Don't we all stand in the bookstore, necks craned at an awkward angle, choosing books merely by title alone? There's no set formula, or a list of words/names I avoid (well, except for romances with children in the title.). But somehow, titles manage to catch my eye and make me choose a book. But then...(ominous music plays) I see the cover, and it can change my opinion in a blink of an eye.
Cover art clues us in on time period, location, tone - or at least we think it does. Therein lies the problem. Often the writer has little say in the cover art, or the artist gets it all wrong. A few months ago I read a wonderful book by my fellow RWA chapter member Robin Kaye (who had spoken to us of the travails of her cover art). Sure enough, by the time I finished the second chapter, I closed the book and did a double take. The heroine, who had a pixie cut in the novel, was depicted on the cover with luxurious hair flowing halfway down her back. Why? How could they get wrong so obvious a detail? Don't ask Robin - she didn't do it! All she did was write a funny, engaging book.
Then there are the trends. When Mary Janice Davidson first began writing her vampire queen books, they had slightly cartoonish covers - trendy and very evocative of her comedic writing style. But recently they've revamped all her covers, and now Queen Betsy looks like she's going clubbing with Lindsay Lohan. For a long time romance novels looked like paintings, and now there is a trend towards photographs of really hot cover models.
Which brings me to my stomach-knotting moment of staring at the blank information request from my publisher about cover art. I'm not an artist! I don't even doodle. So how the heck could I come up with the layout for my cover? Well, because I had to. One of the dirty little secrets of publishing - all the things you have to do besides just write an amazing book. So I whined and groaned and came up with a concept. Then crossed my fingers. And sure enough, our wonderful cover artist came up with something pretty darn close to what I'd envisioned (see cover on the right, with the bra, which was actually the 2nd version). A little back and forth about how the white bra blended in too much with the white hat, and voila, the final version (cover on the left, with the red shoes).
Now the big question; looking at this, would you buy it? Did I make the right choice? Do the red shoes and panties make it feel modern enough, despite the 1950s hat? Because you know I'll be driving myself crazy with all that second-guessing. Endlessly.