Monday, March 21, 2005

Cover art

It appears I spoke out of turn when it comes to cover art. I was certain that authors had no input whatsoever into book covers, but apparently that's not entirely the case. I just got an e-mail from my editor informing me of a cover conference on Wednesday. I'm not sure I'm actually included in the conference, but my editor asked me for my input, so I'm going to put a list together of scenes from the book that should translate into interesting covers.


Rachel said...

That's great to know! I have already made arrangements to create my own cover (with the help of an artist friend, of course) for my memoir, so it gives me hope that whoever (if anyone) decides to publish me may actually consider my choice for the cover.

You're not the first writer I've heard declare that they have no input into their cover art, so it sounds like you're pretty lucky to have been given the chance to contribute (maybe they've been reading your blog?!).

David M Gordon / The Deipnosophist said...

Hi, David,

We have the same perception re cover art, although not necessarily the same likes and dislikes. (For example, I detest the covers of women with levitating orbs of light, the walking (upright), talking animals, the angels, etc.) Why can't genre cover art be art? Your approach certainly seems correct -- to highlight particularly illustrative scenes for the artist to render.

Of course, I believe (but do not know) that SF&F publishers choose the cover art they do in a bid to differentiate the books as SF&F; that is, rather than use the cover art to sell the novel, they instead use the art to identify the book as SF or F, thus selling first the genre. This marketing technique seems, to me, a variation of preaching to the choir. If I were an author or publisher, I would seek the largest possible audience, not solely the genre readers.

You, as the writer, spent months and years slaving over your word processor looking forward to the acclaim, fame, and fortune that will come your way as a direct result of your applied intelligence and effort. Whereas the publishers are interested in selling product. Their concerns regard the package: your words, the cover art, the presentation of type size and font, mass or trade size paperback, or hardback, amount of publicity and promotional effort, etc.

Alas, your novel is just another title in that month's offering of 5-10 or more SF&F books; next month they do it all again. Multiply this number by each publisher, then factor in new titles to 'promote' for each new month -- it is about shelf space, however ephemeral. Whatever happened to nurturing an author, fostering and growing his or her audience, keeping in print the author's catalog titles? I mentioned previously that publishers view their end market as book sellers, not book buyers, the readers, so this entire process, as viewed from the publisher's perspective is understandable, but no less problematic. (I changed that last word from another, more hard-hitting, word! ;-)

Why do you buy a book? Is it because of the author?, the cover art?, the packaging?, the reviews?, a recommendation? I (very) recently told an editor at another house that his or her tastes and editing skills were so good, so exemplary that the publisher should create a colophon for his or her titles. I know I would purchase almost unthinkingly each new release; a measure of my respect for his or her talent.

I treasure words, books, novels, and in turn place a high value on authors. It seems that books should have a shelf life more perdurable than that of lettuce. This exegesis has, if anything, again proven my tendency for logorrhea. Its essence is that I wish you good fortune and good luck!

Best wishes,