PSA For Indie Authors – Part 3: Genres and Cover-art

Image Description: a picture of a wooden table with (from left to right in a clock-wise circle) a piece of paper, a pair of thick-framed black glasses, a pine cone, a dusty green-leather bound book, a green vintage type-writer, an open blank notebook, a wooden stick, a small tan-coloured rectangle with black writing on it and an empty glass ink-well.
This post is about self-promotion and marketing for Beginner Writers who want to write Genre Fiction or Genre novels, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, fair enough, feel free to pass on this post. This post will be covering basic tips and advice so this post may come across as stating the obvious, however, we all have to start somewhere.

I would recommend watching these YouTube Videos by Jenna Moreci
~How to Choose a Genre for your Book
~Marketing Basics for Writers
~Skills You Never Thought You’d Need as a Writer

I think one of the most important elements of writing is figuring out what type of book you’re writing, as the genre of your book will determine a lot about what type of book-marketing you’ll be engaging in, and which agents and/or publishers you plan to pitch to. Like Publishing houses, Literary Agents will usually have submission guidelines on available on their websites, so you should check those out first before you contact them.

One of the things that Literary Agents advise is to investigate the genre of books an Author is writing in. This is where the advice “read widely within your genre” comes into play, you need to read the good and bad books within your genre, and you need to be informed of the visual art-style that is associated with your genre.

For example: My Work-In-Progress novel series Pushing Boundaries comes under a hybrid category of Genre, it fits into the Contemporary Crime genre, so lets break those categories down and have a look at what type of Cover-art Style is involved in the Crime, Mystery and Contemporary genres.

~Goodreads: Crime

~Goodreads: Mystery

~Goodreads: Contemporary

When you examine certain genres, especially Crime and Mystery together, there’s a distinct trend of book-cover art displayed on the most popular novels. For example:

Crime:
~a vague silhouette of a person, usually from a distance
~empty wide-shot landscape pictures with One Point Perspective
~Large, bold, and brightly coloured book-title and author title
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.

Mystery:
~There’s a lot of overlap between Crime and Mystery, but Mystery covers tend to be more colourful in design, Crime tends to be a dark/bland cover with colourful text displayed on it to act as contrast.
~Partially obscured faces
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.

Contemporary:
~There’s strong and liberal use of colours to make the covers pop-out, the cover and title text are usually bright contrasting colours
~Models on covers are predominately female-coded or a cishet-coded male and female couple.
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.
~The predominate sub-genre of Contemporary is Young Adult, so the use of live models on covers are of 14-18 age-group.

Personally, I dislike the popular book-cover designs of Crime and Mystery, I think the Contemporary covers are much more eye-catching and engaging. In saying that, I have no idea what to make in the rising trend of displaying the back of a woman’s head, I have no idea how that could possibly convey to the reader what that particular book is about. I can only presume that The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Goddesses, and Everything We Keep are all very different books.

Now, it could be argued that best-selling authors like Chris Brookmyre and James Patterson can get away with unappealing book covers involving shadowy silhouettes, people are going to buy their books regardless, unfortunately not all aspiring writers will achieve James Patterson-level of success, so I would recommend putting some effort into the thought-process behind what the book cover should look like.

I’ll use my book-cover for Canis Major as a case-study (Kim made this for me, aren’t they amazing? Of course they’re amazing! You should check out their stuff).

Image Description: book cover of Canis Major - Volume I of the Pushing Boundaries series. The cover is picture of the constellation of Canis Major, as depicted in the Southern Hemisphere (the nose of Canis Major is positioned in a downward direction).

Canis Major:
~Point One: The design is a simple black and white colour scheme, easy for the reader to look at and comprehend

~Point Two: I’ve chosen the constellation of Canis Major (the Great Dog) for multiple reasons. Constellations are seasonal, so the constellation of Canis Major will look different in Southern Hemisphere countries, like Australia, than in comparison to Northern Hemisphere countries like the UK.

~Point Three: James, one of the main characters of my novel, has a special interest in Astronomy, he shares this special interest with his step-father Robert, it’s a bonding thing they have.

~Point Four: Another reason for the choice of Canis Major is because a big inspiration for writing this book was to address a lot of the problems and objections I had with the novel The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-time by Mark Haddon (here’s a review by Disability in Kidlit that goes into why this book is super problematic).

~Point Five: The theme of Constellations as book-cover art will apply to all the books in the Pushing Boundaries series, Volume II will be Orion (the constellation of Orion is right next to the constellation Canis Major) and Volume III will be Scorpius. I plan for Pushing Boundaries to be a trilogy but I’m aware that every time an Author declares their project a trilogy, it somehow turns into a trilogy of four.

~Point Six: My novel is a Contemporary Crime novel, so just like with a crime, you have to put together all the small points in order to see the bigger picture. See? It’s Deep and Meaningful.

Here’s the thing though, while I think this cover is great and it’s exactly what I wanted, is this particular book-cover design marketable? It’s generally recommended that authors get feedback from their target audience, which was something I didn’t do. Another element to consider is that, while I think Kim did a great job, I do need to acknowledge that Kim doesn’t specialise in Graphic Design, and that it’s generally recommended to authors that they hire a professional (here’s a list of book cover designers via The Creative Penn).

So, authors need to figure out what their genre is and research what books within that particular genre look like, however, just because a visual idea is popular within a particular genre, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good. Get some feed-back from your target audience and be willing to shell out some money for a professional book-cover designer.

If you’re an indie-author and you’ve got a .jpeg of a book cover, drop a link to the book-cover image in the comments section below and we can have a chat about the pros and cons of visual design.

Links:
~9 Tips to Building the Book Cover Design You Always Wanted by Jane Friedman

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s