Back in the old days when I started to write, there were no computers (at least no workable ones for writers). There was no social media, there was no Amazon, no eBooks, no Create Space. The books I enjoyed you could actually hold in your hand, turn the pages, and when you were done you could find the proper place on your book shelf. By author. In alphabetical order. By genre. Whatever. It was always there, my growing collection. My personal treasure chest. I hate Kindle.
Selecting books from a book store, never on-line, was a pleasure. I rarely went in knowing exactly what I wanted to buy. I wasn’t a trend setter, and I didn’t just shop for whatever happened to be on the New York Times best seller list at the moment. Oprah didn’t exist back in the day either, at least not the book-marketing guru we now know. Part of the thrill of going to the book store was the hunt, finding that hidden gem. If I enjoyed a particular author, I might check her out first. Otherwise, I got out my detective gear and began the hunt. (There were no cafes in book stores in those days either, so even if I entered hungry, I always came away fulfilled with the book of my choice.)
Titles can matter. A title might draw me to select a book, particularly among the novels whose spines were all I could see crammed into a tight shelf. But the cover art was also important. It didn’t make or break a sale, but quality cover art did draw my attention. At the very least the cover art made me pick up the book and read the novel details or blurbs.
When you first enter a book store, there are always displays right up front, usually from the major publishing houses who purchase the right to have the finest display. Their covers stare you right in the face. When my debut novel HUNTING THE KING was published in 2008, I could just imagine customers entering the book store and being startled by the gaunt face of Jesus the king outlined by a constellation of stars in the pattern of a Star of David. I figured who could pass that by without picking it up for a browse? (The issue of which books get placed where in a book store is the matter for another blog)
These days if you self-publish, you can help design the cover of your book as I did with my iUniverse novel THE HUNTED. Overall, the product was well done with one minor complaint. Certain on-line photographs aren’t copyrighted and so are available for selection in the design of your cover. If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, you make do with second best. With DEVOLUTION, my latest novel, the publisher, Imajin Books, made the design with my input. The cover shows the face of a creature, half girl, half chimpanzee a reflection of the drama about a girl who can communicate with chimpanzees using sign language.
In my office taped to the wall behind my desk is a big poster of my cover. It captures the attention of everyone who comes in, stirs conversation, and often leads to a sale. That alone validates a well-done cover enhanced by reviews from well-known authors. Besides that, whenever I feel alone and needing a little self-love, I can pick up my novel and gaze at the stunning cover art and feel just a modicum of pride in my accomplishment. Clicking on my lap top or i-thing-a-majig and seeing the cover on a mechanized screen just doesn’t have the same effect.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014