Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You Can't Tell a Book By Its Cover

Well, that's certainly true when we think about the people who come into our lives. What we see isn't always what we get, right? The same is true with books. Yet don't we reach for the fancy packaging, the one with all the splashy colors and pretty pictures on the front? Or the one with an image that resonates with us? Even when we know it's what's inside that counts the most. That cover is the first impression and it means a lot.

So when we authors see our cover art for the first time, it can be a mixed bag. Sometimes objects appear on the front that aren't even in the book. Sometimes the artist misses the essence of the theme and setting by a long "shot".  Sometimes we love, love, love what they did.

Most of the time, we aren't involved in the cover design decisions at all. One day, out of the blue, an attachment arrives in our inbox from the publisher. And there it is, in all its glory. Or not.

I've been lucky with my more recent stuff. My publisher gives me a little voice before the staff meets to work up ideas. Berkley Prime Crime (where my doll series was published and where the Queen Bee mysteries under my pen name Hannah Reed will be published) has a great track record for doing things right (usually).

Recently, a bunch of us got together to bemoan some of the worst mistakes made in cover design. We all write cozy mysteries (yea, for cozies!), which means absolutely no blood and guts hanging out. Nothing "grizzly", so to speak.

I ended up winning for worst cover design!  Here's why:

When Murder Grins and Bears It large print rights were sold, that publisher came up with a more "appealing" cover. I worked in a library. I know the majority of large print readers are women who don't appreciate gore. So let's vote on best cover for my humorous romp through the backwoods. (note: it was originally published in 2007 with an even different cover.)

     Cover number one                  Cover number two - Large print

Which one would you buy? p.s. there are NO traps, snarling bears, or killed animals in the book.
And authors, feel free to join in with your own stories.