Thursday, May 31, 2012

Covers - The Devil is in the Details

Smart Bitches/Trashy Books recently started a new feature called "Ask the Art Director." In these posts the SBs ask Art Directors how they come up with covers. The first victim is Claire Brown.

Some of the answers are fairly obvious. The half-naked man with washboard abs is a popular cover choice. This did not come as a shock. I was, however, surprised by how important the details are. Apparently, Ms. Brown spends a lot of time contemplating font choice. She even has a favorite font: goudy. I wonder if that's a traditional choice. I hear the hipster kids like Helvetica.

Little details like font choice allow the publisher to manage reader expectations. A strong, clear font will imply an "edgy" heroine. A cursive font will imply a more contemplative (or maybe even "feisty") protagonist. Details also send a strong message as to the genre of the book. Ms. Brown focuses on the font of the featured paranormal novel, but I noticed that they final version also added a vibrant moon and a tattoo to the cover model's arm. Both are paranormal details that add to the "edgy" tone of the cover.

I found this post quite enlightening. It answered a question that has been bugging me all week, ever since I spotted these two covers at the local grocery store:

They look pretty similar. Let's take a closer look.

Yep, they both feature a half-naked guy with a leather jacket bathed in golden light. You know what? I like them both. I bet they both sell quickly.

The thing that struck me is that the books are in two different genres. The Lori Foster book is romantic suspense and the Kerrelyn Sparks is paranormal romance.  I didn't notice the different genres when I picked them, though. I thought they were both paranormals. The Lori Foster book even has a Christine Feehan blurb.

You have to play "spot the difference," like you would in a children's puzzle book.

Look closely. The hero of the Lori Foster book is wearing dog tags (he's an undercover mercenary), however, his twin has no dogtags.  The hero of the Kerrelyn Sparks book has a bat belt buckle (he's a vampire, shocker!), but his doppleganger has a regular buckle. That's it. Those are the only distinguishing features.

Details matter.

Which cover did you like the most? Did they both look like paranormal romance novels to you?