Sunday, August 28, 2016

Judging a Book's (Genre) By Its Cover

by L. R. Trovillion

I have no idea why the old adage "Don't judge a book by its cover" has stuck around so long. Clearly, that's exactly what we all do initially. Okay, as a metaphor, you should not similarly judge a person by their outward appearance...but as for books, that is the first thing a potential reader will see and that reader will make any number of snap decisions based on the cover: is it intriguing, attractive, makes you want to know more... But the most important clue the cover imparts is this one:  genre.

Let's agree that there are indeed certain types of covers that grace particular genres. Think for example of the romance novel. Whether historical romance, contemporary, or romantic suspense, they all share common elements. These may be a portrayal of hero/heroine in an embrace, in a pose of longing, or sometimes just in an outfit that suggests steaminess. Often there are lips or certain body parts featured.  Enough on that. How about fantasy? I'm sure you are already conjuring up all sorts of starry images or hidden glens or fractured beams of light over a mysterious world. You get the point.

So what does an author do when she's told her cover (and her title) are not representative of Young Adult literature, her target demographic? That happened to me. I've been told the cover does not attract YA readers, it looks more like historical fiction, it is not clear what the story may be about...on and on. So, I decided to give a new cover for the ebook version a try. Now I have a new problem.

What should that cover look like and can I find a graphic artist who gets horses? After carefully explaining to the cover designer that the main character is a jumper rider and her horse is dappled grey and sending her a few representative pictures of what I thought she looked like, the poor woman picked out a dressage rider (but was savvy enough to check with me first if it was right). I can only imagine how insane we horse people must sound to an outsider explaining that no, eventers and hunters and dressage riders don't all wear the same outfits and the same tack and yes it makes a huge different to people who read these books. So, she may punt and go for a more abstract concept type cover. I told her as long as it wasn't a horse shoe or a show ribbon, try it out. Getting a cover for a horse book is a very difficult task. Or maybe I'm just picky.

So, with my crazed rambling guidance and some picture ideas, this poor creative soul is out there trying to come up with a horse concept cover knowing nothing about horses, hoping that it will satisfy her fussy "no-that's a flea-bitten not dapple gray" client, me. I have to trust in her artistic sense. I'm not very good with yielding control. So, stay tuned for the big, new cover reveal of False Gods!

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