Reading Raves: Matte and Glossy covers

moon called
There seems to be a debate on what looks classier – a book cover with a matte finish, or a cover with a glossy one. In bookstores here in the U.S,  I see a combination of both on the shelves, but I am not sure what the norm is elsewhere. In my searches about the topic I discovered posts discussing how in Canada, if the book is a trade paperback and glossy, people are more inclined to think that it is self published (apparently because of artist subsidies there, more self-pubbed books are found in bookstores? If the book is mass market paperback, the glossiness vs. matte thing doesn’t seem to matter as much). Meanwhile, I remember seeing a lot of matte or satin finished books in Europe, but I may be wrong. I found comments to the contrary, but I didn’t really spend much time searching. If you know, please comment.

Where do I stand? Give me a combination of matte & glossy! If there is one thing that I have a weakness for, it’s that feeling of smooth against rough and the reflection of a glossy image or embellishment against a matte background, or vice versa. It’s sadly not something I often see in the genre books I read, although I see it more often in young adult books. It just makes me go a little wide-eyed and “Oooh, pretty!” when I see a cover where more than just the art is considered. The extra little something like raised lettering and this finish adds to the experience (and I don’t know if an e-book could ever replicate it). I tell you: be still my beating heart!

I spent some time trying to figure out what this combination was called by the printers, but I still have no clue. Is it Matte with: varnish? Laminate? UV coating? Aqueous coating? The more I googled, the less I knew.

blood of the demonI raided my bookshelves to try to show you my favorite covers, but they are really difficult to photograph. There’s the Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series (the US covers), that have a metallic sheen and Mercy in slightly raised glossy relief. (Cover illustration by Dan Dos Santos, cover design by Judith Lagerman).

Then there is of course the Kara Gillian books by Diana Rowland. The symbols on the cover you can see when you tilt it are so pretty. I just love it! (Cover illustration by Juliana Kolesova, cover design by Dreu Pennington-McNeil)

Other books and series I own with this effect (there are sadly not many. Although I have a bunch with shiny fonts against a matte background, I’m not counting those):

  • The Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks (this is a reverse of the usual. It has a shiny cover with the character image in matte)
  • The Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs
  • The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
  • Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd anthology


detail of Geektastic cover

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2 thoughts on “Reading Raves: Matte and Glossy covers

  1. I’m a fan of matte. I by far prefer it. Glossy covers put me off big time. They DO look self-published! That shouldn’t be bad but what it means is that they look cheap and nasty.

    It’s funny you should mention the Canadian debate because I’ve definitely been a part of that! When I worked for a publisher, and when an author made a guest appearance at a book club I used to be in (she had a nasty glossy cover that she hated and I had to agree with her – not just the glossiness made the book look cheap, but the quality of the paper was too good.)

    Actually, where do you stand on paper? The stiffer the paper, the better quality it is and more expensive, but it’s not popular. I love the soft paper. It just feels so nice! And I haven’t noticed my books disintegrating or anything!

    • I think I go for matte over glossy, but it doesn’t kill me if it’s not matte.

      I don’t really seem to mind what the paper looks like. When I was in college my best friend who is VERY particular pretty much ingrained into me reading a book so that I don’t create spine creases or mess it up. So if I read a book it holds up very well. I think if I had to choose, thinner paper can get a little wrinkled from fingers on it so I like a thicker paper that doesn’t make a book weigh 5 pounds heavier than normal. It hurts the wrist holding that stuff up!

      The thing that makes me froth at the mouth is when they change the cover design in the middle of a series that I’ve been loyally buying. Even when they change the typeface I’m like: AHHHHH, now it doesn’t MATCH UP ON MY SHELF!!!! HULK SMASH!!

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