12+ On January 11, 2018, I launched a book covers and first sentences series on Instagram with On the Beach by Nevil Shute. I celebrated the 300th post on March 22, 2019, with The Natural World of New Zealand by Gerard Hutching. All books are from my bookcase. So much for Marie Kondo's 30-book rule!
As I have admitted in various Tall And True blog posts and recently in The Man Behind The Woman in the Window (February 2019), I am a sucker for a good book cover.
And scrolling through the Instagram series, apart from the odd reference book, a few anthologies, and retro-orange Penguins, all the book covers would catch my eye in a bookshop -- which explains why the books are in my bookcase!
Back in my sales and marketing days, I learned the purpose of an image or graphic in advertising is to stop you browsing, whether it's in print media, on the web, or in a bookshop. And then, with your attention piqued, marketers hope you will read the advertising text, or in our case, the book, and act.
I also admitted in the Woman in the Window post I'm a sucker for a good first sentence, too. And before committing to it, I will pick up a book and read the first sentences — be it the cover blurb, foreword, introduction, author's note, or opening lines. As I commented in Writing First Sentences (May 2018), as much as I like covers, I've found first sentences to be the best judge of whether I'll enjoy reading a book.
My Instagram Research Goals
One of the goals of the Instagram posts was to show off my books. Another goal was to explore the relationship between book covers and first sentences with the reader.
But I soon realised my social media lab lacks scientific rigour. "Likes" are affected by the number of followers, timing of posts, tags used, what's trending, and how many cat videos have been posted today.
And the scrolling nature of Instagram means I can't tell if those who stop browsing and like the book covers are also taking the time to read and like the first sentences.
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Perhaps I should forget about my "research" goal and be content with showing off my books on Instagram?
Because as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, I haven't followed Marie Kondo's advice, and I've got stacks more book covers and first sentences on my bookshelf to share!
© 2019 Robert Fairhead
Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.
Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.