Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cover Art: Love it or Hate It?

Cover Art. Love it or hate it, cover art sells books. And not just print books, but ebooks too. Sure, some readers are high-minded enough to ignore poor art in favor of a decent blurb. But since I'm not alway one of those folks, I figure I can speak for the masses when I say that poor artwork can seriously cramp a book's style.

I'm not trying to offend anyone, just giving my oh-so-humble opinion. So I'll just flat out say it. I can't stand Poser. That animated, looks-incredibly-fake, computer art just turns me off to a book. I can handle photos or graphic art, drawn characters. But that computer animated stuff kills me. And I'm not talking about art that's been touched up or slightly altered by computers. I'm talking about something that looks like this...
Granted, it's not the best shot of the guy, and he's alone, not very romantic, but just looking at his pixeled, fake face, I'm turned off to any sort of romantic story. Same as if the hero or heroine on the cover is ugly. And yes, that HAS happened. But I won't put those covers up, so as not to embarrass the authors who are already embarrassed.(I'm paying for FICTION, here, and unlike real life, it's okay for everyone to be beautiful and perfect in a book. I want a fantasy. If I wanted real life, I'd go to Walmart at midnight and stare at the odd species of human who cart their kids with them while they search for light bulbs, Diet Coke and Twizzlers late at night in Augusta. Uh, okay, the Twizzlers part is me.)

But I challenge you to look at either of the guys below--and no, I'm not being biased, I'm deeply in lust with both males in the pics--and tell me they wouldn't put you in some sort of romantic lala land. The guy on the left is a model who's been grafted over a kick*ss dragon that I cut out to focus more on him. The guy on the right, I think, was based on a model but is clearly artwork and not real, more's the pity. I'd look at the back blurb on both books just because of these heroes. Hey, I'm shelling out anywhere from five to ten bucks on a book, be it electronic or print, so I want it to look as good as it reads! And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. And the same could be said of a good vs. bad review on a book, but that's an entirely different discussion.

So as not to slam Poser (my pet peeve), let's look at another poor selling point. Characters and scenes that don't mesh with what the book's about. That's usually an author's sticking point too, when she writes about a lush, red-headed heroine, only to see a dark-haired woman with a pixie cut on her cover. Or worse, a steamy erotic story with a cartoony cover and sweet sounding title, something along the lines of "Loving Mr. Mom"(not an actual title) when it's actually a book about an alien who has to have sex with suburban housewives in ninety-nine positions to get home.

Then too, there are the wacked out titles. I'm sorry, but I refuse to go to a store, in the romance section, to pick up a book entitled Big-Assed Housewives, The Nympho Next Door, or The Lickable Lady. Okay, I made those up, and I sincerely hope no one actually used similar titles because they sound like porn. But they're like some titles I've seen out there that are actually on romance books. I'm astounded at the trashy sounding titles out there, and these are books, not with Hustler or Penthouse, but with reputable erotic romance sellers, both small press and large, who produce great storylines.

I'm off my soap box, and am not quite sure how I began ranting about titles when I'd started on covers, but it's all the same when you come down to it. If the wrapping looks shoddy, you might now want to open up the box. And in many cases, you'd miss out on a real treat.

My disclaimer...I've been fortunate that I LOVE my covers. Eliza Black, Kat Richards, Anne Cain, April Martinez and Trace Edwards are incredibly talented artists. And I'm only sorry Venus Press closed its doors, because the covers Dan Skinner did for my Talsons rocked.

And that's all I have for Thursday.



Monica Burns said...

I'm with you on the Poser covers Marie, and I like to have a good looking cover art to look at when I'm reading. I sometimes have been known to flip the book closed just to get a glimpse of the hunk on the front cover.

Nice post.

Monica Burns - |
Mirage, Samhain, 10/07
Dangerous, Samhain, 03/08

Carol said...

Great post, Marie. :)

I agree, and I admit that the cover has to grab me. I'm sure I've missed out on some great reads because of it, but I am not a fan of most chick-lit covers. Most of them are just silly looking and I don't want to be caught with one in my hand in public.

Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

No poser artwork for me--thank you very much. As for your two choices of male beauty, I really like the man on the right, the artwork based on a model. Lots for the imagination on that one.

Scott Chandler and Dawn Seewer worked their magic with my two covers for Samhain--no posers allowed.

Jenna Leigh said...

I think I know which book the one on the right comes from and it's a damn good story too. *grins*

Marie Harte said...

Okay, Jenna, I confess. The dude on the right is from my book, Winner Takes All. He's still the hottest hero I've had...coverwise. But the dude on the left is REAL. Now him I'd like to meet. heheheh

Kaz Augustin said...

It's not what you use but the way that you use it! I, er, somewhat agree with you, Marie. Oh, there are some covers out there that are truly ruly dreadful, don't get me wrong. And I cringe and feel sorry for the authors because, like it or not, it affects whether a lot of readers will pick up the book.

However, however, however...Christine Clavel did the cover of The Dragon of Ankoll Keep for me. It's an entrant on The New Covey Awards ( for this month. It rocks (imo). And it uses Poser.

Lexxie said...

I've yet to have a cover that's NOT Poser, unfortunately... but the trick I've discovered with Poser covers is to NOT see the faces or use moody shadowing. Good Poser body parts (yummy torsos, butts, biceps etc) can work really well. It's the vacant eyes and soulless expressions that I can't stand. A GOOD Poser artist can create the most amazing images, but it's a very time-eating medium which I think can have a negative impact on Poser covers.

I have one cover that makes me cringe every time I look at it (the hero looks like he's just escaped from the looney bin after being beaten by the ugly stick and had his genitals removed - I kid you not!) and, while the book has been repeatedly praised by reviewers and readers alike, it's my poorest selling.

I must admit, I'm very excited to see what my first Samhain cover will look like. : )

Lust. Desire. Danger.
Savage Retribution - Samhain, Feb 08

Pamela Tyner said...

I’m with you on the Poser cover art--I *really* dislike it.

Now, moving on down in your post...I think a 'book about an alien who has to have sex with suburban housewives in ninety-nine positions to get home' might be pretty darn interesting :)

Marie Harte said...

See, I knew if I posted a generalized "I don't like Poser" someone would show me up. :) Yeah, Kaz, I've seen the cover for The Dragon of Ankoll Keep and thought it really well done. Didn't know what computer graphic had done it, but I was so taken with the incredible coloring and dragon that the man was almost background for me. And he's pretty hot, but not real, again, more's the pity!!
No doubt your book will sell on cover alone, but in my opinion, you got lucky with the artwork. Because it rocks. Or I'm biased because Samhain has awesome artists..smiles

maria said...

I agree that the Poser covers are usually not so great...and it makes me mad too b/c i have read some really great stories that were waiting underneath those unattrative covers, and truly enjoyed the books. but had i just seen the book in a store, i would NEVER have picked said book up! seeing that cover staring out at me would have turned me awy from the purchase before i even read the blurb!
I defeintly prefer the work of the Loose-Id, Liquid Silver and Samhain artists...especially April Martinez, she rocks my world!


Cerberus said...

Marie: Thanx for your comments on my art for the Talson series for ya...and of course, the um...comments on my model and buddy Nick. I felt the same way for years about Poser and refused to use it until this last year, but I found a perfectly acceptable technique. I graft my real models heads onto the bodys. I was so happy to see one of my covers reach the number one slot on Romance on Fictionwise this week with Candy Nicks MoonChild book.

As always, I think you're best!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the one who refused to have Poser art on my covers. But then I discovered something. Yes, a lot of the earlier Poser Art is too contrived. But dealers are constantly improving their character models, and Poser itself is also being upgraded.

What Poser 7 can do is far better then the Poser 4 or 5 artwork you see on most ebooks.

I've seen really good Poser art, and really bad. It also depends on the artist. The image link below..I created him with Poser art, and I'm actually rather happy with Michael.
Though I'm still not likely to have Poser art on ebooks, unless exceptionally well done, I have fun playing with Poser and coming up with chars for the cover artist to bring to life. Heh.

- Shayne Carmichael

Marie Harte said...

Hey Dan! Yes, you and I share great taste in your cover models...haha Tell Nick I said hi. I didn't know you did the cover for Moon Child, but I shouldn't be surprised. It's great! Congrats. And I was looking at your gallery the other day. You have fabulous stuff out there. And I'm digging the fantasy cyborg stuff a lot. :) So keep putting art up there.

Candy Nicks said...

Great article, marie. I'm with you too on poser covers, as well as covers with people in impossible positions. Have you seen those? Arms and legs that have been grafted on and are anatomical impossibilities/look like tentacles? Heads in strange positions. I wrote Moon Child and I'm sure the cover is part of the reason it's number one bestseller on Fictionwise at the moment. I love Dan's work. Yep,the cover has the power to sell or sink a book, that's for sure.

Sandra said...

I believe good cover art is essential. Sometimes authors don't get exactly what they want but a company can try to get close. I, too, hate poser. A good looking cover is what attracts me, then the back cover blurb.

Kaz Augustin said...

Oh there's luck there, alright, Marie. I'll be the first to admit it! :) But also philosophy, I think. I'm with Samhain and TEB primarily and their cover artists are terrific. Great art backed by a strong publisher philosophy. I am, indeed, very very lucky.