Friday, March 26, 2010

Which Cover?

Here’s a couple of question that have come up on Twitter: what kind of cover puts you off a fantasy or science fiction book? I also wonder about the reverse: in both genres, what kind of cover catches your eye and makes you turn the book over to take a look at the blurb, or maybe read a bit of the first page?

Here’s a section from an interview I’m doing now for the Mad Hatter, which seems relevant:

MH: Tor UK has been recently re-releasing many of your books with new cover art, which I must say are usually outstanding. I've noticed they're usually going with some sort of crazy looking monster-alien creature popping off the page. Before I had read The Skinner I thought they'd be a crazy Horror/Sci-Fi mash-up, while they are clearly more than that were you going for a Horror feel at all. Do many of the stories involve monsters of a sort?

Neal Asher: Yes, many of my stories involve monsters, some of which, of course, are human. I don’t think the intention was to go for a horror feel to the books, since the horror market is not exactly in the rude health it was in twenty or so years ago. I think here we have more of a case of unashamed cover design. This is science fiction, this is science fiction with aliens, big guns and weird robots and, no matter what any myopic twits in the publishing industry might think, we are not going to have a still-life cover featuring a rose and a handgun.

MH: I think fans appreciate it. You can only have so many ephemeral space stations and ringed world covers...

And here’s some Facebook replies, fantasy first:

Jesper Krogsgaard: If it's all light, bright and glamour I usually stay 100 miles away. It has to be at least a bit gritty - unless it's a comedy.

Colin Strawbridge: Generic ‘bodice ripper’ type pictures are a big turn off.

Stuart McMillan: Heaving bosoms and demure damsels keep my wallet *in* my pocket. Saying that, great chested men with giant weapons are equally a turn-off.

Andy Plumbly: Typical bright colours and a generic character on the front. Saying that....Gridlinked originally caught my eye because of it's snazzy cover (the green one). Loving all the newer covers of yours too!

And now SF:

Jesper Krogsgaard: Ewoks. Cute and fuzzy. Using conventional pictures doesn't provide enough mystery unless you twist it. Again, like with fantasy, I like it gritty, dark and dangerous.

Colin Strawbridge: I think the typefaces used are more important than pictures; Gollancz have managed pretty well all these years without resorting to lurid graphics.One thing i find especially disconcerting is when they put celebrity reviewers names in much larger print than the actual author.

What do all you reading this think?


Kirby Uber said...

the comments posted i agree with. the generic "could be anything" covers, that are little more than bodice rippers with some after the fact "ray guns" slapped on are a deal breaker.

a concept image of a ship/non-human character/ in those bold colors that are "gritty" and "techy" are attention grabbers.

the abstract design with sci/fi pseudo technology patterns sometimes used as background filler i am also quite fond of.

Mark T Croucher said...

Sure nobody judges a book by the cover do they?

How come the bible does not have a new cover? Judas with a huge fuck off blade dripping with claret and corpses of the disciples strewn around the floor. Maybe a thought?

Xanares said...

It's not about judging it Mark, it's about catching attention and piquing curiosity.

The same way with any scribble on the back or elsewhere.

It's a package after all and if you have absolutely no clue what's in it (and who the author is), a package that appeals to you just sells better.

You already know what the Bible is about and you probably don't need bloody corpses and smoking ruins to accompany Homer's Iliad for you to be interested in it either.

That said, if they did some really bad cover of e.g. a classic book I wanted I would be less inclined to buy it.

Now, this is all about conscious decision so all the subconscious processing (the vast majority) that's going on in our brain is totally unaccounted for hehe.

Bob Lock said...

I hated the WOT covers, they were nothing like how I imagined the characters to be. The scaling was way off too IMHO, the heroes seemed to be riding Shetland ponies.

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

ya, those celeb reviewers "so and so is a hot item, one that has changed the face of many a tea cozey, for the next millinium!". there's nothing about the book i'm holding, usually means the book didnt hook anyone to write anything positive about it, and save face.

shitty Lem covers kill my brains:

i like this guy, wish he did more fantastic stuff:

Ian Miller, Foss, Russell Mills, Bernie Wrightson, Virgil Finlay and this guy:

are some faves. not into human faces so much tho. or funny nose humans for that matter like what you see in star trek francheese.

Unknown said...

Paul Lehr is, far and away, my
favorite SF artist/illustrator;
every piece by him I have seen
evokes the sense of wondrous
strangeness that is the
essential core of the SF

I admit to having, on more
than one occasion, purchased
an SF book largely on the
basis of a Lehr illustration
on the front cover.

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

oh hell ya, Paul Lehr. would love to have his stuff burned into my face if i had a choice of book covers to walk around with (if) all my sins remembered.

Neal Asher said...

Kirby, the 'could be anything' covers are for those ashamed of their guilty pleasure, I think.

Mark, , as Xanares says, I usually judge first by the writer, but the cover may make me check out the blurb on the back of a book by a writer I don't know.

I'd judge the bible by its thickness, and which table leg needed wedging up.

Bob, never really looked at them. Is that wheel still turning?

Ian and Vaude, I'll have to check this Lehr out.

ILTYT_Adventure said...

I bought my first Asher bassed on the Brassman stretched and tortured cover and haven't looked back. It just pulled me in.

My partner seeing a spaceship on the cover of Saga of The Seven Suns books bought me the first two, they were utter shite and I stopped two thirds through the second.

Had I seen the covers and read the blurb I may well have been sucked in to buying them.

So all things being equal. Cover art does influence my purchase, but I would have a hell of a time defining what the X factor is.

Look at the covers of the various incarnations of LOTR, The originals and the movie based ones. I own the modern black covers with the small glifs and wouldn't touch the movie snapshot cover with a shitty stick.

It a very difficult thing to define. But well worth the study.

Wrathex said...

I don't really care that much initially about the cover, as I've always been attracted to first the backpage - reading the summary and then the info about the author.

However there have been times that the cover has been a source of great attraction and mystery to me, where I would gaze at the cover in amazement every now and then whilst reading, sometimes because the art was so good or sometimes because it made no sense and sometimes to strengthen the imagined world of the story.

Covers that allude to sex does however put me off, SF is a welcome respite from the ever increasing bombardment of sexual images in the media to me personally. - However in the early days of what was called pulp SF, many books had sexy covers, long before the broader media did, and in those days it was more forgivable ;)

Alex Cull said...

I agree with Wrathex re sexual images on the covers, I don't like that; for one thing it makes reading on the train a potentially somewhat embarrassing experience.

My favourite covers? These would have to be the old bright yellow jackets for the Gollancz SF hardbacks. It's a bit of a nostalgia thing with me.