You Don't Get To See My Cover Yet
I got to see my cover last week. It's not the final version--it's a preliminary comp, which means that the layout and images are really close to what it will eventually look like, but not finalized. Consequently, I'm not allowed to spread it around or display it online; I only have a hard copy, and I have to mail it back to Harper on Thursday.
But, let me just say: Holy Awesome. This is a fantastic cover. I knew that Harper has good designers, but I was really blown away by this. Sure, maybe some of that can be chalked up to the excitement of seeing my first big national book cover, but I think more of it has to do with the fact that the cover is RAD.
By coincidence, a podcast that I adore (and all aspiring writers ought to listen to), Litopia, addressed the topic of covers last week. One of the guests complained about how covers (genre covers in particular) are becoming too cliche; another complained about covers that don't represent the content of the book--that they mislead you into buying the books. Examples were given and debate was had, and no one really came to any conclusion about anything. But it got me thinking.
I'm not a graphic designer, but I am a marketer, and the cover is, above all else, a marketing tool. It's designed with the sole purpose of getting you to pick the book up. From this marketing standpoint, I can see a little of both sides of the argument. Misleading covers are used because they get your attention--"Hey! A book about airships!"--and then maybe you'll read the backcover to find out what the book is actually about, and maybe you'll buy it. Cliches are used in book covers because it snugly shoehorns a book into a certain genre. (And, despite what everyone claims, we're all swayed and affected by covers. We like things to be categorized for us, because it's easier for us to make value judgments. We all judge books by their covers all the time, even though we pretend not to. We may very well do it subconciously, but we still do it.)
I'm not defending the use of cliches and misleading covers, merely explaining them. (But in some ways I'm defending them, too. When Brandon Sanderson received the deal of the century--getting to finish the Wheel of Time series--I ribbed him a bit about getting famous Wheel of Time cover art. The art, seen here, is by a guy called Darrell Sweet, and he's done all of the covers since the beginning, and I think they're horrid. Brandon, however, was much more circumspect. He said that Darrell Sweet's art means something to readers. I--not a Wheel of Time fan--might find the art ugly/cliche/whatever, but to WoT fans, Sweet's art is a stamp of authenticity. Brandon explained to me that many fantasy writers would love to get Sweet's artwork on their cover, because it connects with a certain demographic of readers.)
But enough of that. I want to talk a little about the covers of my previous books.
Here's my first book, On Second Thought. Despite the fact that the image is taken directly, with no modifications, from GettyImages, the cover is pretty good. It accurately shows elements from the story (the businessman in the desert) and also elements of the theme (the lack of direction and the impending need for decisions to be made). While the cover doesn't scream "comedy!" (and definitely doesn't scream "rom-com"), it certainly has a bit of whimsy to it.
Here's my second book. *Shudder*
I don't think that there is much happening in favor of this cover. First, the image has nothing to do with the story. There is no character in the book who is ever dressed in a suit (the main character is a slacker college student), and there is no reason for anyone to have his head in the sand. And, if you're thinking this must be a metaphor--as evidenced by the title--then you're wrong there, too. The title has nothing to do with the story or the theme.
Also, this cover is really, atrociously ugly. Would it surprise you to learn that this book has the highest GoodReads ratings of all my books, yet sold the worst (by far)?
My third book has a great cover, in my opinion. It conveys both the tone of the book as well as the showing a vital set piece (the Arch de Triumph). And, if my second book sold the worst, how do you think this one sold? Close to three times as well. Yes, Virginia, people really do judge books by their covers.
All of that said, I'm happy to announce that my upcoming cover is fantastic: neither cliche nor misleading, but still managing to be both artistically beautiful and a humdinger of a marketing piece. Hopefully I can show you the finalized version soon.
So, what are your thoughts about covers? Do they influence your reading/buying decisions? (Also: let me know what covers you love!)