Our reading of a book starts a long time before we crack the spine and scan the first page. What is interesting is making children aware of the ‘context’ of a book and how things like placement, design, shape and size influence them having even chosen to read it. Look up the work of Genette on this topic for some very revealing insights.
Firstly, we’ll look at an example of a fairly iconic book cover.
Twilight redefined children’s books for a new generation. Love it or hate it, it was the first reinterpretation of an age old trope. And visually it contradicted nearly every other offering on the shelves. Black. Graphic. Stylish. The hands are placed in a forward motion, as if to offer something to you. It’s an outwardlooking cover. An enticing cover. This book is trying very deliberately to catch your eye.
The limited use of colour in the Twilight covers is repeated throughout the sequels. This helps develop a level of brand awareness – you can pick these books out in a crowd and knowthat they are of or directly related to the previous work.
The level of impact these books have had is quickly evident on a scan of any bookshop shelf. There are a world of competitors out there hoping to capitalise on the Twilight effect. As becomes quickly evident, a lot of the stylistic elements of the Twilight covers (the heavy black background, the emphasis on physicality, the ‘outward’ look of the characters) have been copied in a hope to subliminally lead readers onto these new titles.
It’s also interesting to note how many of these ‘new’ vampire novels specifically feature females on the front cover. Not just because of Bella, this reflects a lot of readers attitudes towards the genre as a whole. Vampires represent a primal, animalistic urge and to have the chance to ‘save’ one (like Bella arguably ‘saves’ Edward, obviously despite being somewhat hazard prone herself) is one that taps into a very female and very basic instinct. This is elaborated on in much greater depth here and here.
These covers don’t show the victim. They don’t show the blood. They show the romance. They show an everywoman.
In effect they show you. When you see ‘yourself’ in a book, you’re already identifying with it. And that’s half the decision to read it already made.