Friday, July 31, 2009

Controversial Cover Art

As those of you who follow Nathan Bransford's blog know, the world of book covers can be a pretty harsh (READ: As in you the author have little say in how it looks).

Besides having no creative control of your beloved work, you run the risk of having your cover contradict and/or misguide your prospective reader. I'm drawn to books by what their covers look like, I know this. So you bet your pretty sweet writing pen that I'd be ticked if your cover in any way shape or form misrepresented your work.

To stand up on my little soapbox here, how in the world is that even conceivably acceptable? As an author we're told by prospective agents, editors and publishers that our manuscripts must be flawless. As Jessica Faust said, "Good Enough Is Never Good Enough". We have to edit, rewrite, edit again, solicit beta readers, join writing groups, and work our manuscripts down until every word, each syllable, conveys the perfect connotation - a wordplay off the denotation that fits in imagery and syntax.

But it's okay for book covers like Justine Larbalestier's LIAR in which the protagonist is "black with nappy hair which she wears natural and short" to feature this:
What the heck? I agree with Justine, the Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin, did a fantastic job conveying her vision, as Jessica said "I never wanted a girl’s face on the cover. Micah’s identity is unstable. She spends the book telling different version of herself. I wanted readers to be free to imagine her as they wanted." Here's the Australian cover:

It just makes me mad, you know? And what about this?

Seriously, two different books by two different authors with nearly identical covers. How messed up is that. With all the cover art available, this is what we get?

Alan Cooperman of the Washington Post says: No. 1 is "Still Life" by Joy Fielding, a romantic thriller about a beautiful, happily married interior designer whose life is going just great -- until a car slams into her, breaks all her bones and puts her in a coma. (That will ruin your day alright.) Plus, she realizes that it probably wasn't an accident, but she can't see, speak or move from her hospital bed. It comes out from Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, on March 24.

No. 2 is "Keeper of Light and Dust" by British author Natasha Mostert, also a romantic thriller of a sort -- the sort being a supernatural parade of magic and martial arts involving a vampire, ancient Chinese wisdom and "biophoton emissions." In her acknowledgements, the author thanks her "two great dojos," a kickboxing champion and "the man with the stupendous flying kicks." According to her publicist, she's donating partial proceeds to a "boxing initiative to empower Afghan women." It comes out from Dutton, part of the Penguin Group, on April 2.

Cooperman concludes that the person who should be happiest about all of this is Stuart McClymont, the photographer. I'll give him that, but where does that leave you, the reader?

1 comment:

Steph Damore said...

Okay, so maybe I shouldn't overreact. After all, Mr. Bransford did say "So yes: you don't have control over your cover. But don't worry. It all turns out fine.


Still, I do think publishers have the motto "Do as I say and not as I do" - and that's not right.