“Shadows on the Grass” being on the verge of publication this has greatly exercised my mind.
Conventional wisdom appears to dictate that covers must signal the genre. This of course is good marketing. A potential reader knows exactly what sort of book they are buying by the cover. All well and good you might think.
However, with the rise of the generic cover I am not too sure about this approach. As I see it and I’ve spent a lot of time looking at book covers over the past few years, books that all look the same, do their writers no good.
The image on the front says, thriller, or romance, historical novel, but since one book looks very much like another how do you make up your mind which one to choose.
The answer: pick the author you already know.
Great for the established writer. Generic cover, name in large font, job done.
Not so good for someone starting out. Why should I buy a book by a writer I know nothing about when the same type of book by an established author is easily available. By choosing them over the unknown I am sure of a good read and money well spent.
To be honest, covers are so similar that we might as well go back to the days of Penguin who used a simple colour scheme, two solid bands of colour sandwiching a band of white, as very general way of identifying the genre of the book. Green covers were generally for crime novels, cerise (or pink to some) was travel and adventure, dark blue were biographies, red for drama, purple for essays, and yellow was for miscellaneous titles that did not fit into any of the above categories. The most common and most famous colour scheme was orange for Penguin’s fiction. Those iconic and instantly recognisable novels were found on every reader’s bookshelf from World War II to the Swinging Sixties.
These colour-coded books were not only inexpensive to manufacture but they were a marketing masterstroke. Everyone could spot a Penguin book from 20 yards away. Even today, decades after Penguin stopped issuing those designs, the orange paperbacks stand out from the crowd in every used bookshop.
Simple effective and no long hours spent on finding the “perfect” cover.
Since this is not an option for me, I’ve decided to go rogue. My covers feature original art work. My sister Anuk Naumann lets me use her image and her paintings are turned into covers by the very talented Peter Coleborn. Thanks to them the covers of “Picking up the Pieces” and now “Shadows on the Grass” are certainly unique and catch the eye in any pile of best sellers.