Friday, March 24, 2006
I need to get up and go vacuum up all the dead leaves and dried up Christmas cactus flowers that have been lost in the corner of my office before the new desk arrives and grinds them permanently into the carpet. (The cactus flowers aren't that old. My 15-year-old Christmas cactus has gone berserk and blooms periodically from September through May.) But the desk isn't arriving until 3 this afternoon, so I have plenty of time. (Says she who has been known to procrastinate a whole day away goofing around on the internet...)
Anyway, I just re-discovered a few hundred book covers for The Barbed Rose my publisher sent me last fall when I was cleaning out all the junk under the work table I'm replacing, and spent some time admiring them, and realized I had found a blog topic for today.
Book covers (or book jackets for the hardcovers out there) are the first tangible thing an author gets to hold in her hand that says "This book, this dream, is actually going to be real." Up until that point, the book pretty much looks like the same manuscript pages we've been shipping back and forth to publisher's offices. But when that cover comes, the reality sets in.
And yes, the covers are just what they sound like. Flat copies of what goes around the pages of the book. The early covers often have marketing information inside them to go out to book buyers, and the ones that come later will have exactly what is on the inside cover of the books as sold in the stores.
Covers are important. A book's cover tells bookstore browsers what kind of story is inside. A light-hearted story gets bright colors and perhaps a cute cartoon-style character on the front. A dark suspense gets dark colors and dramatic scenes. Fantasy and science fiction stories tend to get dramatic depictions of the strange creatures, machinery or events that take place inside. The wrong cover can give the wrong idea about the contents and requires a "Do-Over." I have a friend within my own imprint who got her cover completely redone at the last minute because the first one didn't have that "heroic otherworldly adventure" feel to it, and CJ Lyons, who blogs here, got her book pulled from the schedule because the cover didn't scream "suspense." Covers are VERY important.
The amount and method of author input into the cover differs from publisher to publisher. And sometimes between lines and imprints within publishers. I've only ever been published with Harlequin, but there's a great deal of difference in what I was asked to do as a series romance writer and what I'm asked for as a Luna author. The series authors have a website to go to where they put in information about their characters and answer questions about theme and such. There used to be a paper form to be filled out and mailed or faxed back, but it's all gone to the online stuff now. I think.
I've never seen it, because they shifted to online after I started writing for Luna. I get e-mails requesting essentially the same information--descriptions of the main characters, clothing, settings, scenes that I think might work well on the cover, theme of the story. Since Luna is a fantasy line and the setting and clothing is all in my head, it can take quite a bit of time for me to get all this stuff down. And sometimes they ask for cover input before I've written all the story and I don't yet have much idea what some of the settings look like.
So far, I've been delighted by all my covers. They have been gorgeous. I'm particularly pleased with the cover of The Barbed Rose (available in bookstores now), because it has all the elements I wanted--the white rose with its thorns in the corner, the compass rose symbol carved into the pillar under the heroine's feet--and if you look close, you can see the little tiny sailboat flying in the air over the city. Yes, there is a flying sailboat in the book. I told them to put that in.
Do covers inspire you to pick up a book? Has one ever stopped you from picking a particular book up? Is there a particular favorite out there?