should or should you not "judge a book by its cover"?
Here is the actual source image of fashion model Melissa Baker that I used to create the placeholder cover art for The Just Beyond. The particularly attentive may notice that I distorted her face slightly on that cover for compositional reasons.
She does, well, look like a model, and that's appealing enough in itself, but it's not why I chose the picture. Nor is it because she fits my mental image of Vicki, or Beth, or the apparition on the stairs, whichever the cover is supposed to depict (lol), because she doesn't. If you must know, I envision Vicki as more of a Sandra Bullock, and Beth maybe as Nicole Kidman--too bad they're both a touch too old to play those roles in the Oscar-winning movie that will no doubt be made. *cough* No, Ms. Baker appears on my cover simply because this photo is supposedly in the public domain. I sort of wonder if that's actually true, but ultimately it doesn't matter because my cover, and Melissa Baker specifically, will NOT be used with the published book. The publisher is assigning a staff artist to do that and I'll be happy with whatever they think has commercial appeal.
Which brings up an interesting question: should or should you not "judge a book by its cover"?
We all know the timeworn maxim. And it's good advice as a metaphor. But, ironically, when taken literally, the advice "don't judge a book by its cover" is ludicrous. We all judge books--actual books--by their covers. Not ultimately of course, that is if we proceed to read them, but cover art is absolutely a factor in picking up a book at all. We've all seen book covers that suck you seductively in, as well as those that leave you wondering what the publisher was thinking. :) And they can't help but color our expectations.
It's even more true in the ebook world. In a bookstore you can (and I always do) leaf through the pages and see if the writing style, content, and format appeal to you in addition to reading the blurb on the back. While it's often possible to do that online, it isn't always, and when it is, it can't be as convenient and intuitive as it is with a paper book. For myself, in a store I ALWAYS look at a few pages inside a book I'm pondering to buy, and online I NEVER do this. So the impact of the cover art, for people like me, is magnified in the electronic sphere. In fact if the cover art is bland or unappealing, I often won't give the thing a second look. It seems counterintuitive that virtual covers are more important than paper ones, but for me, they are.
And I, for one, believe this is warranted. Sumptuous, engaging cover art tells me two things completely apart from what they may reveal about the volume's content. First, it tells me the publisher felt enthusiastic enough about the book's commerical prospects to pay for a talented and probably expensive artist. Second, it tells me that the publisher, and therefore most likely the book itself, is of high quality. Now, I'm not saying a crappy book never appeared on a shelf dressed up like a lipstick-wearing pig. I'm not saying a great cover guarantees a great read. What I am saying is that cover art DOES influence the purchase decision and CAN express something meaningful about the work. If it didn't, why would publishers go to such lengths to get it right?
Which brings me to some welcome news about The Just Beyond. Initially the publisher thought the cover art would be delivered in the middle of January, but obviously that didn't happen. I spoke with them this morning and was informed it hadn't been assigned yet. They're ready to do so now, however, and wanted to know if I was partial to any particular concepts. I sent them the covers I've made and said the only element I had a real weakness for was the girl's face in the background. I'd like the rest of the image to convey a sense of otherworldliness, but I don't have a clear preference as to how that be done and I'm sure their artists will have better ideas than I would anyway.
And pleasantly, as of now, it appears that's the direction they'll go. They're on board with the faded face concept and the artist will figure out the rest. If it proceeds that way it's great, because, while I am in no way of the opinion that I should have any say in the cover art at all, I was obviously hoping they would do something I would be happy with or at least not displeased. Now it looks like they're going to preserve the concept I've had in my head all along, which is a nice and thoroughly unexpected surprise.
So things are moving slowly, but they're moving. :) It seems like a lot more than three weeks have gone by since the pre-publishing work commenced, but that's all it's been and there's absolutely no justification for anxiety or concern. But I can't help feeling some of that. At least I know intellectually that it's irrational. And honestly, as "problems" go, it's a pretty darn good one to have. :) - Mark