Book covers – ever wonder what goes into them? Ever thought about the the time spent searching for an appropriate background, about whether to have figures or symbols? About what can go on the cover that will give the reader an idea of the story inside?
Graphic designers get a brief from the publisher about the book contents and what they think will work and try to come up with something they hope the publisher likes. But it’s not easy. Sometimes a cover hits the right note, is eye-catching, draws the reader in, gives a good indication of what type of story is between the covers. I’ve had a couple of those in the past. But I’ve also had some that fell flatter than my first attempts at making gluten free scones (even the dog wouldn’t eat them – the scones, that is, not the covers).
With my current publisher, Clan Destine Press, I’m lucky to have a fair bit of say in the cover content. This is wonderful, but it can also be frustrating in that I get to experience the limitations that can sometimes happen for the graphic designer when trying to mould several disparate pieces into a cohesive whole.
Lots of head scratching has been happening with the Grievous Harm cover. Several potentials have been slaved over only to be discarded because they just didn’t “work”. And now we’re down to a great background, with good colouring and scene composition, but needing that particular element that makes the reader want to pick up the book.
So I’m asking all those readers of romantic suspense, or crime and romance, or thriller with a love story, what do you think that element is? What is it about a cover that makes you pick up the book?
Would you believe I picked up a Swedish backpacker the other day? Okay, all you romance and crime lovers, stop the drooling and getting suspicious. She (yes, she) was a lovely young woman who hadn’t seen anything of Bundaberg and was going to be working at least 6 days a week for the next four months so I gave her a tour of all the wonderful beaches here. From Mon Repos where the turtles come to lay their eggs (it’s the season now) to Bargara and Innes Park. Didn’t get as far as Elliott Heads but made it to our only hill, The Sloping Hummock, for an all-over view of the countryside. At 20 she has come alone to Oz on a working holiday. And if you’re thinking of her as a tall, striking blonde with blue eyes, reverse that. She was even as short as I am! And we took the same shoe size. I found that out when she asked me where she could buy some sneakers. People with tiny feet aren’t always catered for well in the footwear area.
It got me thinking about our preconceptions of what we expect people of other nationalities look like and how they behave. When I wrote Fatal Flaw, I created a character who is part Asian, part English, with diverse nationalities grandparents. I had never encountered anyone with that background so picked the brains of a friend who had lived in Malaysia for some years. What she told me offered a whole new twist to the plot that I hadn’t anticipated but worked exceptionally well. Readers have to believe that characters’ actions ring true, and getting that kind of insight from my friend allowed me to give him plausible motivations. I love creating complex characters, and Fatal Flaw has its fair share of them.
I often wonder how readers feel about characters in the books they read. Anyone willing to share their thoughts?