Sunday, August 05, 2007
Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover ...
In a discussion of cover art recently, I recalled what I had been taught early on by an editor. She had sent me three color cartoons -- that's a technical term as it is used here -- of possible cover art for a novel I'd sold her. I rated them 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and naturally, she went with my least favorite.
I liked the other two illustrations better. So, she said, did she -- but, they weren't better book covers, they were just better as stand-along art pieces. By the time the title and my name and a teaser were slugged in, the better art covers would look worse, and she was right.
What a book cover is supposed to do is get somebody with money in his pocket to pick up the novel, and, made curious by the cover, open it. After which, it is the writer's job to get them to read enough of the first page to get hooked into buying it.
End of cover function.
That's it. If the cover has anything to do with the book that's good, but not absolutely necessary. I've had great covers with dynamic montage scenes on them, full-wraps, none of which show up in the novel anywhere. Best cover for my money is the one for The Musashi Flex, because it shows exactly what I asked for, and what you see is what you get.
The one atop this column is for my first published novel, The Tularemia Gambit. (A book, by the way, whose title broke two of the first rules for titles -- 1. Never use a name hardly anybody will know the meaning of; and, 2) Never use a name most people can't pronounce.
But the cover, while technically not all that well-rendered, did tell the reader both generally and specifically what s/he would be getting into. The chessboard, the pieces, the different levels. The concept was, I thought, brilliant.
While I'm always happier to get a cover I think is the bomb and well-drawn and designed, all it needs to do is get potential readers to pick up the book and open it. I used to joke that if they wanted to put Conan in a tutu on the cover, that'd be fine by me ...
So now you know about covers ...