Covers-How Do Your Expectations Play Into Them?

Covers can say a lot about a book. Everything from “Wow, I want to read this book just off of that picture” to “Holy crap, I’ll bet that book sucks.” Folk who believe covers mean little for marketing a book, need to dig a little deeper and rethink. Even in the digital realm, you can tell a lot by skimming through those thumbnail pics of covers. Certain genres of books tend to market in a particular way at any given time. For example, in my genre of urban fantasy, if you pick a random sample of ten books off the UF shelves, you’ll generally find a pattern to things. While I’m not saying every cover looks basically the same, you will find recurring themes, colors, images, etc. Deadworld has an attractive woman with a gun, dressed in revealing attire, and looking somewhat apprehensive or perhaps even worried. The background is dark, rugged, and gloomy. For folks who read the genre, you will glance at this cover and immediately know it for being UF. Or at least there’s a high chance you are correct. The same goes for the cover of book two, The Vengeful Dead. There’s good reason for this, and it all revolves around being able to market the book.

When you see a cover that is familiar to you, that evokes common themes and elements, there’s a certain built in expectation. For example, with Deadworld, if you read UF, you might automatically be thinking, “kick-butt heroine up against paranormal baddies” in some shape or form. If you see a UF cover that has a hot guy on the cover instead, the expectation is likely oriented toward heroine involved with said hot guy and likely battling paranormal baddies in some way. It might make for a fun exercise to look across various genres for these themes and similarities, but that’s beyond what I want to do here. As I stated in the title, this is about expectations.

What happens when the story doesn’t fit the cover? How does the built in expectation from the cover play out when reading the book? This is kind of a tough and complicated question, in my opinion. I don’t believe it’s so easy to divorce oneself from what grabs you with a coverand what comes out on the pages. If there is no coherent match between the two, do you feel cheated somehow? Does it alter your opinion of the story? Deadworld is being marketed as an Urban Fantasy. It’s story fits the genre to a greater extent. It does indeed involve a kicking butt heroine against paranormal baddies. It does also have other elements. It’s a bit noir’ish crime fiction. It could be called a paranormal thriller. In fact, when I wrote Deadworld and submitted it to agents, I labelled it as just that, a thriller. Understanding where your story can be marketed is important, and perhaps worthy of its own blog post.

So, to demonstrate this potential split between expectation and reality, and because I have fun doing this kind of thing, here are two covers of my upcoming sequel to Deadworld, The Vengeful Dead. The first is the cover it will be hitting the shelves with. It screams UF at you. I love the colors and tone it gives. The second is one I mashed together with a couple of different images, and went much more for the noir thriller vibe. Looking at these, do you have very different thoughts about what you might find within the pages? I’d love to know what you all think. Happy reading/writing everyone.

Current Cover:                                                   Noir/Thriller Cover: 

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2 responses to “Covers-How Do Your Expectations Play Into Them?

  1. I honestly don’t pay enough attention. I use a hide a cover to hide what I reading from the world hide a cover helps keep the crazy tame.

  2. I find covers slightly less influential now that I mostly read e-books. I look at them, certainly, and they are influential, to some degree, but more influential are other reader’s comments. I have bought or not bought e-books based on the comments below the book. And some covers are dreadful. For example, G.A. Aiken’s dragon books are a rollicking good time, with some heavy sexual content, but to go by the covers, you would miss the humor entirely. Same with her books published as Shelley Laurentson. Humorous content completely missed by the heavy handed depiction of chiseled abs (although very NICE abs) on the cover. I got into the first of her series because of a review left by a reader. Now I am a Constant Reader of hers, regardless of the dreadful covers. And since I read them on a Kindle or itouch, I don’t have to hide the cheesy cover.

    I like the covers of Deadworld one and two because it tells me, 1) strong female content and 2) paranormal content, from the mists and moon in the first to the otherworldly suggestion of Laurel in white as opposed to Jackie in black, also the perspective of Laurel in the background. Seeing her on the cover answered a hope that she was a continuing part of the story. The mocked up content to me places the male in too foreground a position, telling me the story is his. Which I’m not as interested in as Jackie’s story.