Friday, 11 October 2013

Opinion: Things I Like to See on the Front and Back of Books!

Recently I've become a bit obsessed with what information is on the front and back cover of my books. I mean obviously there's the title and the blurb, but what about all that extra stuff? And do you like it? I think a lot of it comes into play when book browsing when at a book shop or at the library. Not only do the front and back covers have to sell a book to you, they also have to inform you of what exactly you are buying/borrowing. Below I discuss a few features I've noticed and what I like about them. Enjoy!


I'm becoming a bit obsessed with taglines lately. I do love a good tag line. I've grabbed a few books from around my room so here's a random sample:

"A love story to end the world..." - Soulmates by Holly Bourne

"You never forget your first love..." - Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

"The fight to stay sane will drive you Berserk" - BZRK by Michael Grant

"Survival is your only option" - After Tomorrow by Gillian Cross

"I'm going to steal your life" - Poison Heart by S. B. Hayes

"What if your entire world was built on a lie?" - Switched by Amanda Hocking

These are just the ones from some of the books on my TBR pile. I think my favourite of them all is "I'm going to steal your life" because it has so many possibilities! How are they going to steal your life? Literally? Are we talking imitation, death, or both?! Consider me interested. Some of them are a bit vague (Eleanor & Park, After Tomorrow) but it still gives me a good feel for what the book is about. I know I'll be getting a love story or a survival tale. I like the "what if?" question on Switched as well, because it makes me want to know the answer.

Does a tagline draw you to a book? They definitely hook me in. I think they're perfect if like me you can be a bit weary of blurbs. I don't always want to read the blurb if I think it'll give to much away, so a tagline is the perfect solution to give me a bit of a hint at what's to come without spoiling anything.

Also, would you like to see taglines included in reviews? I'm thinking of including them alongside the plot summary in mine.

Age range and content indicators

Rating of books is a bit of a hot topic, but a lot of the books I read at least give a rough guide of what age range the book is geared towards (9+, 13+, teen and young adult are all labels I've seen). Below are some pictures of books that do this:

The back of Department 19 by Will Hill which shows the book aimed at ages 13+

Scholastic labels books as "teen" as seen here on the back cover of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

As someone who reads mostly YA, it's always nice to confirm the book I'm buying/borrowing is definitely aimed at that audience. I've picked up a lot of books where the cover and blurb don't make it immediately clear whether it's a YA book or not. Of course nowadays a lot of books are marketed to appeal to both older and younger readers, so they may be intentionally a bit vague so as not to put off adult readers.

My absolute favourite way of getting a feel for whether a book is appropriate (be it for yourself, a friend, a child) is how Hot Key Books do this cool little chart on the back of their books:

I think this is much better than lumping a book into a certain age. Themes and situations are much more important when deciding if a book is for you. Most of the time I know what a book is about or what age it's aimed at, but when a cover image alone doesn't make it clear, and I don't have Goodreads on hand to look it up, these bits on the cover have been a lifesaver. I remember picking up Insignia by S. J. Kincaid at the library and taking it out based solely on the little chart on the back. Immediately I knew it was my kind of book (and I ended up loving it!).

Author endorsements

An endorsement from Patrick Ness on Every Day by David Levithan
A quote from J. K. Rowling on the front of House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini

It's quite common for authors to read and blurb each others' books as a way of promoting them. I know I've picked up many a book because it's been "endorsed" by one of my favourite authors. I'm aware it's used for marketing, and that it may not be the most reliable review of a book ever, but they usually pick authors who write in similar genres or styles so it gives me a feel for what the book will be like. House of Secrets was a book that only really registered on my radar because of the JKR blurb and I remember being excited when The Fault in Our Stars was blurbed by Jodi Picoult because she's one of my favourite authors.

Blogger endorsements

I'm cheating here because these are usually found inside the books, but I wanted to include them. I'm probably a teeny bit biased being a blogger myself, but I choose so many of my books based on blogger recommendations from reading the blogs, so it's also nice to be able to pick up a book and see that a blogger has good things to say about it!

Series number

Can more books do this please?! My main bug bear is not being able to tell if a book is part of a series. This is particularly a problem when I visit the library. I often look at books that I'm tempted to check out, but if I can't tell from the cover whereabouts it comes in a seires then I'll usually skip it just in case. I'd only have to bring it back again. Plus numbers on the spine look cool when you line them all up.

The spine of Etiquette and Espionage features a number 1 on the spine

 E-book/audiobook available

Most books seem to do this now. I suppose if your browsing in a book shop or library, it might be handy to know if a book is available in other formats so you can still enjoy the browsing experience, even if you only buy e-books. I usually end up taking it as a given that a book is available on e-book these days! Audiobook might not be so much of a guarantee, so it's good to see that included sometimes.

Social media links

One thing I hadn't actually thought of before I started taking photos for this post was Facebook and Twitter links. These seem to be popping up more and more, usually a link to the publisher's Facebook or Twitter feed. I'm a big Twitter fan so I always look out for those, but Facebook is probably where I need a bit of a push. I particularly like to know where to find the author, as if it's the first book of theirs I'm reading then I probably won't be following them.

I've probably missed a lot of things so if there's anything you like seeing when book browsing then let me know! What do you think of the things I've mentioned? Are they things you notice when buying a book? Or do they put you off? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Ooh, I love a good tag line! I don't buy books based on other authors endorsements but I do notice them :) And definitely yes to the series number on the covers, that really annoys me when I can't tell what number it is in a series.

    1. I'm starting to be on the lookout for tag lines now :D I don't know if they've got more prominent or if I just wasn't paying attention in the past :P I was in Waterstones today and I noticed they'd written out the order of a series on a little card next to the books which I thought was really helpful! Thank you for the lovely comment :D

  2. Tag lines are AWESOME!! I love them!! It really bugs too when I can't tell if a book is the first in the series. Many times, I haven't brought a book from the library just because I couldn't see what series it was!! Great Post!!

    Rita xx

    1. YAY! :D I'm glad someone gets as excited about them as me :D and it's so frustrating seeing a book and not being able to take it out. I have a really bad memory so when I get there I can never remember if it's the first book! Glad you're with me, and thank you for commenting Rita :D

  3. Out of all these, I think the series number is the most essential for me XD I HATE it when I buy a book, thinking it's a standalone, and then realizing after confusion that it's apparently a book in series, and not the first one at that! *sigh*. But I do love a good tag line too, and I admit to getting drawn in by one or two (Shatter Me's was so COOL). I also happen to like books endorsed by authors I really like, because it sort of tells me indirectly that one way or another, I'm liking the book as well. So yeah, great points :D

    1. Yess! It's so frustrating. Especially when books in the library or bookshop aren't shelved in the right order. I mean when you buy a TV series it's all over the front of the box which series it is, so why not the same with books?! Oh I haven't read Shatter Me yet (it's high up on my wishlist!) but I've seen the taglines for that and totally agree! So glad you feel the same way about things :D

  4. This is such a good idea for a post; I've really enjoyed watching it! I don't pay a lot of attention when I'm deciding whether to buy a book or not but I do when I've bought it or borrowed it. I love reading these little things!

    1. It's one I've been meaning to write for ages so I'm glad you think so! :D Things like taglines have only just started grabbing my attention more recently so now I look out for them, but I haven't always in the past. Nice to have something to look for when browsing! :D

  5. OOh, I agree with all of those except the age rating. I can see how it works for some older readers to warn that it contains some mature content but I wouldn't want an age rating to put off other readers.

    Do love a good tag line (so much so that I played a tagline guessing game earlier this year which was a massive amount of fun) and I do my happy dance every time my quote makes it into or onto a book!

    Love the Hot Key circle beyond words.

    1. I agree about not wanting to put people off. I think it's such a tricky thing to get right! Lots of books I see in both adult and teen sections of book shops and libraries so having an age on the back would make that difficult.

      Ooh the tagline guessing game sounds fun! I'll have to start thinking up some of my own for books that don't have them.

      It makes me so happy when a blog I read is quoted in the front of a book!

      And yay for Hot Key, I think they are just generally awesome at everything <3


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