Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Covers & Boots

by Bethany Maines

Author's Note: I will not be writing about 9/11.  I think we'll probably see enough of that elsewhere today, so I will be writing about something much more fun - book covers.

Just as it is a truth universally acknowledged that a rich bachelor must need a wife, it also known that a book cover can make or break a book. But what makes a good book cover?cThe easy answer is that a book cover should clearly state the title, author, and give a visual impression of the contents in the simplest possible manner. Easily said, but not so easily done. Capturing the tone of a book, much less a central theme, and an idea of characters or plot, in one single graphic image is incredibly difficult.

As the release date for my new collection of short stories, Tales from the City of Destiny, approaches I find myself once again fascinated by book covers. From Romance novels with their assortment of bare-chested heroes, to the illustration covered sci-fi/fantasy novels (see examples below), to Contemporary Fiction with their photo based covers of women with no heads (yes, headless woman books are a thing – check out this slideshow) each genre appears to have their own language for how to speak to their audience. And that’s what I find interesting! All of these books have targeted a specific audience.

Ask an author who their audience is and nine times out of ten we’ll fumble around and say “lots of people.” If we’re really on the ball we can probably narrow it down to half the population – ie men or women. But in all honesty, authors write for an audience of one, themselves. Perhaps, afterwards, they’ll be able to narrow it down to a more specific genre, but thinking about our work like that forces us to turn our precious creative effort into a commodity, not just in the real world, but also in our own heads. Believing in the reality of our characters is part of what makes writing fun, and without that, what’s the point? 

And there’s the dirty little secret of writing: sometimes marketing kills the fun.  Which is why it’s nice to have someone else do it for you, or at least to have a team supporting you. So to all of those authors who grit their teeth, put on their big girl boots, and go out and market their books, I salute you!  And as I reach for my own boots, here is a sneak peak at the new book cover for Tales from the City of Destiny.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter.

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