July 4th, 2012

Book Covers

Just listened to a Writing Excuses podcast about  book covers, and it's got me thinking. The perceived wisdom is that the marketing department knows one hell of a lot more about selling books than the writer (or editor), so writers should shush up and write and let the marketing people do their thing. Which makes sense to a certain extent.

But writers are book-buyers, too. They know what, in a store, attracts their attention and makes them pick a book up off the shelf. (They also have a visceral connection to their book that no one else has, so if they *loathe* the cover, that probably says something.) I'm not saying that writers should have control over their covers, just that it might not be a bad idea to let them put their two cents in.

But what I was really thinking of was the first part, the part where marketing people know everything about selling. Because they don't always. My first thought here was the absolutely disastrous trend that existed for awhile of putting out covers with cut-outs. You mostly saw this on mystery/thrillers or romance fiction, though there were other examples. The covers were nice, sure, but they ripped every single time a book was shelved next to them, guaranteeing larger-than-normal returns. And also lost sales when *all* of the copies were ripped and customers went off somewhere else to find ones that weren't.

And then there were all those absolutely terrible scifi and fantasy covers, all done in exactly the same style. I still remember, after Harry Potter started, when the YA and even middle-grade fantasies started really taking off, and all the covers were so *original*. And beautiful. And different from each other. But the perceived wisdom was that unless all the sf covers looked alike, we sf readers wouldn't know it was an sf book and therefore wouldn't pick it up. Not true.

I don't mean to knock marketing departments altogether. By and large, they do a fine job. I had some vague ideas about what would be good for my first book, and they came up with something very different--an art deco look that was wonderful. And way better than my half-formed ideas.