Before a few years ago, I never really thought about book covers. There were the ones I loved, the ones I liked, and the ones I assumed were bought with spare-change from a suspicious-looking guy in a back-alley.
The COVER THAT CHANGED IT ALL (or at least the first one that made me go WTF?) was the brilliantly bizzare and pervasively iconic cover of “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyers. Even if you’ve never read the book, you’ve had that image shoved down your throat a thousand times – at the peak of the book’s popularity it might have even been a thousand times a day. So I’m not going to post it here, or even link it. Don’t pretend you don’t know what what I’m talking about, because I know for a fact that hermit caves don’t get wi-fi.
Coming from speculative fiction, where all the covers were expected to be the product of painstaking artistic effort with tiny brushes and the remote possibility of actually having read the book, a photo of two pale hands holding an apple against a black background was full of “huh?” (SEE? YOU HAVE SEEN IT! HA!) First of all (or is the new term “firstable“?), it was something that could have been whipped up in Photoshop in half an hour. Maybe I’d missed the boat and this was a “thing” before this book, but that seemed lackluster to me. Second of all, like most people, I was drawn to read the book out of curiosity, then regretted it immediately afterwards. AND THERE WERE NO APPLES! The story-line wasn’t even a Snow White metaphor or anything. I still to this day have no idea why the cover works.
But it does.
Visually it’s simple and yet attractive. The book is offering the potential reader an un-bitten, unblemished apple, like a bribe to even open the book. And for millions and millions of readers, it succeeded.
Now Photoshopped, simplistic or recycled-art (aka creative commons paintings) covers are the industry standard. They have brought the cost of covers down to the realm of being affordable even to the most cash-strapped yet big-dreaming indy author.
I know two ladies, Kat Mellon and Gabrielle Prendergast, who make incredible covers from “very reasonable” to “WHAT? You’re kidding! That’s all??” prices. And like many professional cover artists who do mostly Photoshop covers, they have discount pre-made cover sections, which are like freaking candy-stores for the impoverished writer.
So, while I still drool over the Jody A. Lee covers, I’m no longer shocked by the alternative. Because it seems that artists will be artists, whether in paint or pixel.
In the second part of this series, I will talk more specifically about what I still want a cover to do, to make it work. In the third part I will talk about my own attempts to make covers, and post some resources for people interested in creating their own amateur covers for things like NaNoWriMo drafts and Wattpad.
So until then!