Monday, June 1, 2015

My Thought Monday #6 (The Curious Case of the Creative Cover Part Two)

Hey readers! Welcome to another thrilling installment of My Thought Monday. A weekly post where I get to rant and/or rave about happenings in the book world. I have received lots of positive feedback from my previous posts and want to keep the momentum going. This week I'll be touching on another topic that's important to all authors and bloggers. 

I'd like to offer up my thoughts for discussion among authors, bloggers, readers, and all members of the literary community. I understand that my views may be in the minority on some fronts and would love to hear your thoughts. Please note that while I would love to hear your thoughts, I will not tolerate this as a place of hate and negativity. If you so choose to put forward your thoughts via comment, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc, please do so professionally. I am fully aware that sometimes the bookish world is the last place you want to put your personal thoughts, but I, for one, am tired of being quiet. It's time for me to take a stand on issues that are important to me in this community. It is my belief that, only as a community, can we pull together and make real change in this bookish world we all know and love.

This week's topic:
The Curious Case of the Creative Cover
Part One: The Current State of the Cover Market

So today's post is going to be a continuation of my last MTM post where I discuss my thoughts on the current state of the book cover market. I'll be talking about what I love, what I hate, and what I think we can change in order to benefit readers everywhere! 

If you missed last week's post, take a moment to catch up!


Few things in the book world have fried my hash lately like cover. Love them or hate them, covers are one of the most important parts of a book. As I mentioned last week, if you have a crap cover, good luck getting your book on the shelves. Far too often have I read an incredible manuscript, only to have the cover make me want to hurl. How frustrating is that? In addition to some of my fellow bloggers and favorite authors, I've complied a list of some pressure points that I feel need to be addressed.

People or Places? A few friends and I have talked extensively about this topic. What do we like/hate on covers. It's actually fairly divided. Personally, I don't like covers with people on them. Plain and simple. I just don't think it does much to describe the plot of the novel. I mean, there are clear exceptions to the rule, but overall, I'd just prefer a more abstract cover or a setting. I'm not big on people. Now, if your cover does have a person, here's what I absolute hate. Cross sections. Don't give me an arm or a torso, show the whole damn person. That's a huge pet peeve of mine. Or when you do have a full person but they are out of focus. Unless that's a reoccurring theme in your story, get that business out of here. I love covers that have an item from the story or even a setting on the cover. It really helps me envision what is happening in the story. I know this is broad, but if you picture any number of book covers in your head, you're sure to understand what I mean. I also really like 'artsy' covers. Covers of hand drawn or animated scenes are among my favorites! Also, never underestimate a well placed font over a colored background. Just saying.

Examples of amazing, people-less covers:

Stock Images. Lord, here we go. Look. I'm sorry to all you shutterstock stalkers. I'm sorry to all you Pepe Toth lover. Guys. Let's quit using the EXACT same people/pictures for all these covers. Do you realize that your cover model has been used on 50 other novels? Do your research. It all comes down to being unique in your covers. you want to stand out. I'm sure 'hot shirtless model 643' would look fantastic on your cover, but do you even care that just this year alone he's been on three other book covers, a magazine ad, a national billboard campaign for a travel agency, and on the bus stop? I'm seeing the exact same stock images everywhere. You can only alter a picture so many times. Remember that. And don't believe me about Pepe? There's an entire Goodreads group devoted to all the covers that he is on. Actually. Wait. There are multiple shelves dedicated to this:
Fonts. Not much with cause an OCD reader to flip over the edge like the font on a cover. It all comes down to clean folks. Pick a couple of strong fonts and formulate your cover around them. It's that simple. I recently saw a cover where the designed had used 4 different fonts. FOUR. It was probably the craziest thing I'd ever seen and I haven't heard a single good thing about it. Folks, if you're designing covers, you've gotta keep that business looking great! Remember, this is your readers FIRST impression of your novel!

Simplicity. As with most things, less is more. Why do some publishers feel the need to make my eyes bleed with so much going on with the cover? Dude. Quit overdoing it. If I have to stare at your cover for 10 minutes to figure out what it is, you've already lost my interest. Be creative. Pick a few key elements you want displayed in your novel and work the heck out of it. On top of that, the more simple and clean your cover is, the more likely I am to pick it up and say 'oh, what's this about?'.

Blue and white gingham dress? Must be Oz. I'm in.

Relativity. Folks. This is important. If you're writing a romance novel, own up to it. Put that gross romantic business on the front of it. You want to have near sex on your book cover, then by God, go for it. Just don't expect me to pick it up. Honestly though, I think 'relativity' is of great importance when designing a book cover. Undoubtedly my thoughts aren't shared by the publishing world though. If your story is a zombie apocalypse story, then put some damn zombies on there. SHOW ME some horror. Show me that I've made the right decision to both keep me guessing and scare the pants off of me. You've written a story about a talking squirrel who fights crime by night? You sure as hell better find an acorn for that cover somewhere. I don't want to see your cover with lipstick and a disco ball. Seriously folks. What gives? Why are covers so like this? I've spoken to numerous authors on this topic and they've told me two things. 1) Sex sells and 2) relativity is in the eye of the beholder. Both of these are very true, but at least I know what to expect when I pick up a romance-y cover. You hear me?

 Anybody want to guess what genre these books fall under? 

Cover Models. This is probably my biggest eye roller right here. Someone please tell me when the cover model for a novel became more important than the character inside the novel? Maybe it's because I'm a guy in this bookish world, but I have such a negative opinion on this raving about book cover model business. I have a few examples to share.

Last month I attended an author event where a number of romance/erotica authors were present. May of these authors chose to bring their models with them. The event was full of shirtless men who were being drolled on by woman of all ages. I was absolutely disgusted. People who didn't even know the author were lined up fifty deep to take a picture with these shirtless strangers. Now this isn't the fault of the model, by any means, but seriously people. Authors create these characters. They pour their hearts and souls into creating these characters for us to enjoy. Why are you fawning all over the cover model like this? It honestly sickens me. It's gross. 

Lats summer I attended another author event where a model, adequately clad (thankfully) was posing for pictures and signing autographs. I had read from the author and was excited to have her sign my copy of her novel. After speaking with her, she happily signed my book, then handed it over to the model to have him sign the cover. I nearly jumped across the table. NO! Why would I want the cover model to sign my book? I'm sorry, did you write this novel? No. Get the hell out of here. Not interested. No thanks. 

I could go on and on about this topic for days, but I won't. Just know that this trend doesn't sit well with me. You know, I don't know the first thing about modeling and a year ago I would have laughed if you'd told me I could point out and name any models. Sure enough, today I can look at a book model and there's a good chance I know his/her name, country of origin, and the last five covers they were on. It's ridiculous. 

Now the book models I have met in real life has been great people, don't get me wrong. But I'm not coming to author events to meet models and, in my honest opinion, events that feature models aren't nearly as appealing. In fact, I've strayed away from those events for that specific reason. Book events are suppose to be about sharing our love of the written word, not to faint at the sight of some attractive model. Whole lot of nope right there. To be honest, I know this part is bound to offend some people and I really don't care. I couldn't give a rats ass less about who is on your cover, as long as the works inside are great.

So what can we do to fix it? In the coming weeks right here on the blog, I will be interviewing a few award-winning and renowned cover artists where I hope to get their opinion on just that question! It's time for everyone in the book world to open their eyes to the issues around us. Readers are buying less and less physical books, why should we be putting out sub-par covers for them to see when they do decide on a physical copy?

I have so many more thoughts on this topic, but in an effort to not call out any particular author on a 'bad example' list, I will just stop here. I know lots of my readers have thoughts on this topic so I'm really hoping this sparks some debate and conversation about what you like in a book cover!

In this two part series, we've discussed the history of the book cover, why it's important, and the current state of the cover market! It's been a lot of fun to research the trends and history of the covers, so I'm really interested in hearing your thoughts. Tell me in the comments below what some of your favorite book covers of all time are! What makes you cringe? What do you love? Let me know!

Next week we'll be hitting on another pressing topic that I am so excited to talk about. You'll have to come back next week to see! Until next time, Happy Reading!


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