I’ve been thinking about covers a lot. As a new author, the big first hurdle is getting people to pick up your book and try it. When I saw the gorgeous layout Winterheart Design did on Life Lessons I did a little happy dance, because I knew that would be a big factor in making people stop for a second look. I owe the art folks a huge thank-you for that one. (And thank-you, thank-you to MLR and Winterheart for showing me the first drafts of it and changing the first Mac, who didn’t fit the story, to the second choice, whom I totally fell for. Letting the author weigh in on the cover is an enormous courtesy.) Now as I put in the cover request for Breaking Cover I have my fingers crossed that they have more photos of those two gorgeous guys.
Because for me the cover of a book is pretty critical both in picking the book up to begin with, and in enjoying it completely. I’m a little obsessive about getting things right. Even with some of my favorite books there is a niggling little voice in the back of my head that says, “Except she’s a brunette, not a freaking blonde”, or “Yes, but she has all these tattoos on the cover that she doesn’t actually have in the book.” It doesn’t ruin the story or anything (I’m not that nit-picky) but I wish the artist had been given better directions.
And realism. Even in wish-fulfillment light-weight romance (which describes some of what I write so I can call it that), let’s try to have a little logic. I can’t pick up half of the historical romances out there, just can’t, because I look at a sixteenth-century brawny highland warrior with big muscles, long hair and a… waxed chest! I’m sorry, the mind boggles. All I can think is Fabio, and then I start laughing.
For me, photo realism or a well-done realistic painting makes me look twice at a book. (I’m really hoping there isn’t a great book on my to-read list with a cartoon-style cover, because I may never get to it.) I like angst in the books I read, and look for moody cover art. I picked up Tere Michaels Faith and Fidelity on the cover art and blurb alone, and got exactly what was promised. Great book. But there are other great books out there with other cover styles. Tastes differ, I guess.
I occasionally wonder what the models for book covers think of the finished product. OK, when you’re a model you sell your image and lose a lot of control over where it goes. So do straight models ever catch sight of themselves on a m/m cover and think, “Everyone who buys that book is imagining me kissing that guy”? Do they care, or just enjoy the fact that people are looking at their face and breathing harder? With a painting of course, you’re not doing forced dating on your book cover. (Hmm, story idea? Straight male model sees himself photoshopped on a cover with another hot guy, goes to his agent to complain but can’t stop taking looks at the picture, which he tells himself he bought just so he’d have documentation, of course. And he wonders if the other guy is as…offended by this as he is, and decides to track him down and ask him…Hmmm.)
Anyway, as I pick through my to-read list, which is getting long thanks to the great reviews on Goodreads, I’ll be looking at covers. And thinking about how a finished book is very much a group project and not a solo turn by the author. And mentally passing along a thank-you to all the people out there who contribute to our books, and get less credit than they deserve.