Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Agents, Dialogue, and Book Covers

Starting with Dialogue
The last two posts have generated discussion on whether or not to start novels with dialogue. I read a recent article HERE on Guide to Literary Agents by the agent Jon Sternfeld of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency. He doesn't represent MG or YA, but he talks about things in a query that are automatic deletes for him. He says:

"I’m not a fan of dialogue as the opener (though my more commercial fiction colleagues say this isn’t such a no-no). Nevertheless, I tend to delete manuscripts that open with a line of dialogue (esp. one with an exclamation point) and those whose opening line “dumps” exposition."

The point being, why limit your chances or risk an automatic delete by sending your work to an agent who may think this way? (At least do your research to find out if they dislike dialogue openers or not.) Mr. Sternfeld goes on to say that since querying by email is the norm now, agents are more inundated than ever with queries and sample pages, and they are on the lookout for ways to let them decide quickly if a project is worth taking on.

BOOK COVERS
Have you ever visualized the cover of your fledgling novel, or the illustrations of your picture books if you write those? A lot of writers have--I certainly have. A striking and compelling cover is necessary for the following reasons:

1. It is often the first thing buyers see, that either draws them to the book or fails to catch their eye. Whether the image is online, printed in a purchasing flyer/magazine, or displayed on a hard-copy book in a store, there is no denying that certain covers evoke a stronger connection than others. Of course, it's often subjective as to what makes a "good" cover or a compelling image.

2. Covers give an indication of what a book is about. This is very important. Publishers in the past have been under fire and/or reissued a cover because of inaccurate representation. For instance, a main character on a cover. You may be aware that last January 2010, Jaclyn Dolamore's novel, MAGIC UNDER GLASS came out with the MC is described as black-haired and brown-skinned. So why was there a brown-haired, white-skinned girl on the cover?  

In 2009, Justine Larbalestier's novel LIAR came out with a cover depicting a long-haired white girl rather than a short-haired black girl, which the story is about. The cover had to be reissued to correct this.

3. Covers give a tone and a mood to a book. Therefore, it is crucial that it depicts the proper atmosphere and details. Paranormal books must look dark and edgy, light and humorous contemporary books must look well, light and humorous. (Okay, as a writer I can do better than that with my adjectives…um, how about playful and bright?)

4. Covers have design elements that catch one's eye--or not. Designing a cover involves the careful use of color, textures, font size, font style, and composition. If the font on a cover is too difficult to read, whether from style or lack of color contrasts, potential buyers may pass up the book. Colors also elicit underlying emotional responses: blue is calming, red is invigorating/powerful/ intense. Complementary colors accentuate each other and add vibrancy; this means pairing blue with orange, red with green, yellow with violet (this is why greens are often placed in the meat section of your grocery store--it makes the meat look redder). Diagonal lines indicate energy and draw the eye in, while horizontal lines are more serene and peaceful. It all depends on the type of book and the effect the graphic designer wishes to produce.

NOTE: All this isn't to make you feel anxious about your potential cover and whether it will help sell your book. After all, publishers hire book designers who are professionals and generally very good at what they do!

However, the importance of having an accurate and striking cover is all the more reason to be represented by an AGENT. An agent can plead your cause for you if your cover totally misrepresents your writing; he or she can give you extra leverage for change if it is needed.

YOUR TURN
Have you ever visualized the cover of your book(s)?
Have you ever mocked up an actual design for the cover of your book(s)?
Do you ever worry about the cover of your future published book cover?
If you are a published author, are you pleased with your cover(s)? Is it an accurate representation of your book, and a compelling image?

29 comments:

  1. To be honest with you - I haven't visualized my cover for the very reason that book designers will do it, so I don't want to be disappointed. All I know is that I don't want black, there are too many black covers now.

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  2. sadly I do visualize what I want. Sad because I know that it is highly unlikely that the actualy cover will at all resemble what I want.

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  3. I haven't got a clue what would be good for my cover. But I hope it will be a good representation of the story. I have the original cover for Magic Under Glass and didn't really make the connection for quite a while. Then it was just a passing "huh. Weird." thing. But it is a little distracting after you notice something like that.

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  4. I try very hard to not start anything with dialogue - I heard some good advice about that, saying that starting with dialogue drops the reader into a scene with a character he/she knows nothing about and can possibly cause an emotional disconnect for the reader (or something like that..). Makes sense to me, though. And I haven't really thought about a cover for my novel yet. Maybe I should? Visualize and it will happen sooner? :)

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  5. I've got a graphic design certification, so can't lie, I've definitely thought about it. There are a few possibilities bumping around in my head. ;)

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  6. This week I actually created a folder on my laptop to collect covers that appeal to me. It's just to see if I pick up on any trends (I have) but in an ideal world it would be great if I could have these suggestions to hand in case of emergency i.e. publication. I think the artist and idealist in me would struggle not to be a little hands on with the cover, but that is the least of my publication worries!
    - Sophia.

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  7. I have had fleeting thoughts about my cover, but nothing more than that. I'm too far from that point!

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  8. Great topic!

    I have, what I call, daydreamed about my future novel cover. I pray that when it comes out (yes, because in my daydream I've already accomplished the agent garnering and publishing contract negotiations) that it looks more paranormal than romance. I want it to look a little edgier and dark than a nicely muscled naked male torso with no head!

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  9. Great tips- I'm fine either way of books starting with dialogue. It doesn't really bother me. If it draws me in, then I'm game. I'm glad they are making covers that actually depict the main character. I have a main character who his dark skinned and dark haired, and I would hope they'd put that image on the cover if he's on it.

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  10. Having a graphic design background I can't help but visualise my cover, though I've not mocked one up. I know I probably won't like anything anyone else designs because I'll be too picky. lol.

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  11. I can honestly say I've never visualized the cover of my book, it's just never crossed my mind. I guess I'm not an artsy person. But I do love a great book cover and I'll definitely be influenced to buy a book if I love the cover.

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  12. I think cover is important and yes I have mocked up my own cover.

    As to whether or not I think you start a book with dialogue, I think it depends on the dialogue. But, I can see why many hate it.

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  13. The cover is so important. Often, it's what draws me to a new author. And, I didn't know about the dialogue thing, so thanks!

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  14. I have mock covers of the project I'm querying and my wip. I just did them for fun.

    Other than that, I haven't visualized my cover. That's what art directors are for. :D

    Covers are very important to me. A great cover will compel me to pick up the book. But a great burb and first page will compel me to buy the book.

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  15. Out of all my WIPS only one I've visualized a cover for and only because my daughter is the one who said it first how she imagined it. (how she imagined it was actually really good) Otherwise, I don't think about that at all.

    I'm glad you said more about dialog because I think there really are a lot of agents that don't like it.

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  16. An agent told me the same thing about dialogue at a conference last year. When I asked around later, ALL of the published writers I spoke to dismissed her advice and told me it was just one person's preference. Conflicting information, but I think I will keep dialogue for the second paragraph for now ;) Gotta listen to the ones who can make the writing dream a reality!

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  17. This is sooo great. I've been thinking a lot about covers lately-- especially since one BIG bookstore said that the reason they bought my book is because they liked the cover artwork. EEK! I'm so grateful that my artist/designer captured what I wanted in my cover... I know that often that doesn't happen! This is a great post!

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  19. I totally have a cover in mind for my book! And those covers above were so wrong when they were whitewashed. I like them far better afterwards.
    :)

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  20. Covers are so tricky. My book started off with one cover, but when it wasn't selling to the market it should have been, the cover changed. Then sales really increased! Crazy how much it makes a difference.

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  21. Oh yeah, I do have it in my head!

    I still can't believe what happened with that LIAR cover (I liked that book by the way)!

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  22. I've had three books published, and I've been generally pleased with the covers. My publisher has managed to capture the tone of the book as well as present an image that's representative of it.

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  23. I have thought of the cover but I know that someone else will be designing it if I ever get a contract:) I think that's funny about those books and they got it wrong. Didn't the writer catch it??

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  24. I don't often visualize the cover because I know someone else is going to design, however I have a collage of ideas in mind for keeping my story on track, and these include, a sword, a circle of swords of varying colors, a griffin team - griffin and rider, a volcano and a sword made out of lava (don't know how realistic that is, but hey it's my imagination), a sea serpent towering over a young woman who is brandishing her sword with her back to the reader, wearing brown pants of knicker length, leather boots, a green shirt, a breastplate of gold that include a back plate, with her hair in a low ponytail. So I've got some visual images that help guide and shape my writing . . . but I don't know if they'll ever make a cover.

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  25. I've thought of a book cover *blushes* but never mocked one up. As a reader, I do look at a cover and read the blurb on the jacket before reading it. Maybe that's not fair, but it is a habit.

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  26. I'm not much of a visual artist, so I don't spend a lot of time imagining my books as they would look published with cover art. And I'm never satisfied with the titles I dream up, so I try to block that part from my vision (I need to consult w/ somebody clever). I imagine my name on the cover, though. How narcissistic is that!

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  27. Very interesting about the covers!

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  28. I often pick up a book because I love the cover. It's very important.

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  29. I was asked what I visualized for my covers, but almost nothing was used. Luckily, I was happy with the covers. A striking cover is more likely to make me pick up a book. Cartoony covers do draw my eyes, but I'm not likely to pick up those books.

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