Friday, February 15, 2013

Between the Covers

This month we’ve shared covers that inspire potential readers to open the books they enclose and peer into their pages. From Morgan Mandel’s discussion of StephenWalker’s cover designs to the reveal of Kathryn Craft’s fabulous cover for her debut novel, The Art of Falling, due out in January 2014, we have explored the vital role of covers in marketing books — that first impression we never get a second chance to make.

However, February traditionally speaks of love rather than book covers. Television commercials tout gifts of flowers and chocolates for the object of one’s affections. And back when I was in elementary school, the Valentine’s Day party was one of those memorable traditions we looked forward to every year — but book covers? love? Am I digressing here? Or does a powerful connection exist between these seemingly unrelated topics?

As the saying goes, a book should not be judged by its cover. This works both ways: a gorgeous, gripping, or intriguing cover does not guarantee a book of equal quality, nor does a plain-Jane cover necessarily denote a dull, boring story. But since our goal is to sell books and create fans that can’t wait for our next novel to come out, we must wrap our great cover around an equally great story. Here’s where the love comes in. (No, I’m not talking about a steamy romance.)

Love of the true variety is warm, unselfish, and inspires us to give our best to those we love — even more than they expect from us. How does this apply to writing?

Do we love our story? If not, why are we writing it? Do we love our readers? We’d better if we want to sell books. Do we love the cover that’s going to be its calling card? If we do, we had better be certain the story that lies between its front and back lives up to its promise and our readers’ expectations?

Above is the original artwork for my first venture into the thriller realm. The title and author’s name will be red (color cloned from the graphic) with a white drop shadow. Artwork was done by a pro, and feedback from those who’ve seen it has been great. Now comes the tricky part: the book must live up to the promise of the cover. How will I accomplish that?

I must love my story enough to nurture it, tweak it, rework it as often as needed, and send it out for critical evaluation and correction (edit) before releasing the finished version to the reading public. The title must in some way tie into the dancers and the prone form in the pool of blood on the cover, as must the story. Also, I must love my readers enough to give them a compelling page-turner they can’t put down. I owe them that because I love that they have purchased my book, and I want them to find its interior as interesting as the fantastic cover — and more.

When you choose a book to read, what do you expect from the cover? When you create or select a cover for your novel, how do you relate it to your story?



Retired editor Linda Lane is returning to her first love — writing novels. She’s also opening up a cozy online bookstore where readers and writers meet. Other features of the store include a blog, Q and A sessions, serialized novels, mini-flash-fiction contests with prizes, beta readers or a writing group, and more. We’re still getting it together, but please stop by to visit. You’ll receive an invitation to our grand opening in a few weeks. LindasBookNook.com

12 comments :

  1. Love your cover so far, Linda. It's so effective. I can't wait to see the whole thing with your name and title, too.

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  2. Such an important message. If you don't love your story how can you expect anyone else to? Love it enough to make it the best it can be then you can be proud when it walks out the door all grown up!

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  3. Glad you like the cover, Elle. I'll feature it again when the book is released.

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  4. IndyWriterGirl, this is especially important among those who independently publish because no one is looking over their shoulders to be sure any quality standards are met. This lays an extra burden of responsibility on the author; as you say, we can be proud when our book "walks out the door all grown up" when we have paid our dues in the accountable-for-quality department.

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  5. Killer cover, Linda.

    As to my relationship with my current WIP ... it's still in the 'getting to know you' phase ... just casual dates.

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  6. The cover looks great, Linda. I'm looking forward to see it book size!

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  7. I love those intriguing touches of red, Linda. Color hints. Sort of piques the interest, doesn't it?

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  8. Linda I like this cover too! I was just speaking of this yesterday—how much love it takes to usher a book from conception through delivery. And like any child it will test that love over and over!

    Also read a great interview with Stephanie Kip Rostan, agent to Gillian Flynn, talking about how social media played a huge role in helping Gone Girl catch fire. But not because Gillian hangs out online—she's busy writing another great book. It's because she poured enough love into Gone Girl that readers want to talk about it online. Something to think about, since there's no amount of slapping your title into a Twitter reader's face that will get them talking about your book. The book itself must be discussion-worthy.

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  9. Dani, Helen, and Christopher, thank you. The book's in the final proofing stage of the pre-pub copy. As soon as I put to rest the last of the editing projects I'm finishing, I'll make the fixes and get it out for distribution. This time there will even be an e-book, a la Kindle or . . . :-)

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  10. Absolutely, Kathryn. Nothing we say or promote will ever come close to the buzz that ecstatic readers can generate. Having the tested love that nurtures a story into greatness creates a discussion-worthy book like nothing else.

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  11. I remember when I was reading mostly paperbacks, my mom used to make quilted book covers with handles and built-in bookmarks. I never remembered what the cover of the book I was reading looked like. And, frankly, I didn't care much. While a good cover is important, if the stuff between the covers sucks, you're going to lose your readers.

    Terry

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  12. You've got it, Terry. In the final analysis, the story stands on its own. In most instances, however, it's the cover that is seen first -- especially on Amazon or in a brick and mortar store. By the way, I think what your mom made for your books was very cool. Most of us never have such wonderful homemade covers and bookmarks. :-)

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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