Friday, October 5, 2012

Blurbs, Book Covers and Blogs: A Roundup of Links That Might Blow Your Mind

Lately, I am obsessed with book covers, and I don't seem to be the only one. MaryAnn wrote an excellent post about book covers this week. Last week, Trisha added to my book cover obsession with this post about book covers, and for several days I daydreamed about using a black and white picture as my front cover, with a corner of the book ripped off to show a more colorful picture behind... (For the record, that doesn't match my novel at all.)

Have you seen this incredible post by Kate Hart about (possibly disturbing) trends in YA book covers? Once again, it changed what I wanted on my cover. No white girls in prom dresses for me, thank you very much! (Except, in the end, that's probably EXACTLY what will be on my cover. Sigh)

The pictures on book covers can have a positive or negative impact on our culture as a whole. You can find great blogs about these trends, as well as a fabulous roundup of recent popular book covers here and here and here. Look at the blogs twice--once to get depressed and discouraged about what book covers are doing to our perceptions of women, and once to peruse the pictures and see what kinds of book covers draw your attention.

This post made me feel better, and Jennifer's cartoon idea about the "YA Model Convention" featuring headless people made me laugh. Seriously, this article helped me lose (some of) the guilt about loving book covers like these:

A while back, MaryAnn wrote another post about how important a good book cover is, and what worked for her. Specifically, she mentions White Cat by Holly Black, which is a book I only recently read, and really liked. Why did I only recently read it, you ask? Because of the cover. I agree with MaryAnn that the front cover is amazing. But the back cover looked more homoerotic to me, and whenever I picked up the book because of the front cover, I looked at the back cover and said, "meh" and put it back down. Now that I've read it, I realize that the two men on the back cover are brothers, and I imagine they are posed that way to make the man on the front appear more isolated. Still...the book designer knew what he was doing, and a design like that is going to polarize your readers. (Sadly, I couldn't find a picture of the back cover on-line, so head over to your local library if you really want to know what I'm talking about.)

What I've learned:
  • Book design is an art, much like book writing is an art. Being good at one does not necessarily make you good at the other.
  •  Book design is an art, much like drawing/photography is an art. Being good at one does not necessarily make you good at the other.
  • People look at book covers!
  • (This one came from MaryAnn.) There are often similarities in book covers from the same genre. I look for these subtle (and not so subtle) clues to help me decide which books to look at more closely. I imagine everyone else does too.
Once you decide that the book cover is too important to leave to your own devices (And I'm leaning in that direction, though I'm not quite there yet) there are a lot of things to consider:

Here's a great post about things the cover designer of your novel needs to know:

How about blurbs?
"From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it.." --Groucho Marx
A blurb is the endorsement by other authors that you sometimes see on the cover of a novel. A perusal of my bookshelves searching for an example proves that this is a relatively new concept. Most of my older books have nothing like a blurb (unless it's a quote from Publisher's Weekly), while most of the newer books seem to have one. Here's an example from The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (yes! It's finally made it to the number 2 spot in my To Be Read pile!): 

"Electric...Filled with staccato bursts of humor and tragedy." --Jodi Picault

As I have researched endorsements/blurbs, I see that most famous authors don't really think they do much good.  Or maybe they are just hoping to sway public sentiment away from them so they won't be asked to write so many...whatever their reasoning, I completely disagree. I use blurbs all the time when I'm picking out different books. It's why I finally read White Cat, in spite of the back cover, and in spite of how much I didn't enjoy The Spiderwick Chronicles. Holly Black is forever writing blurbs for authors I enjoy reading, and birds of a feather flock together, right?

That's probably backward from how people EXPECT blurbs to be used, which may account for the reason they aren't sure if it is working or not. I use blurbs the regular way too--"Ooh! Look! Orson Scott Card wrote a blurb for this. Let's see what it's about!" though it can work against the author as well: "Ooh. Look. **** ****** endorsed this book. It's probably not my cup of tea." much does a book cover cost? Who does them?

Granted, I'm in the beginning stages of researching this one. However, Karen Smith conveniently shared this  link with me yesterday. The Cover Counts just did the book cover for her newest book

This website is slightly pricier, but worth the look.

Still think you want to design your own? There are lots of resources out there for you. Here's Sheena's post on the subject.

Is your mind spinning as crazily as mine? It's SOOOO much to consider...What are your opinions?


  1. I just got my cover art from my graphic designer today. She did an amazing job. I'm always so nervous about doing it because I honestly have no idea what my book covers should look like. So I just give her the hook paragraph/story blurb, and she captures it in a cover. I'm always astounded that she get the mood, plot, and emotion right. It really is a gift. (And not one that I have.)

    1. I can't wait to see it, Connie! Congratulations.

  2. Wow, that is a lot of information. I think it took me an hour to get through all those links, but it is really good stuff. Thanks for putting all of this together.

    1. I know MaryAnn. As I scroll through the WHOLE thing I keep thinking I should have turned it into 3 or 4 posts...still, it's information I want to be able to find again, so I'm glad it's all right here in one place.

  3. My mind is sufficiently blown. I can't believe it never occurred to me how few minorities are featured in young adult books. I think I must be pretty out of the YA loop. I've been reading (and writing) a lot of adult (as in age, not content) books lately. Thank you for the links. They are quite thought-provoking. Overall great post Melanie. :)

    1. I wonder how adult books would compare. The romance genre itself seems to be pretty whitewashed, but other books might not compare the same way. It would be interesting to find comparisons. Thanks Trisha!

  4. Being able to design a book cover is very different from having the skills to actually create the design. I know exactly what I want my book covers to look like, but finding the pictures, manipulating them, etc, is beyond my (current) abilities. I'm working on it.


  5. Great roundup. This is such an excellent resource. And I agree, covers are so important. I passed up a book several times at the library because of the cover. After having read it, though, I think it's one of my recent favorites.


Got an opinion? Use it! Remember... be silly, be honest, and be nice/proofread.