Saturday, April 14, 2018

Cover Art

As a reader of paperbacks, I would examine the cover each time I picked up the book. The cover was part of the experience. It helped set a mood. Those covers were not always successful. I have the misfortune of knowing a lot about historical costuming and it drove me nuts when I saw a zipper or a lack of undergarments. But the important part to take away is that I did pay a lot of attention to the cover. I have bought books based ONLY on the cover. In fact, I have copies of cover art framed in my home (the images featured to the right are from The Snow Queen and The Summer Queen, books I never quite enjoyed like I wanted to, with art by Michael Wehlan).

As a reader of eBooks, I only see the cover when I buy it, and even then it's usually a thumbnail. The cover has become less important than the blurb and reviews, whereas in a book store, the cover weighs more in my decision to buy or not to buy.

When I finished writing my first book, I fantasized about the cover. A candlelit glow with, the Elizabethan ruff undone to show the soft curve of her neck, a partially obscured woman with the center back of her early Elizabethan style dress loosely laced. I pictured specific models, gowns from specific scenes, and a subtle elegance more suited for historical fiction but with just a touch of sensuality (hence the laces).

The problem with my cover day-dreams is I am a writer, not a marketing expert or a cover designer. It was hard for me to give up my long cherished ideas and trust others to make the decision. Ultimately, whether I trusted the marketing people or not, I was not going to be the final word on the cover.

Throughout this process I have learned one important lesson about cover design: it doesn't matter how awesome it is if no one reads the book.

The most important thing about and eBook cover is that it catches the reader's attention in a thumbnail. All the nuances I imagined would be lost in that small image. It has to grab the reader in a split second so they'll click on it. There has to be a story in that single image and, for my books, the story needs to show that connection between the main characters, the physical chemistry in a moment of romantic fantasy. It's dream about happily-ever-afters. After the click, the book description will do the rest.

In my case, I trusted my publisher to represent my books in a way that will a) sell and b) do both me and my publishing house credit. After all, a successful book is in both our best interests and they wouldn't sabotage themselves with a crumby cover.

My point in talking about all this?

If you are a reader and notice inconsistencies between the story and the cover, don't blame the author.

If you are a writer and are either working with a publisher or are self-publishing and choosing your own cover, consider what will get the reader's attention rather than something that will be that perfect representation you've always dreamed about. That dream cover is for you, but the cover has to be to grab the potential reader's attention. And, on the off-chance that your publisher selects a cover that is not to your liking, be professional about it.

The cover featured to the left is not one of my covers. It is from a stock image online retailer, and a pre-made cover by Delle Jacobs. This is an image available for purchase. Do you think it would catch a reader's eye in a thumbnail? 

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