Monday, July 01, 2013

Cover Art–A Novel’s First Impression by Debra Glass

Whether the format is digital, print, or both, a potential reader’s first impression of a book is the cover. Readers realize this. Authors gnash teeth and lose sleep over it. However, publishers and art departments, don’t seem to put too much emphasis on it – or so it often seems.

Writers have very strong visions of their characters’ appearances. They live with these faces in their heads for months, sometimes years and when the cover art doesn’t match that image, it can be disappointing, or dare I say downright devastating. Many readers don’t realize most authors have zero control over the cover art.

A cover that doesn’t make a good impression can hurt a book’s sales, especially if the author is mid list or is one who hasn’t yet cultivated a fanbase.

Many authors have been very successful in obtaining their rights to previously published works and rereleasing them with fresh titles and covers. Independent publishing affords the author far more control over the packaging of their product.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]My young adult romance, Eternal was first released with a very small press under the title Haunted. The blue-washed cover the publisher provided revealed very little about the story and the cover artist did not capture my grand, colonnaded Middle Tennessee antebellum setting or my teen heroine at all. The book sold very few copies so I requested a rights reversion, changed the title, hired a premier cover artist, Tricia Pickyme Schmitt, and rereleased the work. The gorgeous cover alone generated more interest in the book (and sales) in its first week out than the old art did in two years.Haunted-ebook

Since I mainly write historical romances, I am always on pins and needles, anticipating what the cover art department at one of my publishers will provide.

While lovely, my most recent cover for Scarlet Belles, a two-book, historical anthology, fell short of my expectations. Historical readers want to see the costumes, the settings – the elements that sweep readers back in time to another era.

Here are the individual covers (which I liked and felt represented the stories) for the books included, Bought and Paid For, and Scarlet Widow.




And this is the print collection cover for Scarlet Belles which contains both stories. Pretty? Yes. Does it reveal anything about the historical romance content within? Or the raven haired heroines? Not a damn thing.


Contest time! Win a copy of Eternal in your choice of print or digital format by leaving a comment.

Have you ever passed up a book because of a less than stellar cover? Are you irritated when then cover doesn’t match a book’s content? Or could you not care less about the cover when the book is good or the author is on your auto-buy list?

*One commenter will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of my young adult paranormal romance, Eternal, in their preferred format.


M.V.Freeman said...

Sadly, Debra,
I have passed on a book because the cover was not up to par...sad but true. (although, there are times I go back to it--especially if the blurb captures my interest).

Love your covers--they are beautiful!
Thanks for the great post!

Carla Swafford said...

Debra, what is it about blue books? My middle book isn't doing as well as the others and I feel that the blue (muscular back of a man with woman looking over his shoulder) is a turn off for most. Why? Have no idea, but when I ran an ad in Goodreads, it took 3 months for enough clicks (on the cover art) to use up the money.

While my third book gets clicks all the time (flesh tone chest) - especially on the weekends. The first time I ran it, the ad ran out of money in less than month.

Jillian said...

I'm with you on this issue. I have a new book coming out and the super detailed cover questionnaire that my publisher has and I spent a long time on was not even looked at in my opinion. The cover is nothing at all like what I wanted. AND I mean nothing on it is even referred to on the questionnaire except the title. This is not the first time either for this house. I don't even know why they have the thing.

I'm also worried now because of your blue cover and Carla's comment about blue since mine is mostly blue. UGH

Suzanne Johnson said...

Ack, this is such a frustrating thing, from both sides of the fence.

As an author, I always hold my breath when the cover art comes in. I've loved all of my covers but one (although the model on the front of one of my series clearly had a boob job between cover shoots). I call that one my "bobblehead" cover because the guy's head was obviously (to me) put on a different body and doesn't quite sit right. The book is set on the Gulf coast, and the background is clearly California. It was done so late, there wasn't time to send it back and ask for a re-do without holding up the release.

BUT looking at it from the side of a person who runs a daily book blog, I'm constantly bombarded by folks who want me to feature their book on the website. My first judgment comes from that cover. If it's amateurish or unattractive, I don't go any further. Publishers don't always seem to get that this also holds true for readers!

Ali Hubbard said...

As a reader, I definitely judge by the cover! From what you are all saying and from what I've heard from others, it seems the covers don't always represent what the author is trying to convey. I wonder if it would be better if the cover artists had to read a detailed synopsis of the book - but then you mention there's a worksheet. I really need to read a book to get a "feel" for it. So many covers are just Generic Sexy. In other genres, publishers seem to take more care that the cover represents what the story is about.
I admit that I'm mildly obsessed with the cover for my current manuscript, and I haven't even finished it yet (almost there!). Someone told me about the website 99 Designs (thanks, Ingrid!) and I've been checking that out in case I want to self-publish. What I like about that website (and I'm sure there are others which are similar) is that I could take several designs and ask a small focus group which they like better. I have to be self-aware enough to know that what I like best might not be what SELLS best. I also have a rough for the cover (from an artist) that I'm . . . not loving. So, live and learn. Biggest lesson? Finish the book first. haha.

@Carla - I saw a cover trend with color-blocking (e.g. Saving Cinderella and One Night with a Hero). But it seems to have waned a bit. I have always associated the color-blocking with paranormals. So, maybe that's why your middle book is where it is.

Naima Simone said...

I have to agree with everyone above. Receiving your cover art is one of the most exciting things about publishing a book. I don't care how many books you have published, I doubt the thrill of receiving that email with the cover art attached ever gets old! For the most part I've liked--even loved--most of my covers. But there have been about 2 I was not crazy about. One--a short Christmas story--that I just...well...

I totally agree with you, Debra, as an author you've spent weeks, months with your characters and when the cover doesn't reflect the characters, setting or even theme, it's disappointing.

As a reader, I'm guilty of being drawn in by a good cover. Like Suzanne, if the cover appears as if it was photoshopped--and badly photoshopped at that!--I usually pass on it, don't even read the blurb. That said, there was one time years ago when I ignored an awful cover to buy a book. And that's how I was introduced to Christine Feehan's Carpathian series. The first thing my sister said to me after she read it was, "Oh wow! The hero in the book doesn't look anything like the guy on the cover. Thank God!" It was pretty bad! LOL! But the book? FANTASTIC!

Cool post! I love your covers, by the way!

Belle Scarlett said...

They say never judge a book by its cover, but covers are the primary advertisement for the story inside so, of course, authors, publishers, and readers want to see cover art that's representative of the characters, era, story tone, etc. inside the cover.

Luckily, your readers have come to trust that when they buy one of your books, they're getting a quality read no matter the cover!

Congrats on your all your success, Debra!


Debra Glass said...

Thanks for all the comments!! I agree, Naima. It's a thrill every time. Sometimes great, sometimes a huge letdown. **cough **cough - my Rebel Rose cover.

Louisa Cornell said...

I have to admit a sharp looking cover will catch my eye and make me pick up the book to read the cover blurb. The blurb is what sells me, but the cover is what makes me pick it up to read that cover blurb.

I've always wondered why the publishers don't listen to the authors more. Of course sometimes the publishers know more about what sells and what doesn't, but at times I feel they can be a bit lazy and try to keep selling the same cover over and over because it did well the first time.