Aren't we always taught to 'never judge a book by its cover', but how else can you find your next big 'read'?
Perhaps a recommendation from a friend or a critic, but sometimes you just need that fix of something new/rebellious/naughty, (delete as appropriate) ....so what to do, its time to glance across the covers in that crowded book shop and choose. 20, 30, 40 seconds later and the book is in your hand; the deal is almost done. Only then will you read the blurb on the back; only then will you consider the story.
So what should a new, soon to be self-published author do?
Follow the genre trap or go it alone and try to stand out from the crowd?
According to the new edition of Mslexia the rules seem clear enough, the law of the crowd and, it seems, most publishing houses too, seems to be to mirror or hint at the other more famous titles in your genre. For mysteries, maybe a dark menacing shape, blurred images, gloom. For light reads bright pastels with handbags or shoes. We know what the images 'represent' and in a rush its much easier to glance at these cliches, and take home the image that appeals, knowing almost exactly what will be inside. It's a simple shortcut for busy people.
So what if your characters are different and you want to portray that on the cover?
My first book is about someone who wakes up as a vampire, she went to sleep as a human and then wakes feeling weirdly different, and pretty gorgeous, lets face it I stick to the standard genre template there! If we park the thought of 'what would we do if we woke up being enigmatically beautiful' (apologies to those who already are), how would she react?
So my vampire, Evie, acts and thinks like a human. She hasn't assimilated the fact she is a vampire and all that means. So how do I portray that image on the front cover of the book? She has human failings because she believes in her heart that she is human. She's a scientist, so what is the alternative but fairy tales? Evie has to look human, almost fragile though she isn't. A figure clothed in black velvet with blood dripping from her lips doesn't seem appropriate, even if an audience who read vampire stories would be attracted to that image. So what do I do? Alienate my potential audience or abandon the central tenant of the book?
In the end, and I agree this is slightly weird, I have to consider how she would be want to be portrayed. Evie wouldn't want crass, she would want honesty. So after many hours pouring over a multitude of designs that's how we came to this image.
Will it attract anyone's attention? It doesn't help its self published on Amazon, so the image is small.
I hold onto the idea that it's what's inside the cover that counts. Now that, in turn, opens up a whole other different set of nightmare scenarios!
Maybe that's my next post....