Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Rhetoric of Book Jackets

This semester has not been the easiest or the best or the most exciting by far. It's probably been one of the most difficult, honestly. I didn't feel like I was learning anything from my classes. It was just one of those "show up-sit down-and-shut up" kind of feel. We did more reading than lecturing, and the lectures were random and nearly impossible to follow, if they stayed on topic at all. Maybe that was just my mind playing tricks on me. However, now that the semester is winding down to a close, my classes are finally getting interesting; I'm learning more; professors are making sense. Why now? 

   Today, I was working on my final project for my Rhetorical Analysis class. We could either choose a piece of rhetoric to analyze or we could create a piece of rhetoric. Many of you might not think this, but the book jacket of Ascension is a piece of rhetoric. And I thought I'd share with you my thoughts on this. 
    So the classic Aristotelian view of rhetoric is a piece of writing or oratory that moves someone to action, and deliberative rhetoric is a piece that deals with future events, what could happen. Images, at this time, were not considered pieces of rhetoric. The Greeks admired beauty and the aesthetic, which is what paintings and sculptures were. However, in modern times, we completely acknowledge the rhetorical power of images. Rhetoric goes beyond words. 
     Books combine the rhetorical power of both images and words. You know the phrase, "Don't judge a book by it's cover?" Well, maybe that's applicable as a metaphor for humans, but that's a complete lie for books. EVERYONE judges the cover. That's why publishing companies pay good money for talented graphic designers. The cover is the first impression of the book. It's what catches your eye, sets it apart from all the other countless books on those shelves. Once it's caught your eye and the book is in your hands, you're pulled into the book's world. I've included some covers that I think are successfully eye-grabbing (and that I love dearly!) And you start thinking about what's in this book to create a cover page like this? So you turn it over to read the synopsis. 
     Now, a good synopsis just gives you a taste of the story. It doesn't reveal too much, just enough to get you hooked and give you a basis--introduces the character, the setting, and the major difficulty occurring in the story. If the synopsis can't keep your attention, it doesn't matter if it's the best book in the entire world! They're not going to buy it. I can tell you that my editor and I went phrase by phrase, word by word, making sure that everything was poignant and captivating. (Hopefully you agree with these two words :-D). With the basis of story imbedded in your mind, you start thinking about the story, deliberating all the details and what's going to happen to the characters. 
      If a cover and a synopsis do their job properly, then they are a very successful piece of combined rhetoric. The image draws you in, and the words seal the deal. Because what are we ultimately doing? Selling books! Books that you love, that capture your heart and keep you flipping through the pages well into the dark hours of the night. I hope that Ascension will be one of these books for all of you!! And that you learned a little bit more about what rhetoric actually is today :)

On another note, some exciting news! 
  • On Monday, I will be doing my first official for an after school creative writing club in Maury County, Tennessee. I'll be skyping with a small group of Middle school girls who are all aspiring writers. I'm so excited and nervous and anxious and...everything!! This is so exciting! Fingers crossed I don't give bad advice :) 
  • My boss Valarie Budayr's new book Dragons are Real will be coming out very soon, and it is the most adorably magical children's book I've ever seen!! I cannot wait for you all to buy it, because you should because it's magical. Did I say that already? Oh well! 
  • In just two short (hopefully) weeks, I will be done with my sophomore year of college, and a little while after that, I'll be on a train to Canada for a couple weeks on a summer excursion with my adopted sister! I literally CANNOT wait. 
Stay tuned for more information about Ascension and Canada!

As always, 
Hannah E. Rials 

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