Cover Art, Truth in Advertising?


As a reader, it’s always annoyed me when cover art doesn’t match the book description.  I believed the writer just didn’t care enough about their work.  They went to all this trouble to describe a character but didn’t care enough to make sure the artist portrayed their main character correctly!  *Outrage*

When I began researching traditional publishing, I learned how little control the author sometimes has on the cover art of their book.  And it horrified me.  The saying is “you can’t judge and a book by its cover,” is more true than one might know.  Sometimes publishing houses commission artists and give them no description including within the book, only an idea of what THEY think will sell the book (which may not be what’s in the book).  When the cover isn’t accurate to the book, you might need to blame the publishing house and not the author.  

BUT, the cover sells a book.  I may know better than to pick books based on covers (and have loved many books despite a less than amazing cover) but I’ve also put down a book based on a horrendous cover.  

AND I’ve been mad at books because the cover doesn’t match the content. As a person who tends to finish books once I’ve started, I’m more likely to be mad regarding a false cover than I am to have not read a book due to a bad cover… but I’d love stats on how most readers react.

A cover is important.  Composition, what you show, how you show it, all of it matters.  Does it have to be accurate to the book though?  

If current covers are anything to go by.  The insides don’t have to match the outside, but where is the line one can push before readers feel tricked?

Food for thought: 

  1. What’s the most important part of your book/ what do you think would compel a reader to pick up your book?
  2. Do you know what you want your cover to be of?
  3. How accurate should it be to the writer’s description?  Does accuracy matter more than visual layout or imagination?
  4. What’s the difference between an artistic rendering and deception?  
  5. Do you have a favorite cover, does it align with your favorite book?

All About that Genre, that Genre, that Genre

image from open clipart.org by SteveLambert


When I queried agents over my novel Follow Me: Tatter Veils, I got one personal rejection.  The agent (and I apologize as I can’t find the email to name him) told me a major stumbling block I might encounter in pitching my novel is that I suggested it for multiple genres.

My mind makes connections.  If someone followed my thought process, it’s like one of those mind maps except almost everything connections to each other some way.  In all my work pulling together this massive 75,000 word work, I’d never thought opening it up as a genre crossover would limit my ability to market.

Since then, I describe Follow Me: Tattered Veils as an Urban Fantasy. It fits considering the book happens in present day world and introduces magical/mythic elements into an otherwise mundane setting.

Except, it also doesn’t fit.  Follow Me: Tattered Veils is at its heart a book about obsession and stalking.  The protagonist, Roxi, is living her daily life when Gerry, an ancient unpredictable fae being, deigns to take notice of her.  From there, it’s a cat-and-mouse game of near brushes and tense attempts from Gerry to lure Roxi into his world.  The novel culminates in a chase through faery land where Roxi must either save her friends and escape this dangerous world or surrender her autonomy to Gerry.   

Could be Magical Realism.  I use the concept of fae glamour to make these otherworldly beings hide in plain sight.  I suggest this idea of two realities, the one we know and this other layer waiting underneath that Gerry, Roxi, and others work with.  It isn’t the traditional secret society type deal, more like an alternative experience of reality.

But, I think Magical Realism has more magic integrated that’s just a shoulder shrug.  Everyone knows about it, accepts it, and moves on.  My magic systems imply they are real like Christianity and like Christianity, few people have or seek a genuine experience.

My colleague Lionel Green, suggested the back was “terrifying” and he read straight through that part “non stop”.  It makes me wonder, is my work horror?  There are both the real world and fantasy elements of the book that are horrifying.  

In my heart, the book is a lot more about how a woman experiences the male gaze.  In that way, I think Follow Me: Tattered Veils might be women’s fiction.  The men who have read the book suggest that they “enjoyed reading it.  Good on its own, but I’d never buy this book based on the description.”  Does this feedback mean I’m marketing the book badly for both genders or is the work intended for a female audience? 

This sort of bullshit was why I wanted an agent.  Don’t they help you find and speak to an audience?  What do they do?  Because I had the idea, wrote it, edited it, and submitted it. So I’m just wondering when someone else comes in to help or if publishing is a solo journey.    

Alas, I need to choose the genre too.  Is there any part of publishing that isn’t a struggle?

Does anyone else have trouble identifying their genre?  Do you think being in the right genre is core to success?  Have you written anything that someone has labeled a cross over?

What about summarizing long works or picking which elements are most paramount?  I am so invested in Follow Me: Tattered Veils, sometimes it’s hard for me to know what’s important.  Any tips or tricks?  Do I Google search what’s hot and sell it that way?