What does a book’s cover tell you?

From a marketing point of view, probably the very most important aspect of a book is its cover. Especially if this is an unknown author, the cover should signal the content’s genre. A picture of a crinoline clad lady in the arms of a muscular man may lead to an assumption of regency romance. An image of a bunch of space ships in a battle might lead you to imagine space opera. The recent discussions about genre have caused me to re-evaluate what it is I write. I had imagined that because there are relationship issues in my books that I could badge them as science fiction romance. But after much soul-searching (described here) I think my original instinct was right. I write science fiction with a dollop of romance. The closest fit is space opera, or science fiction action/adventure. Or, if it floats your boat, ‘planetary romance‘. In that last one, romance is used in its old definition, not boy meets girl, hearts aflutter.

Okay, so I write space opera. If I persist with covers sporting well-ripped blokes, I’m probably unlikely to attract many of the traditional purchasers of SF and I may well put off some of the people who do read SFR and may be disappointed in the fact my books are not ‘romances’ in that the romance is not the driver of the plot. So I have changed my covers.

picture of Starheart coverThe new cover for Starheart portrays the space opera nature of the plot, along with a few plot elements such as asteroid mining and a ringed planet. I’ve also changed the blurb to better reflect the book.

Freighter Captain Jess Sondijk thought she had her life under control until Admiral Hudson Confederacy battle cruiser stops her ship to search for contraband. His questions reopen matters she had thought resolved. What if her husband’s death during an official boarding wasn’t accidental?

Hudson has his own questions. Who in the Confederacy is trading with the Ptorix? And what price is high enough to pay for starhearts, the prized jewels the aliens call the windows of the soul?

Jess and Hudson’s interests collide in more ways than one as they follow a shadowy trail of deceit and corruption in search of the truth. But while Jess is more than willing to put her life on the line to protect what’s hers, Hudson must balance the risk of inter-species war at worst and the end of his career at best, in a deadly game of political intrigue, murder and greed.

picture of Morgan's Choice coverpicture of cover for Morgan's ReturnFor Morgan’s Choice and Morgan’s Return, I’ve removed the abs. For those who liked them, sorry. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

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Yes, love and sex are part of my plots. Love is a real and very powerful emotion and I believe that delving into that part of human nature reveals a side of people that is ignored or glossed over in many action-adventure stories.

For those of you you have read my books already, I hope the covers don’t disappoint. For everybody else, I hope the covers work for you. Please let me know what you think.

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About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 18 June 2013, in Science fiction and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I definitely think you are on the right track! Of course, I have the abs, and I shall cherish them a ‘collector’s editions’ [but that’s just me].

  2. As much as I wish it were the case, I often get the idea that most marketing has less interest in leading a prospect audience to a genre by means of a cover than by luring readers by means of using a cover designed on specific psychological and behavioural triggers – as opposed to portraying an impression associated with a genre.

    Fun bit of irony, for every type of genre, fanbase, customer type group and such, there are levels of reception beyond which the customers (prospect and effective) “punch through” that kind of marketing, more often than not thus compromising sales prospects. To keep it simple: one can lead people by the nose, but honesty still goes the longest distance.

    What is sad, is that quite frequently it is a bit of a syndrome you find with the myriad of semi-publishing agencies that focus commercially on “aiding” self publishing authors.

    Heh, and yeah, it definately is space opera. It is a genre that really is not just the technical or the setting. Space Opera, is where the stage is grand, where the costumes of the actors are vital (so to speak) and where the timbre of interaction travels along the entire length of the scale from the technical to the emotional. The “opera” part is of note ๐Ÿ™‚

    I do see the hiccup on that road of making a choice though. People who are already deepled versed in that genre will have no trouble establishing correct expectations, whereas those who are not that deep (or “hardcore” as it is often said) will not immediately be aware of – for example – romance and emotional elements as a core part of it. A categorisation of “planetary romance” as a subcategory (or secondary type) can be very much of help still as such.

    • Well, I’m not as subtle as that. I try to ensure my covers show what the book’s about. Although I guess I have to admit that the abs were aimed at a certain market ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you agree it’s space opera. And all in all, I agree with your perception that it’s a hard call.

      • It always is yes, unfortunately. Then again, people do recognise when others put in hard and conscious work in order to get thing sright ๐Ÿ™‚

        As for the abs, I don’t miss them. Got my own ๐Ÿ˜›

        But, serious again. Subtleness is a definite instrument. Personally, I think it has more long term result when an author invests in honest considerations. Pushing buttons on people works yes, ultimately though nobody likes their buttons getting pushed. So, I’d say keep going as you have thusfar. It’s worth it, and it’s appreciated.

  3. juliabarrett

    What a gorgeous cover! Very scifi-ish! But I can sense the space opera too. Lovely. And yes, shoppers do judge a book by its cover.

  4. Yes, I prefer the new cover – and I like the blurb, that’s something that would get my interest. In fact, I’ve added it to my Amazon wish list! The abs – very impressive! But if I came to that cover cold, without knowing anything about your writing, I’d be more likely to be put off. So I think you’re on the right track – may it result in increased sales!

  5. I never did think the abs on the covers were quite right. These are better, I think they fit your stories better. Although I did enjoy the abs, don’t get me wrong.

  6. To be bluntly honest, I think your covers are very poor quality.

    Yes, the images convey your genre very clearly — there’s no doubt in my mind that these books are anything other than space opera/scifi adventure. But the graphics you or your designer selected look very dated and cheesy, and the typography (fonts, title composition, etc.) strikes me as quite amateur.

    As you state, a book’s cover is crucial to its marketing, but covers need to do much more than simply convey the *genre* of the content. They need to convey the *quality* of the content.

    It’s unfair, of course, because some books with amazing cover designs are still crap, and vice versa, but a cover is the first thing a reader sees and that snap visual impression determines whether they pick up your book or move on.

    Equally unfair, self-published books still carry a literary stigma. I don’t know if you’re an indie author or whether you’re with a press (I found this blog quite randomly) but your covers “look” self-published. Many readers will see your covers, assume you’re self-published, and therefore think your books weren’t good enough to interest a professional publisher.

    You don’t have to go minimalist and drop the space imagery completely, but I think you’d benefit from working with a designer who can incorporate better typographical elements and give your covers a more professional look. Check out some of the scifi titles in your local bookstore or on Amazon for examples.

  1. Pingback: Coasting – Cover Design | Desert of Man

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