There have been a lot of new covers posted lately for upcoming urban fantasy books (I posted 15 this month alone), and even more discussion as to the role cover art plays in book sales. I’m wondering, how much do covers influence your purchases?
Ann Aguirre expressed concern over this topic when she unveiled the cover for her upcoming Corine Solomon book, Hell Fire:
“…if you compare it to other urban fantasy titles, you’ll find this is quite different. They went for a more realistic style; they also avoided using tatts or leather, which is cover art shorthand for urban fantasy these days. I’m a little concerned by that choice. While I appreciate they want to create a distinctive brand for me, I’m not sure how new readers are going to find me...Random browsers [are] looking for women with tramp stamps, tattoos and leather pants. Never mind that doesn’t really represent the series–it doesn’t in other cases too. But maybe this makes me stand out from the crowd? I’m hoping that’s the case.”
I tend to like the ‘cover art shorthand for urban fantasy’ including tattoos, leather, weapons etc. I at least know what to expect from the book. I don’t think Hell Fire is a bad cover, but it wouldn’t necessarily draw me in as a random browser.
Like when meeting someone for the first time, covers are usually the author/publishers first chance to make an impression (i.e. compel me to buy a book). Now granted there are other factors involved (description, reviews, blurbs by authors I like etc.), but covers provide that first instant attraction…or lack thereof.
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review recently asked her readers to compare the US and UK covers (the black one is a third cover I found, not sure from where) for Kelley Armstrong’s new book Frostbitten.
US UK ??
The overwhelming response choose the UK version. Not me. I was US cover all the way. I wouldn’t have given the UK cover a second glance. It certainty wouldn’t make me think urban fantasy. The third one, maybe. Having read Bitten, I know Kelley likes the zoomed in body part look, but the protruding spine would otherwise lead me to think corpse aka crime novel. If Kelley Armstrong wasn’t prominately displayed on the front, which would you choose?
Like in life, appearances can only get you so far. Ultimately its what’s inside that counts. To butcher Marilyn Monroe’s quote, "Don't you know that a [cover] being [gorgeous] is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn't marry a girl just because she's pretty, but my goodness, doesn't it help?" ...I have to agree.
Here are some of my favorite upcoming covers. Here’s hoping they read as good as they look: