I’m Dreaming of a Book Cover (Unlike the Ones I Already Own)

You can kind of sing that title to the tune of “White Christmas,” if you take a mind to. (And there’s still time to comment for one of the three Reader’s Choice giveaways this week–just scroll on down!)
Take my word for it: authors daydream about their book covers. I’m no exception. With the glimmer of my first book’s April 2012 release starting to shine out there on the horizon, I can only assume a cover will be forthcoming in the coming months. I can only assume mine will not be the first-ever Tor Books offering to be launched sans cover. Right? *nods head hopefully*
Royal Street, which will kick off my new urban fantasy series (“with romantic elements”), is set in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina. I’d been living in NOLA for more than a decade when the hurricane hit, and it broke my heart in a way I didn’t think was possible. Writing that first book was the way I eventually dealt with my own post-traumatic stress.
So to say that book, and that book cover, are personal to me is a serious understatement.
But see, here’s the thing about book covers. Unless they’re self-published or done by a very small publishing company, authors don’t have a whole lot of input on their covers—and that’s okay. I mean, the marketing folks and the artists know what appeals to readers and how to create it. I got to put in my two-cents’ worth. But left up to me, I’d have so many elements in there the cover would be a mess.
For example, it should be kind of dark and brooding and hurricane-like and reek of New Orleans. There should be beignets and Abita Beer and crawfish etouffee and streetcars and jazz and riverboats. And of course my little blonde wizard, DJ, needs to be on it. And the washboard ab-laden enforcer Alex. And his dead-sexy cousin Jake, who has dimples to drown in. Oh, and the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, and Louis Armstrong, and some voodoo gods and…Well, you get the picture.
So, in honor of my cover that doesn’t exist yet—believe me, you’ll see it shortly after I do—I thought I’d look at some of my favorite covers from the new releases coming up in March, and my least favorite. See what you think of them. In no particular order…

So, the Rob Thurman cover I like because while the character, Cal, looks like standard urban fantasy art, the shadowed cityscape in the background really draws me in and sets a mood. In the second book, Robyn Bachar’s Blood, Smoke and Mirrors, we finally get a different take on the kickass heroine. No tats, no skin showing, and how kickass is that? The third book, Penny Blubaugh’s Blood and Flowers, fascinates me. It’s both creepy and lovely. I’d so totally pick this up in a bookstore. (And I’m not gonna talk about the books because we’ll do that when they’re released!)

How about this group? Steven Erikson’s finale to his Malazan series, The Crippled God, does what I think a lot of fantasy covers miss: it looks epic and dramatic without being cartoony. I haven’t read this series, but this cover kind of makes me wish I was more of a fantasy reader than I am. The center one, Alex Bledsoe’s Dark Jenny, is great for the story it isn’t telling. The hero, Eddie, doesn’t look kickass. He looks anguished and regretful, and I want to know why. The cover of Tim Waggoner’s Dead Streets is just cool. If anything would make me pick up a zombie book, this cover might do it.

Ooh, some of  my favorites for March. The cover of Cat Adams’ Demon Song just creeps me out with the orange glowing eyes, already. So simple, yet mesmerizing–like a siren. Hmm…And by God if you’re going to have some hot guy with abs on the cover, put a blindfold on him. I mean, yum. Finally, Evercrossed is just striking, with its multicolored rose on that stark background.

YA books seem to have a lot of the really good covers, and I haven’t figured out why yet. But Gwen Hayes’ Falling Under is a good example. The black-on-black rose in the background, with the girl in red sprawling from the top of the image? Very cool. Patricia Briggs’ River Marked, sixth in the Mercy Thompson series, is up to the standards I’ve come to expect from these covers. I’m not convinced this is quite what Mercy looks like, but at least they’re consistent with the model and the mood, and it always works. Steel, from Carrie Vaughn, is another YA, and the simple image makes me ask that magical question: What’s that about? Final group…

This is sort of my “second-tier” group. I really like these covers, just not quite as well as the others. Saundra Mitchell’s The Vespertine is another great YA cover, and I love the earthtones, the dress, and the typeface on the title–it all screams Period Piece to me. The Wise Man’s Fear, probably the most-anticipated fantasy next month along with the Erikson book, also delivers lots of mood, with the solitary figure at the end of a medieval-looking dark alley. And finally, because I’m a sucker for icy blue-white and wolves, Wolfsangel does it for me with the snow-covered wolf at the top and the warriors at the bottom. I’m usually not a fan of blended-image covers but this one works, I think.
What do I not like? Well, I hate to say it because this is one of my all-time favorite series, if not THE favorite, and I’m jumping up and down awaiting the March 29 release, but here it is:

I am just not a fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood covers. I always feel as if I’m looking at stock photography with a colored wash on it. But maybe I’m missing the charm and I sure am never disappointed by what’s INSIDE the cover! Between this and the new Mercy Thompson book, I am a Happy Camper in March!

What do you like to see on a book cover? What do you hate? Are you tired of washboard abbed-guys without heads on paranormal romance and tattooed chicks with their backs turned on your urban fantasy? Do you have a favorite? Let’s talk covers!
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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

9 thoughts on “I’m Dreaming of a Book Cover (Unlike the Ones I Already Own)

  1. I like the cover for Blood Smoke and Mirrors. It really caught my eye. I’m tired of dark covers with just the main character on them. I’m also tired of all of the covers featuring tatoos. I find that I tend to gravitate to brighter covers that catch my eye.

  2. I’m sort of an I know what I like when i see it kind of person. I like the cover to suit the book. My least favorite covers for books I’m fond of are the first two Mark Henry covers. I think they convey the wrong idea of the books and was relieved to hear him say that himself when he came to town recently for a signing. It’s sad because people do judge a book by its cover and they could have done something much more appropriate to reach out to the right market for those books.

  3. @Becky…That would be for Happy Hour of the Damned and Road Trip of the Living Dead? I noticed the new one, Battle of the Network Zombies, has a different look–more of a humorous illustration instead of the generic kickass chick photo. Wonder if he got some input into that?

    @Nicole. That is one of my pet peeves! Recently read a book where the hero has long dark hair and the cover featured a buzz-cut blond guy. I mean, how hard is that to get right?

  4. According to him he had no input and the publisher has pulled the series at this point. Just a sad case all around — and yes, that third cover was a much better representation. I thought they would do new treatments for the first two when they re-released in mass market, but they didn’t. They look like romance novels when in fact they’re snarky and raunchy paranormal humor. Much more appealing to a Christopher Moore fan than the typical paranormal romance fan those covers were aiming for.

  5. I love the cover for Evercrossed. So pretty! I really like the cover on The Vespertine too. I’m not sure what it is about the covers that catch my eye. Sometimes I like pretty covers, and other times I like a cover that gives you more insight into the story (though I know you should never judge a book by its cover, right?).