I decided that Authors We Like should be more than a holiday event. Olga Godim is always posting interesting things on BookLikes so I asked her if she would write something interesting for .38. Thank you, Olga.
We all know the idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” but now and then, we do, don’t we? How do the writers and publishers choose their book covers? What are their criteria? Do their choices affect the readers? I don’t pretend to know all the answers. The only thing I can do is give you my opinion, as a writer and a reader, on what I like and dislike about the current trends in book covers.
It wouldn’t surprise you to learn that I like original covers. Everyone does, right? Unfortunately, some genres don’t consider originality an asset. They opt instead for recognition.
You see a half-naked woman on the cover, embraced by a half-naked man, with their faces cut off, and you know without a doubt: romance. But, excuse me for saying it, these covers are all the same, all thousands of them on Amazon, absolutely interchangeable except for the color of the girl’s drooping dress. On the other hand, if you see two muscular male chests, possibly with some tattoos, guns, or motorcycles to spice up the bare muscles, it is a gay romance almost for certain. To make the situation even worse, most of those covers use stock photos as their base. They are so un-original, I want to weep.
Another example of recognition cover is sci-fi. Most of sci-fi novels in the last few decades have some variation of spaceship-stars-and-planets image on the cover, no matter if they were published by an indie writer or by one of the 5 publishing giants. Again, they are all the same, interchangeable.
I dislike such covers. I like unique paintings on the cover, but the modern artists producing them are expensive, so even big fantasy publishers like Tor or Ace frequently resort to stock photos of modern people overlaid on some vaguely fantastic landscape, especially for urban fantasy. Or they use frames from movies, if movies were ever made of those books. I guess it is cheaper than commissioning a fresh and inventive cover for every novel.
Of course, there are nice book covers out there, original and beautiful, instantly recognizable and infused with emotions, but they are in the minority.
What do I like in a book cover? Explaining it would be hard, because artistic preferences are elusive. Instead, I’ll give you some examples, the covers I made for my own stories. While my novels were published by a publisher, so I couldn’t select the covers, and nobody asked my opinion, I created the covers for all my free stories on Wattpad and FictionPress and for the flash fiction you can read on my website.
I’m a writer, not an artist; I can’t draw or paint to save my life. Besides, unlike big publishers, my budget is tight, and I can’t spend money on the covers. To overcome these deficiencies, I sometimes use free stock photos, especially for the stories set here and now, but the majority of my stories (lucky for me) are medieval fantasy. For them, I use original paintings by the artists who died years ago, to make sure the copyrights for their images have expired. Some people might dislike my covers or think them amateurish, but I know for certain there are not many books you could mistake for mine. My covers are not interchangeable. They are unique. I hope…
For the cover of my short fantasy story The Answer is Yes, I used a slightly moody painting by John William Godward (1861-1922).
For the cover of my flash fiction fantasy Basilisk Contract, I adopted a charming painting by Elizabeth Alida Haanen (1809-1845).
For the cover of my regency romance novella Fibs in the Family I selected a quaint painting by Joseph-Francois Ducq (1762-1829).
What do you think of my covers? Do you know any other book with the same imagery?
Olga Godim is an author of novels Lost and Found in Russia (contemporary women’s fiction), Almost Adept (traditional fantasy), Eagle En Garde (traditional fantasy), and a book of short stories Squirrel of Magic (urban fantasy).
I self-published Squirrel of Magic and I’d like to run a give-away for it here. If anyone is interested, just tell me what e-format you prefer and your email in the comments, and I’ll send it to you. For more info about this book, check here: https://olgagodim.wordpress.com/books/squirrel-of-magic/
The cover of the book:
Note: I didn’t make the cover for Squirrel of Magic, it was created by the artist Bridget E. Wilde, but I’m thinking about changing this cover to one of my own making.