Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Battle of the Book Covers

Okay, I admit, this picture of Yul Brynner as Ramses is totally gratuitous.

I hope you'll forgive no book review this week. I'm totally fried from launching The Holy Bennu into Queryland and getting a request for a Full right off the bat. Meanwhile, I'm getting my littluns back on the Master Schedule and HH is working long hours. You know the drill. Anyway...

Linnea Sinclair blogged about her new book cover for Down Home Zombie Blues Monday at and it got me thinking about the issue of book covers. Based on what I've learned, every author who stays in the business for long gets stuck with at least one book cover they hate. Except Jana Deleon. She's two for two. Well, I think she's two for two. I haven't actually asked her.
Now, here's where I get analytical. I hope the authors will bear in mind I love them and their books. 'Kay?'s the old Down Home Zombie Blues. Good points? Jorie looks totally hot, just like Pat Benator, and she's packing heat. Not-So-Good Points? It's an irritating shade of red. I love red, but that shade of red is physically painful to look at. Oh, and the guy doesn't look like the hero at all.

Here's the new book cover.

Good Points? It's BLUE! I love blue. In fact, I've never met a shade of blue I didn't like. Cool spaceship. Not-So-Good Points? This novel has excellent potential for snaring the male readers and the female readers who are not into the Romance genre. The kissing couple on the front screams Romance and is similar to a myriad of others.
My Conclusion: It would be great if the publisher took Jacqueline Lichtenberg's advice and released the novel in both covers. If they don't and you wouldn't be caught dead reading a Romance novel, order it on-line and hide it behind a copy of Sports Illustrated. I've read it and it's worth it. Trust me.
My favorite Susan Grant book covers. Okay, right off the top we've got Star King. I've never been impressed with the male chest, except when it comes to snuggling my husband. Show me some finely sculpted male buttocks, however, and I get whiplash. Nevertheless, this bad boy (he's actually good) looks Egyptian to me with those gold arm bands. I watched Yul Brenner as Pharoah Ramses in The Ten Commandments and never quite got over it.

Least Favorite. Doesn't match the story as I read it. Bummer. 'Cause it's a great story.

Now, compare this to Jana Deleon's debut novel, Rumble on the Bayou. Similar art concepts, but Jana's book was knock-down funny! I mean, good grief, the heroine finds a stoned alligator in a fat lady's swimming pool on Page One! The cover art matches up.

Michelle Moran's the new girl on the block and she got incredibly lucky with her cover art. Fits the novel perfectly and stands out on the bookstore shelf too.

This is the kind of Romance novel cover I love. And I still haven't even read My Invisible Husband by Sheila Goss. Why do I love it? The soft, tender covers convey the desire for true love in the story, the promise of love, and is soothing to my eyes. It reminds me of my own husband, tender, protective. Visually, it tells me this is a novel good for reading after a long, hard day at the dish sink and diaper table. (Psst, I'm a stay-at-home mom.)

I know book covers are supposed to entice a reader to pick the book off the shelf and buy it. More than that, the reader is being told what the story's about. If that story doesn't match up, the reader feels cheated. Now, a fantastic cover may entice a reader to buy off the shelf, but if the story does NOT match up she may never buy another novel by that author again.
No wonder so much angst goes into getting it just right. And even so, readers are highly individual.
Am I the only one who never got over Yul Brenner as Ramses?

On the bright side, my husband has nothing to worry about if he goes bald. I'll just sew him a kilt.


LadyBronco said...

I love the color blue as well, but I hate cover #2.

Tia Nevitt said...

I think many of the science fiction romances have covers that will repel men. I quibbled with the cover of THE HIDDEN WORLDS because it made it look like a SF romance when it was more of an SF thriller. And the gun that the girl holds on the cover? It never appears in the story.

Kimber Li said...

Lady B, that's interesting. I thought Zombie #2 would appeal more to Romance readers. You read Romance, including SFR.

Hey, Tia! I'm not familiar with SF Thriller, so I'll take your word for it.

I'm not professional, but it seems to be Science Fiction Romance would need to appeal to an ever-growing audience. This is because it's still a minor sub-genre of Paranormal. It's growing, yes, but it needs to continue growing. I think both Linnea Sinclair and Susan Grant can pull in reluctant readers to SFR, but, geez, it's complicated isn't it?

My brain is fried and I'm supposed to be on a break from the Internet today, except email. I'm notified by email when ya'll comment though.

My purpose in writing this column is to feel out how various readers respond to book cover art. I don't think sales statistics are accurate in this respect. For example, they don't reflect the opinions of readers so turned off they rarely buy new anymore. They stick to the used bookstores and libraries.

Kimber Li said...

AUTHORS! I was just wondering if you all have Google Alert? If you don't, I highly recommend you get it, especially on the titles of your newer releases. Anytime we yap about your books in the Blogosphere you can jump into the conversation and promote your books. Can't remember where I picked up that tip.

Linnea Sinclair said...

I have real limited time here so I'll try to cut to the chase (I'm meeting Suzanne Brockmann today--fangirl squeeeeeeeeeeee!).

With my covers (and not speaking for anyone else's). Bantam is trying to resposition me. I'm shelved in SF. They realize that I have a huge romance following so they're moving me to the romance aisles. They were supposed to do this with GAMES OF COMMAND and oopsed. Then they said they were doing to do it with SHADES OF DARK (formerly CHASIDAH'S CHOICE) and suddenly the first week of August, it was ZOMBIE.

They hit me and my agent, whilst I was at ARCHON, with their new cover ideas for all my books: new and reissue on the backlist. Reissuing my backlist is a HUGE PLUS! YAY! They were going to reissue WITH romance in mind and then proceed with that theme from there. They're also looking for a 'definitive' Linnea Sinclair 'look'. Branding. Branding is good. YAY! (If you don't know what I mean by branding, look at Kenyon's Dark Hunter covers or Jana De Leon's covers or Brockmann's covers...) Something that the reader will see and go: Linnea Sinclair book!

Here's what they offered me first week of August:

I was... dumbfounded. Okay, the artwork is very nice. Stephen Youll is extraordinarily talented. But these are just SO WRONG for my books. They send totally the wrong message. Totally the wrong heat level. And more than that, my characters would ever, ever dress like that.

The one for GAMES looks like two young men.

I posted those covers to my Yahoo Group and while one or three really liked them, the other 482 ran screaming from the room.

My agent and I had to go on bended knee to Bantam and say, Excuse me, sir, but we don't feel these are quite right. Can they be changed?

One does not ask that, savvy?

But my editor is a doll. A peach. She went back to the drawing board. What I got is Zombie blue.

I like it, I really do. It's a copy of Colby Hodge's cover to me, but hey, Colby's a bud. I also see its flaws, including alienating some male readers. But I can't go back on bended knee again, savvy? (Can you tell I'm a Jack Sparrow fan?)

From what I gather, ALL my covers will now be in that theme. That's my 'brand'. The title and font will always be like that.

Unti Bantam decides to change things again.

Okay, that's the scoop. Comments? ~Linnea, who will check in post-Brockmann

Kimber Li said...

Sheesh, what a labyrinth! I think the idea of 'Branding' an author is an excellent one.

Imagine a reader walking into a gigantic Barnes & Noble. She's read about ZOMBIE in the Blogosphere and she wants it. She steps into the Romance aisle and it overwhelms her senses. She may very well run screaming (at least metaphorically) from the store. However, if she knows what to look for she can scan the shelves and find it right away.

This is why I also think authors ought to have their book covers clearly displayed on every page of their websites. I visited a debut author's website recently in which the book cover blended in with the website graphics and I had to search for the actual cover. Most readers and Surfers are tired and busy. They don't have time to search.

I also think it's a great idea for authors to use their newest book cover as their icons in their Blog comments.

Imagine a reader visiting this column. She's reading all the comments with fascination. She may not be good with names. However, if, say, Lisa Shearin has the cover of MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND as her icon in her comments that image will stick to her memory. Next time she goes to the bookstore, she'll find it among the hundreds of author Fantasy novels pleading for her attention.

Lisa Shearin said...

Great idea, Kimber An! Let's see if I can get my cover icon to work. . .

Lisa Shearin said...

Dang! (sigh) Sometimes I am SO blogger inept. Okay, ladies, how does a girl go about getting her cover icon to show up?

Lisa Shearin said...

By George, I think I've got it! (Even though the cover is very tiny.)

Kimber Li said...

Very cool, Lisa. I wouldn't worry if it's tiny. Curious people will click on it and go to your profile which will lead them to your blog.

Josephine Damian said...

Kimber An, I do the google alert thing on myself - it helps keeps track of how well (or not) I'm doing keeping my name out there.

I was with Linnea yesterday when she met Suz and can personally attest to the fact that she went "Squeeeee!" when she met Suz.

I can also say that one of the main topics of conversation among the gals was cover story nightmares!

Something us unknowns can look forward to when it's our turn to grab the brass ring.

Kimber Li said...

Hi, Josephine!

I think cover art is another reason why it may be good for me to stick with Young Adult for a while. All the YA novels I've seen for the last couple of years have at least been 'good.' Some have even been GREAT. It's probably just a personal thing with me.

I've Googled myself a few times. I never turned up anything yucky, but it's still nerve-wracking. I've decided not to do it anymore. When I publish, I will put a Google Alert on the titles of books though.

Lisa Shearin said...

I do a Google search of "Lisa Shearin Magic Lost Trouble Found" once a day. That's how I found you guys! Treasure abounds on the web. : )

LadyBronco said...

kimber an ~
The single biggest problem I have with the blue cover is that it seems to focus solely on the romance aspect of the story. After reading 3 of Ms. Sinclair's novels, it annoys the hell out of me that her absolutely fabulous writing seems to be reduced to the romantic aspect of the story - if you take the cover as any indication of what the story entails.

(did that make any sense whatsoever? I can't tell today)

Kimber Li said...

You're making perfect sense, Lady B. Linnea's walking a fence and the sad fact is there are tons more Romance readers than Science Fiction readers. She's just such an original that I think the publishing world is still figuring out what to do with her. It's good that so many people love her books because it makes change necessary. For those of us who aspire to Science Fiction Romance authorship, she's breaking trail.

I know I'm focusing on my Young Adult sci-fi right now, but I do have several true-blue SFR novels in the Heaps & Piles as well. In the meantime, it's also true that The Holy Bennu can be considered SFR for the younger set. (It's actually written in the Mythic Structure.) When I do publish and gather my own readership, whose books do you think my readers will read when they grow up?

Kimber Li said...

P.S. I should clarify that I don't think it's a sad fact that there are so many romance readers. I mean it's sad that there aren't more Science Fiction readers.