Book Covers and Cover Designs
What attracts you? Like anything else from choosing a spouse to picking out a new outfit, the first attraction is what we see. Book covers are the same. We reach for what appeals to us visually? The pretty ones get chosen first. Isn’t always the case? Not with people maybe, we’ve all met those characters who didn’t attract us at first but whose personalities pulled us in, but let’s face it, we don’t often get that option with books. With a book, we are choosing it based on book reviews, personal recommendations, or its cover. Online you have a thumbnail view amid a crowd of similar books. In a book store you might have more time to choose. You can look inside but first you have to pick up that book.
What makes you pick up the book?
So, what catches your eye? Is it color, a sexy man-chest, an embracing couple, fire and smoke, or something else entirely? I have a friend who doesn’t like the cartoon-looking covers, they turn her off immediately. I like them. Two different mind sets. Two different opinions. I adore Penny Reid’s Winston Brother series covers. They look like cross-stitch. Now, at first, they did make me hesitate. I expected something sweet and old fashioned, but after hearing an interview with the author I realized the cover was misleading. I tried my first Bearded Romance and was hooked. So, do I love the covers because I know the stories and associate them with her series, or have they grown on me? Would I like this same style on someone else’s stories?
When I asked my friend, Susan McIntyre about doing the cover of my book, I showed her the picture I had in mind and before I knew it, she’d painted it. I loved it. As I finished the book, I realized as much as I loved the picture she’d painted, it did not reflect the character in the story. My character, seventeen-year-old half-Lakota, Winnie, was not as sophisticated. While not exactly innocent, Winnie had the hopeful outlook of the young and invulnerable. She was also not completely white. I wanted to honor that. Looking through Deposit Photos I found some lovely Native American women, but they were too old (in their twenties), and the girls were too young. I sent pictures of my granddaughter who is half Cambodian to Sue and asked if she thought she’d represent the Native American character. I thought the representation was beautifully done and hope that by using a woman of color it honors and not detracts from the Native American.
As I was doing the research for this book I was surprised by the number of Native Americans, many Lakota, who performed in the wild west shows. Some of whom were considered prisoners of war and had to have special permission to travel off the reservations. But that is not today’s topic. I will return to this another day.
For me, it was important to honor the history and the character, but does this cover sell books? You have to admit the artwork is stunning, but does it tell the story? Does it represent the book? While I was brought to tears as soon as I saw the picture and it wasn’t even finished, after I really looked at it, I wasn’t sure if it fit the story. The character felt too young. The book, while it has a young protagonist, Winnie is seventeen, it wasn’t YA (young adult genre). But after preparing the cover and putting it on the book and sitting with it a while, I realized the artist had captured the essence of the story, Winnie’s hopeful innocence and undefeatable outlook.
Will the cover sell the book? That remains to be seen. But I believe people will pick it up, especially in print and look at it and that’s the first step in attracting a buyer, and that is the job of the cover. Like pretty wrapping paper on a package or a sharp-dressed man (or one in a kilt) we often check out the package first and before discovering what they have to offer.
What do you look for in a book cover? Have you ever bought a book just for the cover? Show me. I’d love to see what got your attention.