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.