A lot of our blogs are coming from questions from ya’ll and from other readers on other blogs, and today is no exception. This blog is from a question by Rich Rennicks on a sifi/fantasy group at yahoo http://firstname.lastname@example.org about how a pub selects the direction to point an entire series, and more specifically, how they direct the readers of fantasy into a specific direction via cover art.
Market trends and cover art are all decided by the marketing department at a pub with input by editors. In the contract, a writer agrees to provide a polished manuscript that the publisher wants. This means that rewrites are usually a must, and a writer who refuses to follow guidelines, especially in this market, might not last long.
Sometimes an editor will guide a writer in the wrong direction, sometimes he/she will hit the nail. Just like in RL, not all decisions are right.
I’ve had baaaaaad cover art, more notably the book that looks like horror—flames burning down a deserted mental institution, while a man walks calmly out of the flames and a gurney burns in the background. It was supposed to be a medical thriller. The pub had the book placed on the romance aisle. Did it sell? Ummmm. No. Bad decision by the marketing dept. Baaaaaad.
Most books’ sub genres are pretty obvious from cover art. Take the basic scene of an impossible, un-airbrushed, buxom beauty crawling over a man with unlikely six-pack abs. Romance, yes?
Add in handcuffs and chains and a hint of blood, and one clearly has a different sub genre—erotica with an S&M angle.
Same original art with a hint of fangs becomes paranormal romance.
Same original art with a dragon in the sky and ship in the back ground, or a magical staff glowing with blowing ether, or with swords and a jolly roger and on and on.
Rich’s question came because the sub genre of the Rogue Mage series, my own first fantasy series, was presented in two *very* — and I mean *very* different manners.
The covers of the TP (trade paperback) versions each depicted the six-pack abs, but each ab package was on a naked man with wings and a sword. Very pretty naked men, each with a stern expression on his face. Wings and sword made him a seraph of judgment. In Rich’s opinion, the covers were for paranormal romance, and he passed on the books. Then thy came out in MM PB (mass market paperback) with a tough chick holding a gun and edged weapons, and he picked them up and liked them. He noted that the MM and TP each appealed to very different audiences. Rich wanted to know why the pub started off in one direction and then changed. The answer is that the market changed after the series was purchased and during the writing of it.
I sold the series based on 3 chapters and a proposal, so my editor at the time had a lot of input in the crafting the storyline in terms of market trends. I originally intended the series for dark urban fantasy, with a bit more forbidden sex in it, the sex to start in BloodRing, book one.
While I was writing book one, my editor asked me to cool it down, as there was a lot of anger and unhappiness building at another urban fantasy writer for leaving her urban roots and going for more erotica. So, I never wrote the first sex scene at all, though parts of it ended up in book three, Host. The only real sex scene came in book two, Seraphs, and it was toned way down. I held off on the institution and resolution of other sexual relationships, concentrating on building sexual tension, until books four through six. (Assuming there will be more in the series. With the market so unpredictable, it’s hard to tell if the pub will ask for more books.)
Was my editor’s decision to tone down the sex and then to put an angel on the cover of the trade PBs wise? Changing cover styles certainly brought me two very different readerships and that was what she intended. In the case of the Rogue Mage, more sexual freedom starting at the end of book one would have balanced out the fighting and given the main character a softer side, which had to be developed in other ways. And while the winged covers were beautiful and lots of people ooohed over them, I think the urban image fits the storyline better. But all that is IMHO, and we all have those. (smiles) And I have no idea if something else might have worked better.
Any horror stories or comments from ya’ll? Thoughts about cover art and other trends?