As many of you know, I collaborate with a kiwi. When Philippa Ballantine and I get together, silliness and trouble usually ensue. Whether it is podcasting or The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, people tend to really grok what Pip and I produce.
But this time, the rant is 100% New Zealand made.
Celebrating the upcoming release of her solo title and mass market paperback debut Geist, Pip brings her own gripes and grumbles to my desk. The rant she’s got delivers a swift kick to the jimmies to that age-old saying “Never judge a book by its cover…” and I got to say that she is spot on. She is certainly not alone in this stance, and perhaps with Pip’s cover (featured here) and the as-yet-to-be-released-but-oh-so-hawt Ministry cover, the tide could be turning in her argument. Still, after reading this post, you will not be able to refrain from giggling when you visit a bookstore.
I mean, the kiwi — she’s got a point.
Perhaps in the podosphere and blogosphere I am not know for my rants—and New Zealanders are generally stoic, get-on-with-it types, but when Tee offered up his blog, I knew this was the perfect location for me to let loose on a subject that has been bothering me of late.
Covers. Yep, in the last year with three books coming out shortly, they have been top of mind. Luckily all of mine so far have passed my expectations (Dear LORD have they passed my expectations…); but in the course of checking out bookstore after bookstore, I have been driven a little batty. You know what they say: You can’t judge a book by their covers.
Well I do. Often.
And so does everyone else. A rotten cover can destroy any chance the author has to snare a reader.
I am a long time reader of fantasy and science fiction. I remember working my way quickly through the books on my father’s shelves as a teenager. Now at the risk of sounding like an old codger shaking my fist at the world, I am still going to say it: Back then covers were real covers!
You looked at them and they were works of art—and better than that, they often reflected a scene in the book itself.
They were also different from each other.
One of the things I hate is the samey-ness of book covers. (Urban fantasy, I am looking at you!) When I look at a cover and all I see is a hot chick with a gun/knife/machete I have no idea what is on the inside. It gives the impression that every heroine is interchangeable, and the stories are all the same too. I want me stories to be unique and different, and the perception that they aren’t keeps me from picking them up. The read-them-once-read-them-all syndrome.
The worst to me, however, are the half-chick covers. Now I am sure there is some marketing strategy here (probably something about women being able to insert themselves into the place of the main character) but I tell you now, I will never buy a book with a half-chick cover.
Maybe it is because I feel it is reducing women to boobs, a butt or a pair of rock hard abs. Maybe it is because if I see another ‘tramp stamp’ teamed with a gun/knife I will scream. Maybe it is if I see another moon rising over a woman’s rear end I will lose all respect for the night sky. Maybe I would just like to have a cover that is in daylight.
Maybe it is all of those.
Oh yes, and the back shot of a woman is second on my list. I like to have an idea what my heroine looks like.
Heck, I would even like to have a looky-loo at the hero too. Too much to ask? Even in erotica mostly who you get to see is the woman. (As if they haven’t realized that women *shock-horror* like to look at men!)
Now I should say I have seen some beautiful covers, with wonderful art, but they seem the exception rather than the rule. And I am not against a bit of sexy on a cover, but can we please, please have different kinds of sexy?
Think I am making a mountain out of a back tattoo? Then check out the Book Smuggler’s Survey. When asked what they thought of the state of genre covers right now, 19% thought they were terrible. And if you’ve never heard of the author a bad cover can stop people from picking up a book—that’s in the stats as well.
Orbit’s ‘Trends in Fantasy covers’ is worth checking out too. (It made me chuckle that Geist’s cover features a ‘hooded figure’—but honestly in the book she does wear a cloak.)
So the theory is that some people look for familiarity in a cover… but personally I look for difference, something unique, something that reflects the tone, action and characters in the book.
Does that make me the only one?
Philippa Ballantine is a fantasy writer hailing from Wellington, New Zealand. In the coming year she will have three books hitting the real and virtual shelves. The first of which a supernatural fantasy, Geist that will available in late October 2010—just in time for Halloween. Find out more at booksoftheorder.com and pjballantine.com