Archive for August 3rd, 2009

Monday, August 3rd, 2009 by Carrie Vaughn
Covers and Nuance

Novel covers have been a hot topic in the blogosphere for the last couple of weeks.  Most visibly, young adult author Justine Larbalestier talks about race, and how frustrating it is to have a white girl pictured on the cover of your novel that features a black protagonist.  This is a huge deal that authors grapple with all the time:  the cover has nothing to do with the book.  In the case of Larbalestier’s novel Liar, the cover exposes some even deeper issues about race, marketing departments and the assumptions they make.

On my own blog last week, I asked my readers to tell me how they feel about urban fantasy covers.  You know, those now-ubiquitous covers of sexy women in sexy clothing, usually with a big ol’ tattoo and a big weapon of some kind?  The proliferation of these covers is also discussed here, and in a nifty video primer by SciFiGuy.  My conclusion?  Love ’em or hate ’em, these covers definitely identify a certain kind of book, and readers ping to that.

I have first-hand experience with how these covers turn out the way they do.  My publisher made up advanced reader copies of my first book.  It had a slightly different cover than the final version.  The artist and art department made some changes based on feedback from booksellers and the sales department.  I now give you the before and after versions of the cover to Kitty and The Midnight Hour.

This was the cover on the ARC:


And this is the final cover, as it now appears on the novel:


You’re probably asking yourself, what’s the difference?  (Besides the colors on the final one being better, which has more to do with the quality of the jpg files I used.)  I call the second version the “20% more skank” version.  The changes?  They dropped the character’s waistband so that the tramp stamp tattoo shows and added laces up the back of her shirt to give it a corsety feel, instead of having it just be a tank top.

Sex sells.  I’ve run an experiment where I hold both covers up, and people always tell me they like the second one better.