This past week we had a lot of fun with the covers nominated for the 3rd Ugly Covers competition – many of them were horrible and your comments reflected amazement that they were published. The question most frequently asked was ” What were they thinking”?
As some of you know, I get very exercised about cover art (probably the only exercise I get):) because I believe it is an essential part of the marketing process in selling a book. Much has been written elsewhere about book covers and we poke fun here at cover art and a few publishers which one anonymous reviewer said “are almost re-defining the concept of deliberate hideousness!” You will probably guess which publisher(s) she meant since you have seen many of their covers in the Ugly Covers competitions. It boggles my mind that some publishers release books with covers that, quite frankly, give new meaning to the word tasteless. One book cover that has been discussed on this site many times this past week is The Price of Temptation. I really don’t know what the publisher had in mind when this cover was published but it sure garnered lots of attention, which might have been the original intent.
Very few, if any, authors influence the selection of their book covers which is a pity, because covers seem to impact (positively or negatively) on book sales, and the authors are dependent on the income. Decisions re book covers are made by the Creative Directors, the marketing departments of individual publishers and, I suppose, the ultimate accountability rests with the publishers.
I’m restricting my comments here to M/M books, but het book covers are just as bad and I’m wondering if there’s a special school for cover artists to show them how to produce some of the abominations that pass for cover art these days. There are obviously many excellent cover artists – Anne Cain, April Martinez, Croco Designs, P.L. Nunn, Trace Edward Zaber, Scott Carpenter, Paul Richmond – to name just a few whose work I admire, and I know that there are many, many more who produce excellent work. M/M covers seem to range from man titty headless torsos, Poser art, the same overused cover models, one armed men, sometimes a guy with three arms (on a contemporary book cover)*g* and on and on and on.
Some of the contemporary covers I admire most are those on Jordan Castillo Price’s books. Here’s one –
I do understand that book covers can’t and won’t exactly represent what the story is all about but what if the tall, thin hero in the book is a bulky, muscular guy on the cover because muscle sells? Is that misrepresentation or marketing? Authors are asked to produce descriptions of their protagonists and a blurb for the cover artists, but no one knows whether this information goes into a big black hole, never to be seen again, because what emerges as the ultimate cover in most cases bears no resemblance to either the story or the blurb. Why are authors asked for this information as part of the process of coming up with cover designs for their books if they’re going to get the same old, same old? Whenever I ask this question of publishers the answer I get varies, but the most truthful one I’ve seen seems to be the following “the cover doesn’t illustrate the book. It’s a sales tool.” If covers are “sales tools” and are decided by the marketing department, why ask the authors for input? Is this just a PR exercise?
The last mini poll I ran on the blog several months ago indicated that 70% of M/M readers were either strongly or moderately influenced in their purchase decisions by book covers. Surely publishers have this same information from their own surveys, but maybe they interpret it differently! Why is it that so many excellent books end up with cheesy looking covers? One telling example is the first cover for Captain’s Surrender which many readers panned mercilessly. Here’s the original cover and the one on the re-released version of the book. The first cover was not offensive – it was just blah and didn’t say anything about what the book was all about – an Age of Sail romance – while the second one definitely says something about the story and would make any reader want to snap up the book.
I know that there are issues around cost and budgetary constraints which each publisher faces, especially with the current state of the economy, but it should cost the same to produce an ugly cover as one that’s attractive, and in addition, says something about the book. Why hire a cover artist if the cover art has nothing to do with the book and is just a marketing tool? Would it not be cheaper to produce a whole bunch of the same covers and slap them on different books, regardless of the content? (Wait!! I think some of them do that already on their cheaper line of books which is fine because it holds the price down at $1.29 to $1.49)*g*
Here are a few covers that I like, that I’m sure they didn’t cost any more to commission than some that are truly horrendous!
Here are some that are on the flip side of the chart, IMO. The first one looks like the guys’ makeup went strange – I know they’re shifters but WOW; the second is a giant red (or burgundy) arm and 3/4 of a chest – no head; the third (Bad Boys) has an extra arm out of nowhere – maybe the guy is an alien); the 4th – a naked man on a book cover??? I thought that was a no no; #5 – another chihuahua against a background of two headless, bland looking torsos; and the last one is just a horrible cover. Not candidates for the Ugly Covers competition but certainly not art, at least not in my humble opinion.
Readers, what attracts you when you look at a book cover? Would you buy a book if the cover was really in poor taste? Would it make any difference if the book was print or ebook?
Authors, is cover art a hindrance or help in selling your books? One author was quite upset several months ago because there was a woman on the cover of her M/M book, giving the definite impression that the book was a menage, which made many M/M readers steer clear away from it. Have you had experiences where the cover art for your book was misleading and perhaps affected your sales negatively? On the flip side there was one author whose hero had three arms on the book cover and she used that mistake as a promotional gimmick.*g*
I know that some readers could care less about book covers and there are others who would buy a book just because it had a beautiful cover. Different strokes!
Looking forward to a lively debate.