of my favourite authors and I search high and low for the books still printed in the ‘ugly’ covers). I can’t remember what exactly drew my attention to books, but I suspect it had something to do with horses and powerful women. (I was a girl in search of a role model).

Robert Jordan’s first book The Eye of the World, succeeded in just this. I can still remember the day I had picked up the book in the Adult Fantasy section of the library. A young man (probably twenty) had teased me when I pulled the book from the shelf, telling me that there weren’t any pictures in the book and I had to go back to the children’s section. If it had been me now, I’d have made some snotty (cut-you-off-by-the-knees-and-leave-you-there-to-bleed) comment but back then, I was a quiet child. I had merely shrugged and turned the 814 page book over and over in my hands. It was thick. I had read The Lord of the Rings the summer before that and it had taken me almost a month to finish it. (Bear in mind, I was 12 and English was my second language). It was daunting, especially when I noticed five other books about the same size on the shelf. I promptly decided that it would most probably keep me busy for years and in a sense I was right. I had put it back but couldn’t find anything else that took my fancy as much as the woman on the white horse. So, I returned to the, stared at her for a very long time and finally decided to take it.

The cover had won me over, the woman called Moiraine had taken my fancy and in a sense stolen my heart. Within two days, I was hooked on the story and the books, and started devouring them at a pace that scared even my mother. I caught up pretty soon and then waited, month after month for the next release. It was before my internet days, so I could not stalk the author and websites to know when the next one was going to come out. It was exhilarating and the books were favourite of all time for years.

I’ve grown up now, I’ve changed a lot from the little girl (too tall, too quiet, too awkward) that had first pulled the book from the shelf. I understand myself a lot better now and why I was drawn to this particular set of books, to this woman. I’ve have discovered other series, better authors, more intriguing (and gut wrenching) stories. But, I still love the books even though I have not touched them in years. Robert Jordan’s untimely death had hit me very hard and I stopped reading the books all together then. I kept buying them. But I have not read them in years.

The second final book, co-written by Brandon Sanderson (who was chosen by Jordan’s wife Harriet to complete the series) has just been released and suddenly, I find myself remembering what these books meant to me. What the characters meant to me and how they had carried not only their world’s hope but mine as well. So, I have decided to return to the Wheel of Time. I have the first book beside me now, the picture still as appealing to me as it was thirteen years ago, proving that a good cover can sell your books through the ages.

And remain in the hearts of your readers for life.

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12 thoughts on “What’s on the outside does count.

  1. Jenn December 24, 2010 / 2:16 pm

    Hm, I am definately going to have to give this series a try after a review like that. Thanks!

    • Alyssa December 24, 2010 / 3:02 pm

      I’d highly recommend that. 🙂 I love the books!

  2. Marsha December 24, 2010 / 4:21 pm

    Isn’t it a sweet, and maybe even a bit sad, feeling to pick up a piece of your past like that? I was remembering a series that I loved so much when I was young just the other day. I can’t even remember who wrote them, but the books are just as clear as ever. I might have to try and find them again. Very nice Alyssa. Thanks.

    • Alyssa December 24, 2010 / 10:55 pm

      It’s bitter sweet, espesually wiht this series because I knew that the author died and the ending won’t be his ending in a snese. it would be his naturally, but he would never write the closing words. BUt, it’s amazing these books. And, any of our past. It takes us back to who we were during that time and it shows us how much we changed.

  3. Antonio December 24, 2010 / 5:08 pm

    Those books you read as a young person stick with you…I love this series as well, i need to pick it back up again… 😉

    • Alyssa December 24, 2010 / 10:54 pm

      LOL, maybe we shoudl do it together and compare notes? 🙂 But – you read a lot quicker than I do!!

  4. mudepoz December 24, 2010 / 7:09 pm

    I just picked up a Heinlein book I read in middle school as an audio book. He was my hero, the man who taught me how to play chess, someone who didn’t think I was a nuisance at a publishers party.

    • Alyssa December 24, 2010 / 10:54 pm

      🙂 People who encourage us goes a long way in our hearts.

  5. Ryan December 24, 2010 / 7:51 pm

    This makes me think of several series I read as a kid, one in particular that I loved but the author never finished. I reread it twice anyway.

    • Alyssa December 24, 2010 / 10:53 pm

      I have a book from Terry Pratchett that I read once a year. at least. I know it by heart, but it’s like walking down a familiar, favorite road. I know what to expect around every corner and in that lies my comfort. 🙂

  6. Tiffany December 24, 2010 / 10:35 pm

    It really is true that cover art plays a huge role in our choices of what books or CDs we might pick up when we’re browsing. Cover art is why I picked up my first urban fantasy read (I thought Mercy Thompson looked bad ass and interesting on her book cover on an add in Rolling Stone magazine actually). Cover art is what draws me to pick the book up any book and turn it over, or to keep walking by.

    This makes me really curious about the process of picking and creating cover art – like wondering who is involved and how much about the book do the graphic artists know – because at some level of consciousness we’re relying on that artwork to covey something true about the book. My favorite book covers add something to the idea of the book and kind of get stuck in my memory along with the memory of the book itself, like you’re talking about here.

    Nice post Alyss! I haven’t read this series, but I’ll have to check it out.

    • Alyssa December 24, 2010 / 10:53 pm

      It’s well worth it. 🙂 I won’t say that it doesn’t have flaws, but then – which book series hasn’t? As with people, you encounter things you like and stuff that you don’t. What’s great is that there’s something in there for everybody. I love it.
      Thank you for commenting! 🙂

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