Saturday, June 21, 2008

Book Covers...Don't Blame the Author

Pretty isn't it? I confess. I have a file on my computer dedicated to book covers. Mostly Romance book covers with good looking guys, true; but I'm an artist! What do you expect? I am a published Illustrator and art teacher of 30 years. I like pretty pictures and good looking guys; so, in addition to Romance, I also have Science Fiction, and Fantasy covers. The only requirement is that I like it. Often I will lift one of these covers that I like, and use it for a while as wallpaper. Helps me keep a smile on my face. I heartily recommend the therapy.

There has been a controversy in recent years about book covers and author branding by publishers. First there were the clinch covers that gave birth to the pejorative "Bodice Ripper" epithet. Then there were the flower and jewel covers that, if not extremely pertinent to the plot, were real snoozers. Now, publishers think that they must "brand" their authors. Every book by one author must look similar enough that any myopic shopper will automatically recognize their favorite author from a hundred yards away. Not a bad idea... if the author likes the cover, and the cover truly represents the book.

Unfortunately, readers blame authors for poor covers. ATTENTION! Authors have almost zero control over their covers. Publishers, specifically marketing departments, make the decisions as to what cover an author's work gets. An author can only pray.

This morning I read an excellent article on covers and reader perceptions. I thought that I would pass along the URL if you are interested.

I like the idea of branding with composition and fonts; however, for me, there are only two real questions: 1) Is it a good looking, well composed, eye catching cover? 2) Does this cover tell me something important about the story in an accurate manner? That brings me to the picture above. It is the original cover of Susan Grant's THE STAR PRINCE. I think that it succeeds superbly on all accounts. It's beautiful, eye catching, tells me it's about space, and tells me that two people are in love. After all, that was what I wanted to know.

Let me know what some of your favorite covers are.


Writing Science Fiction Romance

Real Love in a Real Future


Jace said...

Frances! You're an arty person! That's wonderful. I admire arty people because I have about 0% artistic gene in my body. :D I try to make up for the lack by cross-stitching, which is in a way cheating, because I just follow the colour codes and patterns. LOL

Frances said...

Wow, Jace! My mother was an artist with a needle. I have a whole library of books on needlecraft that she left me. My litney was, "Mamma, I don't want to learn how to: read, sew, cook, etc." I always wanted to be outside messing around with the: horse, dog, cat, boys in the neighborhood, and you name it. Her eternal response was, "I know Dear, but you're going to anyway." LOL Thank God for mothers.

Destiny Blaine said...

Great post, Frances. I think it's an important topic too because often, the general public doesn't realize the lack of creative control the author has regarding book covers. I've ran into this before and received kudos for a cover I didn't create or a "why'd you do that?" for a cover readers hate. It's important for readers to note either way--the author typically doesn't earn the credit.

Destiny Blaine

Frances said...

Hi Destiny, Welcome to another Southerner. Thank you for your support. Wait until I get wound up on copy editing. LOL I just want readers to understand what writers face, and writers not to be surprised.

BTW, I went to IT'S ONLY A MATTER OF OPINION, and your DESTINY BLAINE homepage. They are wonderful. I am impressed. Huggs back at you.

Jess said...

Oh I totally hear you on this one.

And hi again. I completely forgot to come back to your blog again, forgive me.

That said, one of the most beautiful covers I have seenr ecently is for Marie Brennan's Midnight Never Come - don't just look it up online, check it out in the bookstore; it's textured and gorgeous and it's my very favorite color and... sigh. Just beautiful. If I'm ever published, I hope they do half as good a job with my cover. Talk about evocative and nailing the book.

Totally not the point of your post, but I just saw it yesterday and had to rant about the beauty of the cover.

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

I have to give my publishers pictures of book covers I think would be good to use to represent mine. argh. A lot I really don't care for. I remember one author saying every cover had a white picket fence, and she never had a white picket fence in any of her stories. She finally said to cease and desist! LOL

The only problem I have with a cover being too similar, what if the reader thinks they've already read it? :) But I do think that in a series, you want something to make it look similar enough so the reader realizes it is another in the series. :)

Frances said...

Hi Jess,

Welcome back. You are so right about Marie Brennan's Midnight Never Come. The cover is beautiful and MYSTERIOUS. I love it. Come back more often for your rants. LOL

Writing Real Love in Real Future

Frances said...

Hi Terry,

Welcome back. Life with publishers is tough. LOL At least your publisher is interested in what you like. I have to agree with you about covers that are too similar. That is why I said (I think that I said?) that I like the fonts and composition to do the branding. I like different, yet compatable illustrations. Thus speakith the Art Teacher! LOL

Writing Real Love in a Real Future