Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Covering covers

Although we as readers focus on the content of the books, one of the more important parts of book marketing is the cover. People really do judge books by their covers.
Until I became an author, I did not give covers much thought. They simply happened. Some caught my attention and some didn't but I was far more interested in the back cover copy.
However, now that I am an author, I do know that people are influenced to buy books by their covers and a lot of time and effort goes into making the covers as appealling and attractive as possible. They are the setting for the jewel that is the content. I know that there is the whole cult of the cover model. The art department try for a specific feel for a book. If the book is series book, then they are also trying to show the promise of the series.

As a Harlequin Mills and Boon author, I have to fill in an Art Fact Sheet. This is used to help find the art work. Series books and single title books have different art fact sheets. Because, Harlequin Historical is a single title within a series wrapper, historical authors have to fill out a slightly different AFS than series authors.

The art department working with the editorial team has to balance certain factors such as other books coming out that month and how they see the book being marketed versus the author's ideas of the key scenes in a book. Sometimes, Harlequin already owns a piece of artwork which will suit the mood, tenor and marketing hook of the book, and sometimes they commission the art work. For example with my first Roman, Gladiator's Honour, Harlequin did not have any Roman based art work, so they commissioned James Griffin Unfortunately, he does not have much about his process on his website.

But it piqued my interest. How do the artists work? How is the artwork created?

Luckily, Larry Roibal is not shy about explaining his process. While he does not historical covers (that I know about) he does do wonderful covers with a highly romantic feel. Donna Alward's Hired by the Cowboy is typical of his approach. He recently explained about his approach to covers on the Pink Heart Society. But still I wondered. Was that how the artists for Harlquin Historical approached thier work?

Judy York did the cover for Taken by the Viking and she spoke to Barnes and Noble about her process, including how she developed Taken by the Viking and some of her other covers. You can see the video here.

It is a slightly different appraoch to Larry's. I was impressed with the effort she put in to get the details right.

Is anyone else fascinated by covers? Or are you more interested in the story?

For authors, Holly Jacobs has a wonderful article in this month's RWR on the whole process of creating covers and tips from the Harlequin Art department for filling out the AFS...

By the way, sometimes authors get to see sneak peaks of their covers and sometimes, they don't. Right now, I am eagerly waiting to see the NA cover for Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife. Will it be the same as the UK cover or not? UPDATE -- I happen to check on Barnes and Noble. They have the VWUW cover up within the last day and it is very different. But now I am wondering - -who was the artist.


rebekah said...

I care more about what is in the book the what is on the outside of a book. Covers are nice and always the first thing you see, but I always have to read the back to know what the story is about.

Pat Cochran said...

Only occasionally am I totally drawn
to a book because of the cover art.

Pat Cochran

Michelle Styles said...

Rebekah and Pat,
I am far more like you. I still do need the back cover copy. I also like to read the teaser at the front.

It is amazing to me how time and thought goes into the covers. How they look at different colours and try to make sure that the colours will reflect current conditions. How the type face matters. All sorts of little subtle things. They are trying to reflect the mood of the book.

Maureen said...

I don't particularly look at the covers when I'm in a bookstore but I definitely like some more than others. I am more interested in the author and the blurb.