Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Musing on book covers

I've been thinking about book covers recently, mostly because I had to lure techy son over to the house to post the cover of my April 2007 book on this blog. (It's the oversized purple Earl over there. I didn't mean to be a blog hog, honest. We just couldn't figure out how to make it smaller.)

Let's put one myth to rest right away. Authors do not design their own covers. (Well, this may be different for self-published and e-published authors, but it holds true for the majority of books you'll encounter in your favorite bookstore.) Authors may get the opportunity to submit some suggestions, and I suppose the higher one moves up the publishing food chain, the more seriously those suggestions are taken to the point where the heavy hitters may even get veto power. But for most of us, the publisher pretty much decides how they want to dress the author's story. So, if you think a cover is too modern for an historical or if you notice the heroine has suddenly become a blonde, don't blame the poor author!! She or he may be feeling a tad disgruntled as well.

Covers are basically marketing tools. They are designed to catch the potential reader's eye and get her (or him) to pick the book off the shelf. If the back cover blurb--again, in my experience, not written by the author--intrigues the reader enough, she may look inside. And then the author's words have the chance to snare her and persuade her to part with her hard earned cash.

Sometimes this all works like a charm. I'm delighted with my covers--which have also served to brand me (another author buzzword) as the Naked author. (Okay, there are pluses and minuses to that one.) But there is also at least one internet site that features book covers that weren't so successful. And more than one author has had a cover disaster.

What do you in blogland think? Seen any great covers? Any real dogs? Do you like clinch (or is it clench?) covers--you know, where the hero and heroine are in a hot embrace? Or do you prefer the torso look--body, but no head? What kind of cover prompts you to pick a book up?


Kristina Cook said...

Lately, I'm really digging historical covers that use period art--like Pam Rosenthal's The Slightest Provocation, for one, or one of my critique partners, Amy Corwin's cover for Smuggled Rose. But I also like the people with the lopped off heads--I like the look of the cover with people in period dress, but I prefer not to see their faces, so I can use my imagination.

But that said, I really don't mind the old-fashioned clinch, either, if it's well done and not silly looking (i.e., the woman climbing the man, or the man with the mullet!).

May said...

Colleen's cover is pretty.

Megan Hart's Spice covers, Lynn Viehl's Darkyn series covers too.

Eve Silver said...

I love covers that let me know exactly what I'm buying. This is a tough task. How can a cover speak to time period, author's voice, tone, level of sensuality, etc, all in one neat package. A couple of examples... Kim Harrison's books—the reader knows that they are getting a kick-butt witch. MaryJanice Davidson's Undead books—the reader knows they are buying a light, funny, contemporary vampire book.

I think it is about more than a beautiful cover that stands alone as a work of art. I think you were right, Sally, when you spoke about branding. The ideal is to help the reader get exactly what she bargains for.

Sally MacKenzie said...

Eve, some readers felt the cover of my first book, The Naked Duke, was misleading. The cover was very much like The Naked Earl. People were expecting a light, fun read--which they got. But there was a darker element in that book that took some readers by surprise. So, yes, I do think people have certain expectations when they see a cover--and they generally want those expectations fulfilled.

And I agree with you, May--Colleen has a great cover--and I think it does exactly what Eve says it should.

I can't resist saying--you should see the cover for Kristina's June release, To Love a Scoundrel--VERY hot!!

Kristina Cook said...

LOL, thanks, Sally! It IS pretty hot--and I think it pretty much does 'capture' the essence of the story!

Colleen Gleason said...

Thanks May and all. I love my cover!