January 16, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture, II

Thanks to sharp-eyed Sara for sparking these thoughts...

Our Cybils team scrutinized and dissected novel covers more than I usually do, and since on average I don't spend time judging books by their covers (but I do judge them by their flyleaf copy -- and if it's too detailed or too flippant and tries to strike a stylistic tone -- ugh, I put it down, which is unfair of me, I know) unless their covers really stand out, so it was a new thought to me how much cover art can really make a difference to who you get as readers. Our team additionally found that covers in the YA world tend to be pretty similar, (as did Fuse#8), and to follow trends. But using the same model, to me, seem to be a bit... much. Surely we're not all out of cover ideas -- or models -- this early in the millennium?! Fortunately, though this same model was used on the Review Copy cover of Angel's Choice that I received, I understand that the powers that be changed the cover for the actual publication copy that went out to readers. Since both novels may actually appeal to the same group of readers, this was a smarter move, I think.

Since I tend to find my books in smaller bookstores (and usually head straight for whatever I'm looking for), the display copies are sort of ...well, invisible to me. (As I say this I realize I'm a bookseller's worst nightmare - a focused shopper. Aaargh!) The books I actually notice displayed for YA readers have a definite... well, slant to them. They're either in candy (or is it CUPCAKE or POPSICLE) shades, like the ubiquitous "chick lit" and they look like they're all written for girls.

I wonder, sometimes, why... Good books like Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies) or An Abundance of Katherines are likely overlooked because of their covers. I absolutely love the cover Gail Gautier's Happy Kid, and I think the cover of Kiki Strike is awesome - just random enough to leave out a hook for anyone, but artistically relevant. Both of those books are geared to the middle grade set(correct me if I'm wrong on Happy Kid.) - so maybe that's where the breakdown in covers occurs? People often talk about young adult boys not reading... I'm not sure if anyone is actually marketing books in their general direction... the girls are already reading, so why skew everything their way?

As my publication experience grows, I look forward to seeing just how hard or aggravating it is for authors to deal with the novel cover selection process. One of my MFA profs said told that we as newly fledged authors would have no say in how our covers appeared, for at least our first several novels. He had at that point three in print, and only had gotten his say because he'd a.) taken a business course and b.) presented his professional opinion after begging to sit in on a publication meeting. They listened to him, he said, because he'd gone the extra mile to prepare something. And to humor him. YA/Children's Lit might be different. Here's hoping... If they're open to it, when I am famous, I'm going to bug A.Fortis into designing my cover for me. (A.F., you have lots and lots of time to prepare.)

And now for something on the more random side of life: if you're really keen to get into the marketing nuts and bolts of your novel, you can start by building your ideal male (an amusing promo for Anatomy of a Boyfriend), or just design a cover for that steamy romance novel you've been dying to write.

Oh, stop, you know you have one stashed somewhere. Cheers!


a. fortis said...

Funny, though--KR told me the same thing about her YA books. Now that she's been widely published, she actually gets...a little say. As in, they send her a few options and she indicates a preference and/or points out glaring errors.

I find this disheartening...until I see things like Monster Blood Tattoo. So maybe there's hope. But I'm trying to get used to the idea. Usually in my pitch letters, I indicate that I have an art background and experience in marketing and would be happy to assist in any way I can. I leave it vague and non-pushy. I don't know if it helps or not, since nobody's actually said yes yet...

Anonymous said...

it's not using the same model. it's picking the same stock photography cover image from Getty, or another stock photography house.

it happens more than you think--sometimes because of timing, sometimes because the stock house doesn't update or change their rights available listing, and sometimes because publishers don't pay for all rights for the photos. but usually, it gets caught before this stage.

There's at least two popsicle cover out there using the same image, but flipped and with a color change.

TadMack said...

Oh - duh. True. It's not the same model, it's the same photograph. I DID notice the popsicle thing, too, and someone else mentioned the dancing girl in red is on another novel as well. It still strikes me as quite intriguing that people would choose the same cover within the same year - and even the same KIND of cover (the girls in trucks thing, for instance). The minds in the publishing world must think in trends.

C.K. said...

"They're either in candy (or is it CUPCAKE or POPSICLE) shades, like the ubiquitous "chick lit" and they look like they're all written for girls"

That kind of look does seem to suggest chick-lit. Actually, the whole gender marketing thing makes me cringe. I suspect girls aren't inately drawn to the pink look, play with dolls thing to the degree many think they are and that much of that is conditioning from an incredibly early age but that's a whole other conversation. So am I the only one who likes the cover for An Abundance of Katherines? I think it's pretty cool.

In my total OCDness I always design a cover for myself. It helps me get a better grasp on what I'm trying to accomplish with each book. My editor has seen them on my website and it seems I may have some input in the final design of my upcoming novel, which would be great.

As for the romance novel thing, I'm not saying nuthing.

a. fortis said...

I agree with C.K.--I did really like the cover for An Abundance of Katherines. I thought it was clever, different, and sort of retro.

I love the idea of designing a cover for work in progress. That's really cool. I bet it really does help--gives a different angle on what you're writing/why/for whom, and helps you visualize things.

Little Willow said...

Final cover for Angel's Choice:

I love the cover of Cupcake. It fits the story and the character to a T. All three of the Cyd Charisse books - Gingerbread, Shrimp and Cupcake - by Rachel Cohn are great, but I think Cupcake is now the best book.

Oh, here's the other book I was telling you about, which uses the same picture as Confessions of a Backup Dancer:

There are more, too - It was used for some show on a billboard/advert.

TadMack said...

I LOVE the cover of Katherines - but I wondered if a line of girls wouldn't prevent a boy from picking the novel up? It's such a fine line. But it's one of my favorite covers yet.

Little Willow said...

Good question. To play along with that idea, what if the cover for Katherines stayed the same but added a boy's silhouette?