Welcome to Biting-Edge, a blog shared by authors and vampire experts, Mario Acevedo and Jeanne Stein. We’ll cover urban fantasy, vampires, pop culture, and all things Joss Whedon. Unlike other fantasy blogs, we don’t insist on body cavity searches (unless you ask politely). Snarkiness is most welcome...though we won't promise not to bite back!

Sunday, April 08, 2012
  Go ahead and judge.
Mario here:

We writers have a lot to do besides slogging through the word count. Editing. Rewriting. Queries. Rejections. More rewriting. Blogging. Facebook. Twitter. Conventions. Maybe teach some classes. Rewriting. And with the advent of self-publishing our ebooks, there's the huge task of book covers. Though we can contract an artist to create the actual cover, it is we writers who must wear yet another hat as artistic director.

Remember that adage? Don't judge a book by its cover.

What a crock.

A good cover can juice sales. A bad cover can sink a book, no matter how well written. A poorly conceived cover can project to the reader that the book was sloppily penned and edited.

Here are the top reasons people buy books, specifically novels:

1) Recommended by a friend.
2) You're already a fan of the author.
3) The cover.
4) The back cover copy.
5) Media coverage.
6) Reviews.

I can't verify who put this list together or how they did it, but as I've seen the list referred to many times as gospel, then it must be true.

When I was first published, I didn't think much about covers, other than did it look good and capture the essence of the book. Since then, I've learned that much about the story is conveyed in the style and artwork, and that each genre has its artistic "rules."

For example, in the cover of Jeanne's next book, we have a hot babe toting an Ak47. This of course means the protagonist is a fierce sexy woman and the gun implies that there will be much violence. The smoky background projects the noir ambience of the narrative. Nothing overtly says supernatural or vampire except for the full moon, a common artistic theme in all the Anna Strong books. The strong primary colors of each book help define shelf presence.

Dakota Cassidy also writes supernatural novels. But with the example of this cover, we can obviously tell it's not a hard-boiled story because rather than a photo-realistic image, the artwork is cartoony. Meaning the story is light and humorous. (Duh!) The character is definitely a saucy demon, and one up to no-good naughty fun.

Terry Odell did a marvelous job stepping us through the cover design of her latest novel, Saving Scott. Her perceptive work paid off because the book is selling well on the Nook. It's not yet available through Amazon.

In a TED talk, book designer Chip Kidd describes his methods and experience designing covers for mega sellers such as Jurassic Park.

Personally, I can't remember if I've ever bought a book because of its cover. Maybe I'm the exception to the rule. I have bought books because of reviews, most notably Charlaine Harris' Dead Until Dark, which made me realize I could put my own snarky spin on writing the supernatural. And I also liked the original quirky cover.

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When I used to work for a public library, and the sheer quantity of romance novels that we saw pass through our doors was astounding for such a small branch. It was interesting to see the trend that their cover art followed, and how it changed from the 1980s to the early 200s. The image composition changed, the medium of execution changed (photographs over paintings), the text style changed ... I found the metamorphosis that your "basic" cover underwent during that time fascinating. Since one would think that the cover content bears some relationship to what customers expect to see from a specific genre title, closely examining these visual shifts seems like it would give an interesting look at the consumer mind. After all, why else would some older titles that never went out of print keep being re-released by the publishing house with different cover graphics ...
Thanks, Mario.

The digital age has really changed how we have to think about covers. It's all about the thumbnail.

And for those with Kindles, Kobos, or Sony readers, Saving Scott will be available in about 10 days. Meanwhile, you can read the first two Pine Hills books, Finding Sarah and Hidden Fire! :-)
At RT I visited an exhibit of romance covers and it was interesting to see the styles progress from cheesy paintings to slick photos.
Terry: Good luck with your sales. I enjoyed following the updates of your book design.
Great post - and yes, the cover is essential. While I've only bought a few books specifically because of their cover, I have definitely rejected, ignored, and walked away from hundreds of books because of their covers.
Love the ted talk - he distilled the essence of it very well.
Maybe it IS hard-boiled and you just don't know it, Mario? Maybe under all this hair and makeup I'm a genius!

Or not. LOLLOL!
Bree: Thanks for dropping by. Next time, bring beer.
Dakota: You are a genius, no doubt about that.
I can be sucked in with a great title when I'm browsing the shelves and I am looking at the spines. I will take the book and turn it over to the back cover to look at the premise.

If I am already a fan of an author, I will look at books that the author is reading or recommends. And I will immediately purchase the books of the author I am a fan of (dangle that participle).

I have 'trusted agents' on blogs I follow that I look at their reviews and add to the Wanton Wantin' Book List and eventually purchase.
The trade cover of your first book is one of my all-time favorites...and best of all it led to an even better story! The combination meant I *had* to buy copies for 19 friends, couldn't let them miss the experience.
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