Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jenny Crusie- Frank talk about a cover up

Hi, I’m Jenny Crusie, your guest blogger. This is what happens when you’re e-mailing about nothing in particular with Deb Dixon, and she slips in a “Hey want to guest blog some time?” and since I adore Deb Dixon and never say no to her, I said, “Sure,” and then it snuck up on me (which isn’t true, Deb kept reminding me, but for some reason I had it confused with a chat, and then at the last minute realized, “BLOGGING, not chat.” Poor Deb.) I do feel better about waiting until the last minute after reading the two posts before this, though. Clearly this is a very spontaneous place.

So in the interests of gossip, did you hear about the big book cover scandal? Okay, it’s not a scandal but that sounds better than kerfluffle or snit fit or whatever, although basically I’m on the guy’s side. What guy? The guy who hated his bookcover so much, he had cover-sized stickers made to put over it. This guy:


Of course there are drawbacks to this. He’s probably not the favorite author at St. Martin’s right now. On the other hand, his cover really is better, I think. And the thing is, covers are so crucial to sales, I think it’s one place where you can’t be Cheerful and Cooperative because the success of your book depends on it. I’m trying to find the statistic on the percentage of book sales based on the cover (I’ve tried Google and Dixon) but it’s huge, well over half. I mean, I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, and I still buy books by the cover all the time. A great cover is irresistible.

So if you’ve got one you hate (you got a minute? Because I have a list of mine) and you know the success of your book rides on it, what do you do? The giant cover sticker works for me. Of course he’s probably going to get arrested sticking them on books in the book store, but . . .

I wish I’d had stickers for some of my HQ covers. The couple on the cover of the original Charlie All Night looked like two people who’d gone to their family reunion to get dates. Then there were the little blue mudflap girls they put all over the first reissue of Manhunting. They looked like little anorexic Smurf hookers. And don’t get me started on Jennifer Love Hewitt molesting Sam Spade on the first reissue of What the Lady Wants. The covers they’re putting on the reissues now are great, though (love those heart-patterned shorts on the cover of the new Manhunting). And I think the cover on Bet Me was dead on perfect, and that was done by SMP, the same people who did the Sticker Guy’s cover (although not the same person, that was Ann Twomey who is now at Warner. I miss you, Ann!).

So here’s what I’m wondering: How many of you buy by cover? And even more to the point, what makes you buy, what makes you go, “Ooooooh, shiny,” and pick up the book?

You know, just in case I ever have to make stickers.


Helen Brenna said...

Hi, Jenny, and welcome, fun to have you here! Great cover on Manhunting, and I love the size of the book, smaller hardcover.

I don't think I buy books because of a good cover, but I think I don't buy books because of bad covers. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Oh, and my maiden(hate that word) name is Twomey. Irish. Strange name.

Helen Brenna said...

Okay, I'll admit it ... it's my not-so-maiden name.

And I forgot to answer what does catch my eyes on covers. Colors and designs. People don't.

Michele said...

Cool to have you here, Jenny!
Why can't they do more fab covers like they did for you and Bob's book? The jacket with the yellow cover and the inside 'manly' cover. That was neat.

I DO buy books by cover. I will not touch an evil cover, which is too bad, cause the insides might not be so evil. And just because the outside is gorgeous doesn't always promise the same gorgeous inside. But I'll never learn. I'm attracted like (what are those birds? Mynas?) well you know, those birds that are attracted to sparkly things, that's how I am with great cover art.


Debra Dixon said...

Hey, Jenny !

Glad to have you. I know you didn't expect me to be the first one posting. The whole night owl thing precludes me every getting the worm.

Covers are the most difficult thing to "nail down." When BelleBooks began production, we thought, "We'll never put out a crappy cover!" Well...that is mostly true but we had no idea how difficult it would be to convey a feeling or concept to an artist and then expect them to correctly interpret that.

We've tried everything from serious professionals (the kind with their own nationally distributed calendars of their art) to amateurs. We've tried professional photographers. But the best covers we've done have come from combing the stock art available and purchasing a license for a particular piece.

That way someone has already produced what is in our minds. We don't have to wait and worry about what will be submitted at deadline. We don't have to pay for a cover we can't use and then start all over again. (That's happened twice.)

We have not had an author go to the vinyl sticker. So! I'm considering that a moral victory.

Betina Krahn said...

Hey, Jenny! Welcome to the back seat! What, they let you have shotgun?!!

Covers-- whew. Bad covers do sink a book. My career encompasses a couple of world class examples of what NOT to put on a romance cover. Black. Big red letters. Stepback with a couple naked and caught inflagrante. . . which come to think of it would probably be a big hit these days. It was my first be release, my breakout book and so I didn't protest, even though the cover scared ME and I knew what was in the danged book!

More horrors: Author name (mine) stuck at the bottom in seafoam. . . virtually invisible. Heroines who look like they're clawing to get away from heroes. A fish tail that my pub spent a fortune making iridescent. . . which only succeeded in confusing readers who couldn't tell what it was. . .

Love bright colors and foiling. Look for an indication of the setting or substance of the book. Probably just me, but anything that has a faintly archaeological or ancient or exotic look gets a second glance. (I wish they had put the "golden bra" on the front of my first adventure romance-- it would have sold MUCH better!) Anything that looks remotely religious/angelic/demonic gets a second look. Anything with a tech-ie or scientific look gets a second look.

Jenny, I so envy you your fabulous "cherry" motif. I've tried to think of a fruit to link my covers. Apples are overused, grapes are too ambiguous, and kumquats --face it-- just are not sexy.

If I had those heart-covered shorts on a cover-- I'd write 'em into every book I produced!!

I have been tempted to make a sticker and slap it over certain elements of certain covers. Big gold stickers that say BETINA KRAHN. . . BANNED IN BOSTON BUT AVAILABLE HERE. . . YOU LUCKY DUCKS. Or some such. People can't resist the forbidden. Maybe I could get the Vatican to declare me immoral and censurable. . .

Well a girl can dream, can't she?

Debra Dixon said...

Betina-- LOL! I love the "Banned in Boston but available here!" I bet that'd make people pick up the book.

Anonymous said...

Some of my favorite authors have books out there with AWFUL covers. I mean the kind that makes you sure the artist not only didn't read the book, but read the wrong synopsis!

That's OK if it's an author I know and will read anything they write, but when trolling the aisles for a new author, a bad cover keeps me from taking the book off of the shelf.

Even books that are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by trusted friends are given a second, or third, thought before I pick them up if the cover is a dud.

If a cover makes me laugh, or represents a situation I want to know more about, then I will pick up the book.

Another thing I like is when there is a theme that ties the author's books together on the cover. In mystery books, the example would be Tony Hillerman or Dick Francis. I can spot one of their books a mile away, and will always pick it up.

Maureen said...

It's rare for me to buy a book just from looking at it's cover. I'm looking for a good story so I'll read the blurb on the back cover or the jacket.

Christie Ridgway said...

Hey, Jenny! Thanks for taking a ride with us.

I'll at least pick up a book with an attractive cover, though I might not buy it. I saw a book online and though the cover was beautiful...Raven Prince, I think? But I thought it was another shapeshifter story (werebird) and so I didn't order it. Now I found out its not a paranormal but a historical! I'll have to get it.

I bought a book for the title alone, recently. Wife Living Dangerously. Clever. The story was more women's fic than romance, and the title works well.

My 14-year-old's eye was caught by Life of Pi last week and I bought it for him. (A boy who wants you to buy him a book! Hallelujah!) It shows an overhead shot of a tiger on a rowboat in an ocean. But the perspective is from above, as I said, and I think my son thought the tiger was on a surfboard. That explains his initial interest. But he's now enjoying the book.

Bad covers... I once had one with a red teddy bear, a duffel bag, and a world map on it. Go figure.

lois greiman said...

Hey Jenny! Excellent question. I wish covers didn't matter, since we have so little to say about them. But they do. I find I rarely like photographs. They're too sharp, too clear, too obvious. I like to use my imagination more than that. That's why I read. To let the little imaginative demon out to romp. So sometimes I think the simpler the better. Just a hint of the book's attitude. And hey, boxer shorts work. No need for the cover stickers yet.

Sally said...

The cover is what catches my eye but I won't buy it for that alone. I always read the back cover blurb and part of the first page. I always look for a first paragraph hook and whether the POV is first or third person (I like both POVs, just some days I'm in a first person POV mood and other days I like third.) If a cover is ridiculously cheesy, I won't even crack the book, I'm afraid to say.

Frances M. said...

I have an unfortunate Shallow Streak down the middle of my back, so typically half naked men make me pick up many books. If the half-naked man looks like a pirate or scotsman, I'm really excited.

However, my pocketbook makes me at least read the back of the book to make sure I'll at least read the book.

Typically my purchases go towards writers I've read before and I trust, so they can have little green aliens all over their covers and I'll buy it. Usually thinking, "God, what'd she do to piss off those design people?"

I prefer books that have half-naked men than half-naked women. I prefer the women to not look like stick insects. I prefer the titles to be catchy--not "The Sheik Who Turned His Virgin Secretary into a Harem Girl" Titles are more important to me than what's on the cover.

Debra Dixon said...


Well, actually it's from Deb Dixon, but Jenny emailed me to say that Blogger took her identity hostage and wouldn't verify her comments or post them. She's so sorry!

Wapakwoman said...

If the book is by a favorite author, it doesn't even have to HAVE a cover. It could just be a bunch of paper stapled together. So that takes care of 3 people! HA

Bright covers attract my eyes. "Hello my name is WW and I love shiny things." I will then read the jacket, and open the middle of the see how they handle the mess in the middle.

I don't like scary things, animals or people on the cover. The heaving bosom and Fabio-thank Bob that is pretty much gone away is another Yuck.

"Anorexic Smurf Hookers" Now THAT is a title for a book I would pick up.