Today Nathan Bransford discusses book covers at his blog and it got me thinking. Quite often I complain about publishing in Botswana and Southern Africa but Mr. Bransford's blog reminds me yet again that some things are better here. For example, author's say in book covers. In books I've written alone published here I've had a lot of say about the covers.
The cover for The Fatal Payout, the hands with the money, was my idea. It was apparently shot in the Macmillan offices in South Africa. The cover for Murder for Profit that was initially given to me was not anything like this, it was mostly words. I suggested bloody words, and then I got another cover which I still didn't like and then I suggested yet again that we put a photo of a village. I remember at one point there was a bloody knife with a bucket, not sure where that got off to. Even for Mmele and the Magic Bones. I found the illustrator myself (something I will never do again though).
The point I'm trying to make is that in Botswana, at least in my experience, authors get much say over their covers and that is a plus.
But what makes a good cover? I've included two of my favourite covers from my bookshelf (All the Pretty Horses and Star Girl). I can't say what I like, but I know it when I see it.
According to author Justine Larbalestier, the big publishers in America, and I'm assuming that goes across the ocean too, don't have that problem. They know what makes a good cover by studying their statistics about which covers sell and which covers don't and that is how their covers are designed; sometimes having little to do with what is actually inside the book, as is the case for Larbalesier's latest book about a black girl that has a white girl on the cover. Apparently books with black people on the cover don't sell.
In her blog she discusses the difficulties she's gone through because of that cover, one she had no control over in the end. She explains the thin line authors must walk- she hates the cover but can't let anyone know, especially the publisher who can easily give her the boot. At the same time, readers are claiming they won't buy the book with a white girl on the cover and why doesn't Larbalestier explain what's going on?
As if writers don't have enough problems.