If you’ve ever manned a table at a book fair or convention, you will surely have noticed that some books get picked up more than others. And no matter how great your book is, you need to get people to pick it up to read the blurb and they need to read the blurb to decide whether they want to buy it.
For some reason, my first novel, Diplomacy, still gets picked up very easily. It’s a deceptively simple cover with a headless male torso, completely covered up by a shirt and a fancy suit. The only thing not so fancy is that his bow tie is undone and so is the top of his shirt, revealing just a little bit of chest hair. It fits in with the image of diplomacy (stiff upper lip, strict dress code, strong manly men), but offers a little bit of tease (want to know who got him to undo his tie, or if he let anyone else do it? Read the story!).
Even more than four years after publication, this book still sells and I blame the cover.
Although similar ideas work for electronic sales, standing out on huge sites like Amazon or Barnes and Noble is an art all by itself. Here the cover needs an additional something. It needs to look good as a thumbnail. So the next time your cover artist sends you a cover to approve (or you make your own) make it thumbnail size and see if it still looks good.
These things are pretty self-explanatory, but if you have a say in what your cover looks like I’m sure you’ve been asked some pretty standard questions like nudity/no nudity/partial nudity? Heads or no heads? Photograph or drawn cover?
How do you choose?
What follows are my personal guidelines. Some people might have different preferences.
The amount of nudity: I prefer no nudity for a print cover, for the single reason that I want people to be able to read my book in public. I’ve actually heard prospective buyers say: “Ooh, cute guys, but I’ll need to wrap it in brown paper to be able to take it out of my handbag!” Or “Yummy, but I can’t buy it in case my boyfriend/kids/inlaws/parents find it.” For that very same reason: no kissing or cuddling boys for me, no matter how enticing!
My standards for eBook-only covers are somewhat different.
Take my last two covers as proof:
Heads or no heads? There are arguments for both. Some people prefer no heads, because it leaves something to the imagination and they can make up the look of the hero(es) in their heads. I like heads for some novels, but you need to take some time to help your cover artist find the right guys. There’s nothing worse than putting faces on a cover that don’t fit the description in the book. It can take readers right out of the story! (this has happened to me)
Photography or drawn cover?
I’m lucky enough to get that choice. Not every publisher has artists on board who can paint or draw. I’ve seen some very effective drawn covers and I think they work best for fantasy and sci-fi, but I’ve seen some very nice contemporary drawn covers too. In fact, Paul Richmond drew me a beautiful cover for Façade and it went a long way in the Rainbow Awards.
That said, generally I prefer pictures (again, this is just me), but then I’m mostly a contemporary writer, and I help my cover artist find the right guys. With every cover, my respect for cover artists grows, because it took me days to find these guys and that’s just for my covers. They do this every day!
Clouds and Rain is a bit of a May-September romance (as opposed to a May-December Romance.) Gable is about twenty years older than Flynn and the cover needed to reflect that.
My Earth and Sky boys are in the same age range, but Grant looks older because he’s been through the ringer more often than Hunter. Hunter’s the typical uber-healthy looking blushing farm boy, while Grant’s lived all over the place and had a much tougher life.
Floods and Drought is an Against All Odds story of the glass-half-full Tim and out-on-parole Rory. Rory isn’t pretty or beautiful and he hides behind an unkept beard and long hair, yet Tim (another blushing farm boy) can’t help falling for him like a ton of bricks.
All stories can be bought from Dreamspinner Press.
You Can Choose Your Friends is out now and $1.20 for every copy sold will go to charity (Dan Savage and Terry Miller’s It Gets Better project)
Isali Dreams is out February 22nd
Floods and Drought is out March 9th.
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