Sunday, July 3, 2011

SUNDAY BLOG in BED: The Eye of the Reader

"I could stare at this cover forever...Or perhaps have a poster of it framed and hung in my living room."

This isn't the first time I've blogged about the new importance of book covers....E-Book covers that is...and I'm sure it won't be the last. Never before has a reader's initial impression of a possible read been more important. Everyday dozens (or is it hundreds? Thousands?) of new E-Books are uploaded and/or published and everyday those same books must attempt to catch the eye of the reader. Because in this day and age, you damn well can and in some cases, should be able to judge a book by it's cover.

The power of covers has never been so well demonstrated as it has been with the recent success of John Locke whose thriller series all sport a very recognizable set of sexy legs on the covers. What do these legs have to do with the story itself? Prior to having read his work, I simply wasn't sure. But I can tell you this: those legs did tempt me into buying a couple of his titles. And now, whenever I come across one of those leggy covers, even if it's a brand new one, I know precisely who the author is and that no doubt the book will be a major bestseller. That's what's commonly known in the business as "branding." As authors, we all are creating our own unique brand of writing. Readers will come to rely on that brand for it's particular qualities (Pay attention newly graduated graphic designers. There's a ton of new work out there for you).

Another writer whose covers have the power to draw me in towards that "BUY NOW WITH 1-CLICK" button, are those of J. Carson Black. Her covers are not only rich in color and texture but utilize photographs and words to convey the dark thriller within (So do the "dark" titles).

Darkness on the Edge of Town is one such thriller that is a runaway bestseller (Carson is currently smoking my sales numbers). What makes this novel enticing initially is the cover. Its depiction of a neon lit street corner screams noir. The image has depth and wickedness in it, and mucho suspense. Words appear floating over the image...words that appear to have been typed on an old fashion Smith Corona typewriter. The kind Dash Hammett might have used when writing The Maltese Falcon, or when typing up a grocery list for his mistress Lillian Hellman which no doubt included several bottles of gin.

One word in particular shoots out at the reader: "Girl12." That, combined with a great quote by T. Jefferson Parker and you have a cover that not only draws, it provides information and tells a story about the story you will no doubt be compelled to purchase.

I was shocked to learn the Black and her husband produce these covers on their own. I've spent the past year bragging about my own covers on my own books like The Innocent and The Remains and how instrumental they have been in making those books Amazon bestsellers. But then, I had no part in creating them. They were made for me by my publisher.

The only cover of mine I've never been quite sure of is Godchild, since it's so dark and mobsterish looking, when in fact, it is the sequel to The Innocent (the book is presently about to be repackaged and retitled to The Guilty...Please make a note of it). In any case, whether you DIY or publish traditionally, beware of getting the cover wrong since it risks sending off an unintended message. Covers these days must convey precision. The images and layout must be specific to the story or the reader will barely get through only a few pages before deleting it from his or her E-Reader or prematurely shelving the trade paper version. No one likes a bait and switch.

That's why I love Black's covers so much. You know what you're getting just by gazing into the image and reading her non de plume ("Black" is not an indiscriminate choice) . Her covers create a different reality for me that I can't wait to enter into. The same can be said for the covers of Aaron Patterson (especially Sweet Dreams), Joshua Graham, Dave Zeltserman, Charlie Huston, Simon Wood and so many others. You recognize a specific brand of writing when you look at their covers. You know what you're getting.

Of course the cover just gains you admission to the show. Inevitably, a good price, product description, and most of all, damn good writing, will mean the difference between a reader who reads only one of your novels and one who can't wait to read the mother load.


  1. I agree, Vincent. I love J.Carson Black covers, for their sense of power, confidence, mood and setting of dark souls in cunning intrigue.