Sunday, May 10, 2015

Judging a Book By the Cover

by Kristi Belcamino

Until I received a book deal I had sort of always assumed that authors had some—or a lot—of say in their book covers.

So when my lovely and talented editor sent me the cover to my first book and asked if I liked it, I was torn. My agent said this was an opportunity to give my input and if I didn't like it, to let the editor know.

I didn't like it.

Here it is:

I'm not a big fan of covers with a full face on them. I like to imagine what the characters look like, not be told what they are supposed to look like. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised that my editor saw Gabriella Giovanni much the same way I did. But I still didn't want to tell everybody else that she should look like the model on the cover.

And I was a little unhappy with the rip across the middle. I wasn't sure what it was or what it was supposed to be - stuffing coming out of something? Waves crashing onto the shore? (The book is set in San Francisco.)

At the same time, I was a brand new author. I wanted to defer to my editor and the art department at HarperCollins. They had been doing this a lot longer than me. I had to trust them that they would know what sells book.

So, with mixed feelings I told my editor I didn't like having a person's face on the cover and didn't know what the ripped line thingie was. (Turns out it indicates ripped paper, since my reporter character works for a newspaper.)

Well, the cover remained exactly the same.

Some people loved it. Some people hated it.

I asked other authors with amazing book deals if they had any say in their covers. Ninety-nine percent of them said "nope."

This was such a revelation to me. I didn't know that authors had no say in something as crucial as a book cover!

Moving along to book two:

Now, this cover I hated. I was a little more confident in myself at this point and said I didn't like it. I didn't like the look on her face and thought she looked funny and unattractive.

Well, the cover remained exactly the same.

(P.S. A writer friend of mine told me it looked like the woman was smelling bad sushi, so I've dubbed this cover Smelling Bad Sushi Cover.)

Moving along to book three:

MY DREAM-COME-TRUE COVER. I love it so much. It is wonderful!

It was so good, it actually convinced a reviewer who had HATED my first two book covers to pick up my books and read them. Here is BOLO Books talking about that a little.

So, it took three books but I finally have a cover I'm thrilled about.

Now, I can only hope that book four will be as amazing and I'm also crossing my fingers hoping that the first two books might be re-packaged to match the third one.

Authors -- have you had any say in your covers?
Readers -- have you not read a book because of it's cover?


Scott D. Parker said...

As an independent publisher, I have complete say-so on my covers. So, for better or worse, readers will like/dislike the covers and the only person to blame will be me. Granted, up to now, I've been doing covers that look like old pulp covers. We'll see how I do when I publish a modern book.

As a reader, yup, I judge a book by it's cover. I've picked up books because of the cover and avoided them for the same reason. Here's a funny thing. As an avid audiobook listener, I'm sometimes surprised that there is a different cover for the audiobook. Not all the times, but sometimes. I wonder why that is.

Kristi said...

Definitely one of the perks of being an independent publisher! That is odd about the audio book - wonder what that's about?

Dana King said...

I don't thin I've ever picked up a book because of its cover, but I have passed on books with garish covers.

I was consulted on the cover for my book, didn't care for it, was persuaded otherwise, and discovered everyone but me liked it. So, should I get another deal, I'm just going to worry about the inside of the book.

Kristopher said...

As we have talked about Kristi, I think the average reader - let's say, those that read less than a book a month - relies heavily on book covers to sway their reading choices. It's not a good way to make those choices, but few understand how the publishing industry works.

Even I, who work in publishing, was wrongly influenced by your covers. The problem with them is that they don't reflect the quality of the writing within. They look slapped together. The WEEP cover, in contrast, gives the right feeling and tone for the series.

Here's hoping that book four continues this trend.

BTW, thanks for linking to my Jungle Red Writer guest post. :)

Kristi said...

My pleasure! And thanks again for reading my books! : )