Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Talking covers with Brent Hartinger

Today we're lucky enough to have Brent Hartinger, author of Shadow Walkers, here to share a bit about his cover process and his input! I love hearing about how much say authors have into their gorgeous covers. Let's see what he has to say...

I'm sure you've been told by other authors how we have little or no control over our book covers -- even though we're so closely associated with them. I always say it's a little like how they play the theme song to certain sitcom stairs whenever they go anywhere for the rest of their life. Imagine how the cast of Friends must hate that song!

So it's always with a little trepidation when I get my book covers. I've had some great ones, and a couple so-so ones (and one that was outright horrible, but thankfully I got that changed).

A good cover isn't just a good cover -- it's a good cover for the particular book. Does the cover accurately reflect what's inside?

The thing that I think is weird in book publishing is how cover design goes in "waves." One year "faces" are in, then the next year they're out. And everyone is looking at everyone else, seeing what's selling, trying to decide how they want their covers to be. I was walking by the paranormal romance section at Barnes and Noble yesterday, and every single cover looks exactly like every other one.

Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't you think publishers would want their covers to be different from all the others, at least a little?

Which brings me to my cover, which I think is a good example of being enough like other covers to look contemporary, but different enough to look different. Obviously, faces are definitely in right now, but my cover is a little more complicated than just the close-up-on-an-angst-y face, which is so in vogue right now.

But with Shadow Walkers, I was given the cover really, really early, which is great, because I was able to tinker with the book a bit. Most covers are done with clip-art these days -- sometimes they still do photo-shoots, but not very often.

Anyway, once I saw the face on the cover, I was able to rewrite Zach's actual description a little and, more importantly, I saw that the artist had made a lighthouse a prominent feature. There was a lighthouse in the original book, but it was mostly just a throwaway. I was able to rewrite the book a bit and make the lighthouse much more important to the story.

It's perhaps not the best cover I've ever had -- that would probably be The Last Chance Texaco or Geography Club, which people still rave about. But I think it's very good.


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