Archive for the ‘cover art’ Category
Posted January 19, 2013on:
Today’s guest post is from Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. When I first started visiting his blog about two years ago, I was immediately struck by his well considered and lovingly written reviews and all the beautiful artwork that graced his website. Beyond the artwork and enlightening content, every post generates warm and friendly conversation. Please welcome Carl!
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The book cover—at its very best it draws you in, singling itself out amidst the noise of other books vying for your attention, and your book buying dollars. At its worst it provokes a visceral reaction, discouraging you from giving any consideration at all to what the book in question may be about and it may even turn you off from the genre in question completely. That is a lot of responsibility for an illustration to bear and the interesting dilemma facing art directors the world over is that the same book cover illustration will elicit both reactions at the same time. We are all different and we all respond to different visual cues, especially those of us who are fans of science fiction and fantasy, a genre in which the community is not afraid to vocalize their opinions. But this guest post is not about good or bad genre cover art, it is about the importance, or lack thereof, of the art itself in the wake of the rapid rise of electronic books, or ebooks.
Laying aside the pro and con arguments of reading paper books vs. electronic ones, let us agree with the premise that ebooks offer publishers a way to cut production costs significantly over their traditional paper offerings. That cost savings presumably translates into a cost savings for the consumer. That being the case I have often wondered over the last year if there will be an increased move by publishing companies to eliminate or significantly reduce the costs associated with cover art by moving away from commissioning artwork from established artists and up and coming talent. This question was brought back to my mind when a reader asked this question on my Favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy Covers of 2012 post:
“Given so many people are using ereaders nowadays, does that make cover art more or less important? Ebooks don’t have covers, and they’ll soon make up most of the market (if they don’t already). Does that mean it’s not worth bothering, or mean the looks of dead-tree copies matter more as people attach more worth to them as actual physical things?”
My first reaction, which I stated in my reply, is that ebooks do have covers. As I thought about it, however, I understand that both answers are correct. Many ebooks currently have covers in the sense that they have an image advertising the book and for those books that also have print copies available the image used is often the same as that created for the book cover of the physical copy. On the other hand they do not have covers in that the word does not apply. The image attached with the ebook does not “cover” anything. Will publishers begin to think this way as well and if so will that translate into fewer actual pieces of art being commissioned for the use of science fiction and fantasy novels, short story collections and anthologies.
And perhaps more to the point, do you care?
Last night I went to the Jim C. Hines booksigning at a local bookstore. To help him not think about the upcoming Hugo awards ceremony at Worldcon, where he’s nominated for best Fanwriter, Jim read from the short story that inspired Libriomancer (same Smudge, different Isaac), teased us about what we can look forward to in the second book in the series, and answered questions about what it was like place his book in rural (and urban) Michigan, what a person can, can’t, and really shouldn’t do with Libriomancy. And if you haven’t heard of Libriomancer, go read my review, then go read Justin Landon’s review, then go read some more about it, and then seriously, go get a copy. If you love books, if you are a geek at heart, this is the book for you. Libriomancer is just an all around wonderful read.
Recently famous for being this guy, there was some talk about cover art. One of the characters in Libriomancer is Lena Greenwood. She’s a dryad, and she ain’t a skinny lady. She’s perfectly rounded and curvy and unbelievable sexy. At the moment, she has a dark complexion. Jim Hines is poking at the expectations of the love triangle so often found in urban fantasy, and Lena is his sharp stick.
So he was telling us about a recent conversation he had with his publisher, where they were asking for a plot summary of the second book so they could start working on the cover art. Part of Jim’s response to them was that Lena needed to be on the cover, and a few days later he received in his e-mail some headshots of models they were thinking of using to portray Lena. When he complained that all the models were far too slender to be a realistic Lena, the response was “How about this one, she’s a size 6?”. Jim had already been through this conversation four times with his Princess books, begging for one of the characters complexions to be darkened to match what she actually looks like.
I’ve already had this discussion with Sarah Zettel about cover art not matching what the character looks like because publishers have the final word on cover art. Cover art white washing and “sexy-izing” isn’t anything new. The fact that it has become not unexpected means we are not talking about it enough.
Yes, I understand that “sex sells”, and the publishers know that people make a quick judgement based on their first look at a book. But if they could put a fat old guy on the cover of Throne of the Crescent Moon, what’s so terrible about putting a beautiful, pleasantly plump dark skinned woman on the cover of an urban fantasy?
I imagine publishers are asking themselves which book people are more likely to spend their money on – a book with cover art showing young-ish super skinny sexy woman wearing really tight pants and showing plenty of skin, or a book with cover art showing a beautiful plump lady?
so, reader, I ask you: how likely are you to buy a book where the cover art shows a plus-size lady whose skin tone doesn’t match yours?
do we want our cover art to portray an unrealistic expectation of beauty and perfection, or do we want our cover art to portray what the characters actually look like, and what real people (and possibly even the reader!!) actually looks like?