A few days ago I had a brief Twitter conversation with @SueGrimshaw, and at one point she noted something along the lines of “we have the most fun” – we being editors and artists. This coming on the heels of a post on @JodyHedlund’s blog, “Book Covers: Are They Important in the Digital Age?” got me thinking about this aspect of my work.
I asked myself “Do I have fun doing cover art?”. The answer came back to me as a “Yes!” – although admittedly it took some thinking through to be certain. To answer the question from Jody’s blog, I believe that cover art is important, perhaps even moreso in the digital age than the old times of just physical books.
This is where the “fun” and the “important” merge together.
Cover artists (whether freelancers or part of a House’s art department, traditional digital or 3D/animators) have a critical role to play in book marketing. We’re the guy stood at the flap to the tent, top hat and cane, a twinkle in his eye and a knowing grin showing whiter-than-white teeth, the barker at the carny, the hook to catch those wandering by.
It’s our artwork, our imagining of the book that becomes of the cover, that catches people’s attention and drags them in closer so the back cover blurb can snare them and drag them to their doom (well OK, the checkout – be it physical or Amazon).
To be able to craft that cover, the call of the barker to begin with, we (or at least I) get to read what we’re creating that art for, in order to build that imagery that captures the reader’s eye – the teaser, or the flash of shapely thigh. That might not seem like fun (and sometimes the constraints of a particular job can preclude any fun being had), but think about it for a moment …
The author puts their heart into creating written words that paint many pictures, describe whole worlds, people, things. We, as cover artists, can have the chance to take their written pictures and try to create one actual picture to match. Some of the things we get to imagine and visualize are amazing, so that’s fun!
It’s also somewhat critical – In today’s digital age, people are used to near-instant gratification, instant results. It’s human nature for people to “scan” until something catches their eye. so it takes a lot to grab their attention. Online booksales have the whole panopoly of sales tools – reviews, recommendations etc – but the trick is to get people to stop and look at a book’s page to read those reviews in the first place.
Yeah, I think you’ve started to see the big picture1.
That’s why the cover is even more important now than when books were only over a counter, or a magazine. It’s harder now, creating good, eye catching cover art, because of having to cater to multiple image sizes and media – hardcopy, Kindle copies, eBooks, or even simple .PDF files – and the attention span of potential customers is reduced by the sheer volume of information they see on your average web page, but that’s where the fun comes in as too.
Well OK, on that last point I might be in a minority seeing it as even remotely being fun, but I’m also a geek – too many hats baked my sensibilities out I guess
Cover artists are, at the end of the day, showmen – an essential part of the team supporting an author and helping market their work. We get to show off our skill and imaging of the stories authors are telling, and draw you in, prime you to enter the world they’ve created.
I’d call that fun, wouldn’t you?
Wait, what was that Sir? I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you, come a little closer and speak up!
What about the post’s title, you ask? Never fear, my good sir, for all shall be revealed – in the book
- The quickest route between two puns is a straight line [↩]