Yes, I’m on a writing break, but it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about the cover for my next. As we all know, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But we all do, it seems. Supposed experts in publishing tell us the cover is your most important marketing tool, though my own informal survey of readers begs to differ. Some readers will choose a book solely on its cover, but others could care less, using reviews or information on the product page to make their decision.
Truth be told, I’m in the latter group. Half the time I don’t even look at the cover of a book, even when I’ve finished reading it. And this probably explains why I tend to give short shrift to my own covers as an author. But this time I’m trying to take it seriously, mainly because I don’t feel the cover of my last book was particularly successful. It was a pretty picture, based on some artwork I admired, but didn’t really capture the essence of the book and maybe was misleading. Many readers thought it would be a religious book, and that explains a lot of the anger of some reviewers over its explicitly adult content. It seems to be one of those love-it-or-hate covers, and although it snagged plenty of ‘up’ votes from a NetGalley survey, I was wishing I had gone with an earlier instinct, and another painting, of a moody Southern Tier streetscape. I may change it yet. Readers and buyers aside, an author should have a cover he or she is happy with, because once it’s published, you’re going to have to look at the damned thing every day of your life, several times a day, as you relentlessly check your rankings and sales.
A cover needs to reflect its genre, but as a genre-less writer leaning toward literary, where does that leave me? Based on my research into (almost) similar titles, basically: Big type on a plain background. Or, weird type on a bold background. Or something arch and clever. Script fonts. There was an interesting article online about a bestselling literary writer—Sorry, can’t recall her name at the moment—who has been coming under fire for her covers, which seemed to be deliberately fluffy and sentimental, designed to draw in female romance readers who might appreciate something a little more upmarket. I don’t think I want to do that; I don’t want to succumb to anything that smacks of cold-blooded marketing. That said, I do think my new work will appeal to readers who like romance and so-called ‘women’s’ fiction. But I don’t want to turn off the men, although…I suspect most of them don’t even notice covers.
So back to type on some kind of background. No bare-chested hunks, no hauntingly beautiful maidens with pre-Raphaelite hair, no idyllic beach scenes or any of the other nonsense authors slap on their books to make them sell. I think I have an idea…But I need to play around with it for a few weeks, so there won’t be a cover reveal for a while. But meanwhile, if you have thoughts on covers, share them with us! What appeals to you or makes you stand still in the aisle at Barnes and Noble in shock and awe? Not that it would necessarily work for me, but still want to know!