Our purpose here at Darkcargo is to bring a forum space to the “rank-and-file” of science fiction and fantasy readers. We are not literary analysts, publishers, ::waves hands vaguely:: whatevers. We’re just readers, and the people who pay for that final SF/F product, or sneer at your silly cover art.
I invited her to do a few posts with topics about reading. Here, she tells me her take on what makes or breaks a cover art.
DC: I love picking on cover art. What’s the worst cover that you’ve recently paid money for? (come on! “Show me yours, I’ll show you mine!”) What’s the coolest cover currently in your library?
I love book covers. I love books after all and for me the cover is part and parcel of the whole. It’s a little taster of the good things to come. And yet somehow I always feel a bit shallow for banging on about what’s on the jacket. It’s the content that counts after all. Right? Of course, that’s right, you wouldn’t love a book if the content was naff but the artwork was sublime but, at the end of the day, it would be the cover that drew you to it in the first place and made it stand out from all the others on the shelf.
Covers are important and some of them are fantastic pieces of art which really should receive more recognition (or am I just trying to not seem a total book cover lover?)
So, thinking about covers made me think of a few issues. Firstly the way that the covers are changed, sometimes quite dramatically, depending on the country of sale. There are loads of examples of this but the one I’m using is for a YA series that I read a couple of years ago by Cassandra Clare – I really didn’t like the UK covers for this in fact I found them a bit off-putting and clearly this seemed to be the consensus of opinion as all the UK covers seem to have gone into hibernation or become extinct. Check it out here:
The blue cover is the UK one – but I just find it a bit freaky and all the others were similarly freaky. Maybe I’m being too harsh, on reflection it’s starting to grow on me – and also getting back to my point above you have to admit that it does draw the eye comparatively speaking (okay so I’m now arguing with myself!). Anyway, given the target audience for this book (not me I admit) – I wonder why UK publishers thought the creepy blue cover would appeal more than the hench guy? Which of these covers would appeal most to you?
The second issue is all about why sometimes the cover art doesn’t reflect what is contained in the book. I was recently reading a book and was flummoxed by the cover because the girl in the story looked nothing like the girl on the cover. I found myself constantly closing the book, to take a look whilst scratching my head all puzzled, particularly after I’d read a particular chapter describing her features – which were, in fact, nothing like the girl on the front. I know this is a popular topic for discussion and I do appreciate that sometimes the artwork is produced before the book is finished but it is mildly distracting. After all, it’s not like I need a picture of the girl in the story to be on the front cover. I have a perfectly good imagination so if you can’t get the picture to be at least in the ballpark of what you’re describing then use a different type of cover. Simples.
The third issue I thought of, and I’m probably going to have a bit of a rant now, is when the covers are changed mid-way through a series. No. Don’t do that. If I’m collecting a series of books, I don’t want the first 5 to have a theme and then six onwards to have an actor on the front because the book has now been turned into a popular series on HBO. I want the whole series to have continuity. I want to stand them all together and for them to have a lovely pleasing look – yes, I realise that’s probably a bit sad but if I’m collecting the whole series then that’s what I damn well expect. Stick to the programme people. Anyway, I actually refuse to buy a book on principle if the cover is changed because it’s been made into a film. I think it’s just a shame and actually a bit lazy.
In terms of good and bad covers I think I’m prejudiced. I think I’m much harsher on the genres that I don’t read a lot of although I’m trying to get over this. For example, my local supermarket seems to dedicate quite a lot of shelf space to romance novels – and it’s immediately obvious, women in off the shoulder frothy dresses being swept off their feet by some swashbuckling kind of guy. I have nothing against that kind of book or, for that matter, anyone reading it, it’s just not for me (okay, I confess, I may have read a couple of romance novels but that was purely for scientific reasons). And, I’m pretty sure that the people picking up those books are equally thinking the same thing about the book choices I’m making which they would probably never dream of reading.
So what covers have I liked and disliked recently. I read Asimov for a read along and the book, which was from the library, really did have a quite hideous cover (in my humble opinion). Never, in a million years, would I have picked up this book. As it goes I was more than happy to be proved wrong because I really enjoyed the series. You can check out the cover here though : http://www.chrisfossart.com/wp-content/gallery/asimov/asimov_foundation1.jpg - agree or disagree??
In terms of favourites, my favourite cover recently has been the King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence:
I love this cover (not to mention the story itself which is rather brilliant!)
Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover. Maybe sometimes the book cover isn’t an accurate reflection of the content. Maybe the cover art is a bit meh. But what’s the alternative? Just bound white pages with a title printed on the front. How very dull would that be.