Writings: A Note On Covers

One of the big things the successful indie authors tend to bang on about is the importance of covers. Despite the warning that you can't judge a book by its cover, many readers do precisely that. As an avid reader and chronic book-buyer, I can absolutely attest that I have bought books for their covers. Even when a cover isn't in a genre I care about, if it's eye-catching it can mean the difference between snagging my attention or not. Here is a good example, courtesy of a Kindle weekly deal that landed in my inbox:


Thought Transcript:

LOL! Someone should tell Eloisa James that there's a difference between "I am holding up my skirt in order to run better" and "Here, have a look at my diamond-studded panties. Too much or not enough? Be honest!" and that this cover is leaning towards the latter. Heh.

Seriously, what the hell is she supposed to be doing, some kind of yoga move in a ballgown? Ach, I'm going to have to click over and read the description or it will bug me all day. *clicks over and reads*

Huh. It's a Cinderella story. And the prince is apparently not a total jerk. And the rival woman is apparently sympathetic and likeable rather than a total shrew in need of comeuppance. And the heroine is apparently the active and competent manager of an estate rather than a passive piece of fluff in a ball gown. And there's a pickle-eating dog for reasons entirely obscure to me.

I really don't read romance, but I do like fairy tale remakes. And it's only a dollar. And it kind of sounds like the author was trying to avoid problematic tropes? Which would be totally cool if that was the case. Ah, what the hell. At least I can say I'm broadening my horizons. *tosses book into cart*



It's true that there's no one book cover that will snag every reader on earth. But there are definitely book covers that can catch prospective readers' eyes and tempt them to read your book description just to find out what the hell is going on in your novel. Sometimes that's the first step in snagging a new fan.

25 comments:

★☆ keri ☆★ said...

You got me!

I probably would have rolled my eyes at the cinderella shoe in the background and the super-hiked-up skirt in the foreground, but your description of your thought process made me think "ooh, wait, maybe that does sound kind of interesting?" so I've purchased it, too. (I hope that clicking the link from my RSS feed gets you the kickback.)

It looks like James has done a whole batch of Regency-based fairy tales, too, if this one turns out to be fairly good.

★☆ keri ☆★ said...

You got me!

I probably would have rolled my eyes at the cinderella shoe in the background and the super-hiked-up skirt in the foreground, but your description of your thought process made me think "ooh, wait, maybe that does sound kind of interesting?" so I've purchased it, too. (I hope that clicking the link from my RSS feed gets you the kickback.)

It looks like James has done a whole batch of Regency-based fairy tales, too, if this one turns out to be fairly good.

AmaryllisZandanel said...

Authors have shockingly little control over covers. Sure, my mom got to fill out a "Cover Fact Sheet" for every book, with such salient details as "Eye Color of Hero" and "Hair Color of Heroine", but as far as she could tell, the artists never saw the Cover Fact Sheet, because heroines with short brown hair and blue eyes would appear on the cover with waist length red hair and purple eyes. And the historical inaccuracies of the dresses and hair, well, it didn't improve my mother's heart issues.

There was this one artist whose every hero was Patrick Stewart with hair. Once we noticed it, we started going to the book store on release day (used to be the first Tuesday of every month) to admire all the Patrick Stewarts.

tl;dr - Don't pay too much attention to covers. Like, no attention. Oh, and blurbs are written by editorial assistants who may or may not have read the book.

AmaryllisZandanel said...

Authors have shockingly little control over covers. Sure, my mom got to fill out a "Cover Fact Sheet" for every book, with such salient details as "Eye Color of Hero" and "Hair Color of Heroine", but as far as she could tell, the artists never saw the Cover Fact Sheet, because heroines with short brown hair and blue eyes would appear on the cover with waist length red hair and purple eyes. And the historical inaccuracies of the dresses and hair, well, it didn't improve my mother's heart issues.

There was this one artist whose every hero was Patrick Stewart with hair. Once we noticed it, we started going to the book store on release day (used to be the first Tuesday of every month) to admire all the Patrick Stewarts.

tl;dr - Don't pay too much attention to covers. Like, no attention. Oh, and blurbs are written by editorial assistants who may or may not have read the book.

Gelliebean said...

I kept trying to post yesterday, but Disqus hated me. :-(

I have this book along with her Beauty and the Beast reformat, and I really enjoyed them both.... Unfortunately, the cover is designed much more to hit the trigger points of "Cinderella" and "Romance" and isn't really reflective at all of the content.

I was lucky enough to see Gail Carriger when she came to speak at a local bookstore last year, and something she mentioned was how unusual it was that she had as much say in the covers of her books as she ended up with. (If I'm remembering correctly, a friend of hers modeled for Soulless and it ended up a big hit, so they stuck with it.) I also wonder whether the artists contracted for mainstream-published cover designs actually get to read much of the books they work on, or if they're just given a synopsis and/or 'vision' from Marketing and told to get to it.

Gelliebean said...

I kept trying to post yesterday, but Disqus hated me. :-(

I have this book along with her Beauty and the Beast reformat, and I really enjoyed them both.... Unfortunately, the cover is designed much more to hit the trigger points of "Cinderella" and "Romance" and isn't really reflective at all of the content.

I was lucky enough to see Gail Carriger when she came to speak at a local bookstore last year, and something she mentioned was how unusual it was that she had as much say in the covers of her books as she ended up with. (If I'm remembering correctly, a friend of hers modeled for Soulless and it ended up a big hit, so they stuck with it.) I also wonder whether the artists contracted for mainstream-published cover designs actually get to read much of the books they work on, or if they're just given a synopsis and/or 'vision' from Marketing and told to get to it.

Silver Adept said...

I freely admit that the cover shown would not get me through to the blurb, because it shouts at me that the primary motivation and genre of this story is going to be about romance, a genre I don't like to read, and there's nothing there to suggest to me that it will be any different than any other romance novel. I would not have been able to see that it was a fairy-tale retelling.

Covers really are important.

Angelia Sparrow said...

We authors get some say in our covers. Sometimes they come out exactly as we envisioned. Sometimes, they are hot if not quite our vision. Sometimes we're puzzled. And sometimes, we get the badly photoshopped man doing rude things to a pumpkin.

Everything about that cover says "Cinderella retelling" to me. Floofy dress, check. Stairs, check. Glass slipper, check. Midnight in title, check. But I speak fluent romance cover.


Author Jim Hines does a series on his blog where he poses like the women on his covers.
http://www.jimchines.com/2012/01/striking-a-pose/

Maggie Champaigne said...

Ah, no blame to the authors for covers! I'm an e-reader gal anyway, so I barely note covers. I pay way more attention to the blurb.

Maggie Champaigne said...

Ah, no blame to the authors for covers! I'm an e-reader gal anyway, so I barely note covers. I pay way more attention to the blurb.

Maggie Champaigne said...

I'm not actually a huge stickler for accuracy in historical fiction, but I do find it very jarring when things are too far off. Partly presumably because I've read a lot of fiction that was actually written in the late 18th to early 20th centuries. And partly if it's in an illustration I can SEE problems.

If it's an alternate universe, that's one thing! But otherwise I end up feeling like the environment is bad set design and I end up paying too much attention to the surroundings and not the actual story.

The ones that generally seem to succeed (for me, at least) more with their historical settings are the ones who have a light touch on detail. The last historical romance I read there were almost no specific details about clothes, yet I still got the flavour of early 19th century.

Basically for me it just boils down to being really interested in historical fashion and culture (I have a degree in history). I do know other people won't see these things, and that's cool! I don't think that's a failing on anyone else's part...it's just my particular wheelhouse. :)

Isabel C. said...

Well, for the first part...panniers and powdered hair aren't particularly sexy to modern readers. And I'm pretty sympathetic to that: I don't find 'em attractive either, and there are reasons I'm not in the SCA. I try to get costuming more or less right in mine, but I also deliberately set them in years that don't include either ridiculous sleeves or ridiculous bustle, and I can get behind the desire to be appealing rather than realistic.

Will Wildman said...

If she's fleeing court, it may be because she is SHOCKINGLY NOT WIDE

*sporfle*

---

As an amateur/aspiring novelist, I worry about covers on occasion, because I know that if I decide/succeed in going through a major publisher, they will have All The Control over what the cover to my book looks like and what if it's something that is just all wrong for the story? Same for titles, although I realise that both of these points are considered 'marketing' before 'art' and there are reasons that it is so.

(I am bemused by covers of pretty people. I generally don't write about Pretty People. I make it clear that certain characters find other characters varying attractive, but I have a personal rule about never just making a narrative declaration that X person is objectively gorgeous. And while prospective readers will presumably have their own opinions of whether Pretty People on my cover were indeed attractive, I feel like them all being models of conventional beauty would be... missing the point. The more I think about it, the more I think that part of my adoration for the original Mistborn cover, which is possibly my platonic ideal of fantasy cover art, is because it is all about the heroine's action, doesn't show her face, and is not a particularly Escher Girls pose. It admittedly flashes some leg, but on the whole seems a lot less Female-Body-Oriented than most.)

Maggie Champaigne said...

My thought process: HER HAIR SHOULD BE POWDERED! And also she should have stockings on OMG why can't people spend 5 minutes on researching historical clothing?!?!

(Also potentially she is missing panniers. Somewhat arguable when I don't know the dates involved or where she's fleeing. If she's fleeing court, it may be because she is SHOCKINGLY NOT WIDE)

boutet said...

Along the same line, if you're wearing a great poofy thing like that you can't hike your skirt up that high delicately with your fingertips. You need to haul that mess up with both arms and you'll probably end up hunched over hugging all that fabric to your chest/stomach. Not quite so sexy :P

boutet said...

Along the same line, if you're wearing a great poofy thing like that you can't hike your skirt up that high delicately with your fingertips. You need to haul that mess up with both arms and you'll probably end up hunched over hugging all that fabric to your chest/stomach. Not quite so sexy :P

cordiallyJess said...

I've read this! Hello from an unabashed and enthusiastic romance novel reader! I will be interested to hear your opinion. (Mine is: enjoyable brain candy,some complaints about pacing, quick and fun, fairy godmother character is predictable but entertaining.) The series seems a bit uneven to me: this installment was one I liked, but there's another (the Ugly Duckling retelling) that I didn't care for at all, for a whole host of reasons.

Seriously, the percentage of reviews I write that starts with some variation on "I bought this book because I liked the cover" must be approaching 30%. The Pretty, I am a sucker for it.

cordiallyJess said...

I've read this! Hello from an unabashed and enthusiastic romance novel reader! I will be interested to hear your opinion. (Mine is: enjoyable brain candy,some complaints about pacing, quick and fun, fairy godmother character is predictable but entertaining.) The series seems a bit uneven to me: this installment was one I liked, but there's another (the Ugly Duckling retelling) that I didn't care for at all, for a whole host of reasons.

Seriously, the percentage of reviews I write that starts with some variation on "I bought this book because I liked the cover" must be approaching 30%. The Pretty, I am a sucker for it.

★☆ keri ☆★ said...

I feel like the Old Skool skirts-hiked-up thing might have been less popular for a while, but is getting popular again, especially with the way we now often don't see heads and it's more about signaling that this is Historical (see? fancy dress!) and also Has Sex Scenes (see? you can almost make out her underpants!). My feelings mostly come from the covers I see at the grocery store, so I might be underestimating things.

A local author recently had a signing for her first romance novel, and when she talked about it on the morning radio program, it was really interesting! and then I got to the signing and all the feminist sorts of things she'd implied about the book weren't present at all in the cover - instead we get a vaguely historical froofy fancy gown with the skirt pulled up to her hips and Mister Half-Naked Guy pulling off her anachronistic garter belt. (Marketing - pffft!)

(The book is "Secrets of a Wedding Night" by Valerie Bowman. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, because the cover art has been putting me off, though it's towards the top of my list to pick up next.)

★☆ keri ☆★ said...

I feel like the Old Skool skirts-hiked-up thing might have been less popular for a while, but is getting popular again, especially with the way we now often don't see heads and it's more about signaling that this is Historical (see? fancy dress!) and also Has Sex Scenes (see? you can almost make out her underpants!). My feelings mostly come from the covers I see at the grocery store, so I might be underestimating things.

A local author recently had a signing for her first romance novel, and when she talked about it on the morning radio program, it was really interesting! and then I got to the signing and all the feminist sorts of things she'd implied about the book weren't present at all in the cover - instead we get a vaguely historical froofy fancy gown with the skirt pulled up to her hips and Mister Half-Naked Guy pulling off her anachronistic garter belt. (Marketing - pffft!)

(The book is "Secrets of a Wedding Night" by Valerie Bowman. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, because the cover art has been putting me off, though it's towards the top of my list to pick up next.)

bekabot said...

Sure looks Old Skool to me. Back in the days when I was making fun of my sister for reading romance novels and she was making fun of me for reading SF, I swear, all her books had cover pictures of pretty women with leg cramps hiking up their skirts and staring at their calf muscles ("what's up with this, it feels like it's about to fall off!!") — at least that's what I saw when I looked at them.

That was a long time ago.

Shannon said...

I like book covers that feature something besides flawless humans. Something like the cover of Black Beauty, with a gorgeous black horse, or Incarceron, with its crystal eagle-shaped key. Or The Secret Garden, which usually has a normal looking girl on the cover. I don't mind having pretty people on book covers, I would just like to see more covers of other types too.

Shannon said...

I like book covers that feature something besides flawless humans. Something like the cover of Black Beauty, with a gorgeous black horse, or Incarceron, with its crystal eagle-shaped key. Or The Secret Garden, which usually has a normal looking girl on the cover. I don't mind having pretty people on book covers, I would just like to see more covers of other types too.

Katty said...

I haven't read this one, but I can confirm that Eloisa James does often write pro-active heroines who have a life and thought processes of their own. Also, you often get interesting relationships between women (sisters, friends,...) and even the odd male/female friendship (that does NOT develop into a romance during the course of the book).

With regards to covers, I started reading Julia Quinn because of this. The Piatkus editions of her books feature comic-style drawings on their covers which makes them MUCH more "buy-able" in a real-world bookstore than the type of cover shown in the OP.

Anonymous said...

If you're keen on your projects, it is going to be easier to produce your restaurant business flourish my website freelance
writing allows a student to work with her or his writing skills with much
less expensive competition.

Post a Comment