Saturday, June 03, 2006

It's a quirky world...

Check out the comments on the previous post for some insights into Malaysian (and other) prejudices.

Over on Pub Rants, the agent Kristin has some interesting stuff to say about covers and how they are chosen. If you are interested in the difference between Australian and US and Russian covers for the same one of my books, look here and here.

I think the most peculiar thing that came out of what Kristin was saying is that the marketing people don't seem to care that they might be misrepresenting the product (which would, one would think, lead to a dissatisfied customer who is not going to come back to that author again). All they want to do is sell the book. That seems short-sighted. I'd love to know what readers think.

6 comments:

Emma said...

I don't usually pay much attention to covers. This may be because I don't tend to buy books on a whim in a bookstore, but rather because I've been recommended it, I trust the author or have a borrowed the book from the library and like it enough to want my own copy. I notice if it is particularly lovely or horrific. Or if they annoyingly have the character being a different race to the ones inside the book, as that seems wrong. But in general, I don't think I'd be annoyed at the wrong type of cover as I'm pretty used to a disconnect between stories and covers.

Having said that, I'm glad that I've got the Australian editions of your books :) One of which you signed for me at a reading at Continuum last year.

Kendall said...

It's very short-sighted of Marketing. I can somewhat understand cover art "wrong," although it annoys me. But I understand, if you catch someone's eye, they might at least consider a book they wouldn't have otherwise. I hope they remember not to judge the book by its art, though! And a gorgeous cover still can influence unduly..."yeah, it doesn't sound quite right for me, but...wow, cover art that blows my mind...." And hey, it might still work out -- misleading or not, the reader might like it anyway (and hopfully they'll at least read the description and/or a few pages!). So while it's annoying to me as a reader that cover art misrepresents or put things on the cover that don't happen, as a reader I'm getting philosophical about it.

The flip side of that is art that drives someone away -- GAK -- so overall, honest art is probably best.

But purposefully misleading descriptions -- or ones written by someone who doesn't know the book and thus gets it wrong -- that is boneheaded! There's no way around just how boneheaded it is!

I'm so compulsive that I do lots of research into books I'm interested in, these days. But I buy tons 'cuz my desire to read far outstrips my time and attention span. ;-) It's an obsession, really (sigh). ;-)

Oh, and if I'm mislead about a book, I might be less likely to read that author again...but not out of spite (if I were spiteful, I'd avoid the publisher...yeah, right!). I would be less likely to pick up the next book because I'd just remember, "oh, yeah, that book wasn't for me" and be a little more cautious about buying another since it might also "not be for me" for whatever reason. But I feel that's just practical -- not unfairly reactive like the comment on Kristin's blog.

(Sorry to ramble! Eek, why use 5 words when I could use 50....)

Glenda Larke said...

There seems sometimes to be an enormous chasm between reader/writer and the marketing people, doesn't there? The marketing people want the customer to pick up the book off the shelf (which is a big objective of the cover picture if the author is unknown). Then they want them to buy (which is the purpose of the blurb).

And some of them seem to think it doesn't matter how they do it. So they design a cover with a curvaceous scantily clad female (athough why that should attract straight female buyers, I am not too sure); a cover with someone waving a sword (in the book she never even picks up a sword); and write a blurb which is downright inaccurate (not just misleading). All of which has happened to me. Not once was I consulted by that particular publisher.

I have, though, had the opposite experience - a wonderful publisher who consulted every step of the way.

Annoying, boneheaded... And often neither the writer nor the agent, and sometimes not even the editor (!) has much to do with the choices.

It's a mad, mad business.

KarenEMiller said...

It's a tricky balancing act. Agent Kristin is dead right about one thing: authors cannot automatically be trusted to know what will make a good cover for their book. Some can tell, and some have the design equivalent of a tin ear. The safe bet is to assume that authors won't have a good idea.

That being said, though, what we're dealing with I think is the difference between long term and short term thinking, and the level of emotional investment. Marketing's job is to make sure the book walks out of the bookstore via the cash register. Provided all the copies of that print run sell, provided they're not left with a trillion copies of the book sitting in a warehouse waiting for the remainder truck, they're happy. They have covered their costs for the unit production outlay of that single book. So the company isn't out of pocket and the balance sheet stays in the black. That's fiscally driven thinking. From that perspective, the cover has succeeded perfectly. It's done its job. Its sold the book.

I think this happens because of a)money and b)the Marketing department isn't necessarily driven by thoughts of creating long term career success. Authors and their agents want the book to succeed and create a loyal tribe of readers. They want this book to do well so the next one and the next one and the book to be written the year after next will succeed. But from the publisher's POV, that book might not even be written for them. It might be written for a rival publisher. So it's more important to recoup losses and cover costs on the book in front of them than it is to spend time and money and effort being 100% faithful to the book with a cover that's aestheticall pleasing and textually correct but doesn't grab the reading public by the throat. So splashy cover art, which might not reflect the text, wins out.

I don't necessarily agree with this thinking. But I think it plays a part in the decision making process. But for my money, the publishers who do both -- who invest the time and skill in creating covers that both accurately reflect the story and its intent, and grab a browser's eye -- they honour both the writing and the selling of story, and mean that everyone's a better chance of being a winner.

Glenda Larke said...

Excellent point, Karen. And probably spot on, too.

Emma said...

I've belatedly remembered that author Jennifer Crusie talked about covers on her blog a little while ago. She brings up lots of interesting points and even has a song about having a bimbo on the cover of your book (not that you do).