Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Covers and where they come from

I’m one of those people who believe a book cover should be an honest glimpse into the story. It can be a come-on (in fact, it should be, and therein lies the art), but it needs to be relevant. Not that what I think makes much difference, and we all know how little control authors have over their book covers. Try explaining that to a non-writer, though. It’s like telling an avid Barnes & Noble patron that publishers have paid big bucks for B & N to place specific books on those nice round kiosks just inside the entrance to the store. I’ve tried, and I usually see pity in the customers’ eyes. My books are conspicuously absent.

But back to covers, because I just had an odd cover experience. I like the cover to my last book, Pleasing the Dead, and it’s relevant to my story, thank goodness. But the art, without any reference to my book, just showed up on the latest cover of Mystery Scene Magazine. In fact, the cover refers to mystery author Randy Wayne White, who is a terrific writer. I enjoy his books. I also like Mystery Scene Magazine, and I am a regular subscriber.

My first inclination was to email the magazine publisher, but I stopped myself. No, I should email my own publisher first. And I did. No one responded. I know, they’re busy with other things, but isn’t anyone as curious as I am? I’d email the artist who did my cover, but I don’t have his contact information.

Perhaps the photo used for Pleasing the Dead is available on the Internet, in the public domain. And so? Should this concern me? Should I have been told before it was used on my book? If I had been notified, I’d probably have okayed the graphic because I liked it and it ties in nicely to my story. Vicki and I discussed this a bit, as we share the same publisher and she recognized the cover of Mystery Scene Magazine, too. Her covers are all original artwork. (They’re wonderful, too)

It’s not as bad as the cover Rick’s friend has to suffer, but it is a curious situation. Any ideas?


Kate Stine said...

Hi Debby,
It's Kate Stine, the publisher of Mystery Scene.

When we couldn't get a photo of Randy Wayne White that worked for the Winter #113 cover, we opted for artwork that reflected the plot of his new book which was about cave diving in Florida.

The photo was purchased from Photographers and artists put their work online and anyone can buy the images. The advantages are the huge variety and quality of the images, the disadvantage, of course, is that there is no way to know where else the image might pop up.

In a side note, a friend of mine in Indiana was contacted out of the blue by a New York publisher. They asked permission to use one of her photos from Flickr and, after some photoshopping, it appeared on the cover of Ridley Pearson's Killer View.

Vicki Delany said...

I don't know if this is a bad thing. The picture of the diver might stick in someone's mind, and when they see the book they'll pick it up.

Rick Blechta said...

I use iStock all the time for my clients. Rather than Getty or Comstock, you can get a good photo or other image for a very reasonable price. All it shows is that the designer of your cover knows how to pick effective photos.

I'm with Vicki on this. Right when my 4th novel, Shooting Straight in the Dark, came out, a crime fiction novel came out in the UK, and it was titled Shooting in the Dark. And guess what? It has a blind protagonist.

Now I notice that there's another CF novel out with that name.

Guess it proves I know how to pick a good title, although I took my title from the song of the same name by Mary Chapin Carpenter -- and yes, that has something to do with the plot, too.

Charles Benoit said...

That's the problem with stock photography - and why I always urge clients to splurge and buy a photo outright. They seldom do and, inevitably, within six weeks they are calling to say that they saw "their" photo in somebody else's brochure.