Welcome to the first day of March Book Madness 2014!
If you’re wondering, March Book Madness has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with books. My hubby and kids are huge sports nuts, so we do the whole March Madness basketball bracket thing every year. But. I’m a huge book nut, so this is my third year celebrating National Reading Month with March Book Madness.
This year we have 12 guest authors who will discuss everything book-ish on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in March. (Schedule at the bottom of this post.)
I’m super excited to kick it off with my sweet, talented friend, Danyelle Ferguson, talking about book covers and the characters within. So I’ll let her take over.
It happens to every one of us — readers and authors alike. We see a book cover, check out the character images on the front and decide if it’s worthy of picking up for a closer look or if it will be passed up.
But what makes us pick it up?
The heroine’s sassy smile? Or perhaps her soulful, incredible blue eyes? Or maybe she has red hair and you always wished you had red hair. Or is it the guy? The muscley arms, broad shoulders, and wow – those abs!
What about covers where the head is cut off? Is it the body pose? The clothes they’re wearing? Those totally awesome to-die-for heels?!?
Something drew you to that cover — from a personal trait you wish you had, all the way to fashion styles you love. The cover is a promise of what you’ll find inside.
But what about when the cover doesn’t match the story?
Unfortunately, that’s an experience most of us can relate to.
For example, picture a cover with slightly washed out tones of the guy pushing the cute chick on a tree swing in a wide open field. It might make a reader think the setting is a small idyllic town, a farm, horse ranch, etc. The back cover blurb is interesting, but doesn’t confirm the location and you decide to take a chance and buy the book. Only to go home and find out the real setting is in New York City.
Perhaps there’s a tie-in to that scene later in the book — but the reader is disappointed right from the start that the author/publisher broke their promise.
Now, let’s talk about book covers from an author’s perspective. It’s not often that an author absolutely 100% loves her book cover. Why? Because she has lived and breathed her characters — and each one has a very specific face, body type and fashion sense. I search the internet to find the perfect picture for my main characters, print it out, save it to my computer file and refer to it often. It’s hard to live up to that image.
For example, check out my characters from Sweet Confections.
Yeah, I know it’s Lindsay Lohan, but her shade of red hair, eye color, and freckles are so totally Rachel Marconi.
I have a love affair with bald guys. When I was in college, I was asked what type of guy I thought was sexy. My reply? Slightly chubby bald guys. The guy I married didn’t have the slightly chubby, but he definitely was bald on top. Over the years, he’s lost more hair and is a tad rounder around the middle = my fantasy guy. Ahem. So, back to Graydon. Athletic + bald = Vin Diesel (I mean, Graydon).
Sadly, this combo was very hard to find for my book cover. Even knowing the heroine’s hair color could be Photoshopped to be just right — it was almost impossible to find a bald, athletic guy in a fun pose with a cute chick. A stock photo was found that would work if we cut off most of the couple’s heads – but their clothes were summery and my book takes place in the autumn and winter. We searched, discussed, and I chewed on my finger nails to bits. I knew this first book of the series was going to set the tone for the following book covers. I was a bit obsessed with it working out just right. Finally, I made a decision.
I gave my hero short hair.
Some authors would gasp in dismay. You did what?
I decided that being true to my cover’s promise was more important than if my guy was bald or had medium brown hair. After settling on the decision and going through another round of rewrites, I ended up with an incredible cover that totally matches my characters. What do you think?
This obviously isn’t an option authors have very often. In fact, many authors have little to no say at all about their book covers.
But you know what’s even worse than book covers? When a book is made into a movie. Gasp! It’s impossible to match every reader’s or an author’s perception of what book characters should look like. Oh my, I pity the poor directors and film studios who bravely take on popular books and turn them into film. They end up with a combination of WE LOVE YOU + YOU TOTALLY SUCK fan mail. Oy!
Now, I want to hear your stories.
Tell me about the books you picked up because you loved the cover and how the characters inside met or didn’t meet your expectations. I want the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s your turn. Bring it on!
Danyelle Ferguson discovered her love for the written word in elementary school. Her first article was published when she was in 6th grade. Since then, she’s won several awards and has been published world-wide in newspapers, magazines and books. She’s grateful every day to work in her dream jobs – author, editor, and nurturing her readaholic tendencies.
She grew up surrounded by Pennsylvania’s beautiful Allegheny Mountains. Then lived for ten years among the majestic Wasatch Mountains. She is currently experiencing mountain-withdrawal while living in Kansas with her husband and four angels-in-training. She enjoys reading, writing, dancing and singing in the kitchen, & the occasional long bubble bath to relax from the everyday stress of being “Mommy.”
Connect with Danyelle:
Thank you for your thoughts on book covers, Danyelle. The whole You can’t judge a book by its cover never works with me. I’m a judging fiend. Most readers are, too. A cover does so much to convey character, mood, and feel of a book–or its supposed to.
Sometimes I’ll get halfway through a book and flip back to the cover just to rediscover something new now that I understand the story. Being a book designer must be a blast. One of the first comments I get on Sadie is the cover, and I’m happy to give my designer the credit. Heather G. Ward did a fabulous job.
I love your cover, too, Danyelle. I think it’s awesome you tweaked your characters to match it. And I’m so excited to read about Rachel and Graydon. Not only does it sound like a fun romance, but when I read the synopsis–“…Either way, Rachel is definitely going to need more chocolate…”–I knew it was for me. :)
So if you’re self-publishing, don’t skimp on the cover, and if you’re going through a publishing house, make sure to give your two cents. Covers count.
Thanks again, Danyelle!
Tune in tomorrow for our next March Book Madness guest who happens to be my dad. :) Gerald N. Lund will talk about four essential elements of good writing.
If you’re new to March Book Madness, it has nothing to do with basketball (sorry) and everything to do with books. March is National Reading Month, so March Book Madness gives me an excuse to discuss everything about writing, editing, and reading books with some amazing authors.
If you’ve missed any posts, here they are:
2014 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:
- Our Connection to Book Covers and the Characters Within, by Danyelle Ferguson
- Four Essential Elements of Good Writing, by Gerald N. Lund
- Welcome to Niche-land! by JoLynne Lyon
- Developing Plot and Characters Together, by Tricia Pease
- ”Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson,” by Sarah Belliston
- Using Repetition To Improve Your Book by A.L. Sowards
- Getting the Most Out of Your Critique Group, by Charity Bradford
- The Moral of the Tale, by Christopher Rosche
- Querying: The Method to the Madness, by Chantele Sedgwick
- Creating Context Clues, by Charissa Stastny
- 6 Places to Find Novel Ideas, by Janice Hardy
- Avoiding Didacticism in Our Writing, by Braden Bell
2013 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:
- Weeding Your Words, by Charissa Stastny
- Know Your Audience–Even the Subtle One, by Cindy Piper
- Beating a Dead Horse, by Julie L Casey
- Why Everyone Should Be a Writer, by Sharon Belknap
- Reading in the Digital Age, by JoLynne Lyon
- The Art of Accepting Criticism, by Mary Bateman-Mercado
- Pinterested in Books, by Sarah Belliston
- The Power of Storytelling, by Christopher Rosche
- Never Pity the Adverb, by Anthony Mercado
- Creating Flawed but Likeable Characters, by A.L. Sowards
- Priorities and Choices for Writers, by Braden Bell
- Premise vs Plot – Which Do You Have? by Janice Hardy
2012 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:
- Tips on Querying, by Lynn Wiese Sneyd
- Plotting vs. Plodding, by Tobi Summers
- 10 Marketing Tips, by JoLynne Lyon
- 8 Editing Tips, by Cassie Mae
- Editing, by Jessica Khoury
- Reading for Writers, by Tricia Pease
- For the Love of Reading, by Sharon Belknap