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Saturday, 8 September 2012

Never judge a book by its cover?


Oh, but it IS judged. So get it right!
by 
Cindy McDonald

I love the cover of Hot Coco. I was thrilled the way the designer, Todd Aune, placed the horses behind my name, and then to make the details complete, he put  Keystone on the saddle towels in the picture—you have to look close, but it is there. Keystone Downs is the fictitious name of the racetrack where the Unbridled Series takes place. This wasn’t the first cover, oh no, we adjusted the design four times before we decided upon this one.

The first one had the same two characters on the front, only she was clutching his gathered shirt in her hands, exposing his chiseled abs, whispering in his ear, as he gazed upon her longingly, clinging to every sultry word. Okay, at least that’s the way I interpreted the pose. It was hot! I was enamored! My publishing manager, Lauren Carr—God bless her—let me enjoy a full day of dancing around my living room in love with the really hot cover for HOT COCO, until she decided it was time to reason with me.

“If that’s the cover you want, that’s fine,” Lauren carefully began, “but I think it projects the wrong image for your book.” She took a deep breath, “This cover will insinuate that there is sex in the story. You don’t do sex scenes, Cindy your scenes are suggestive but not sexual. Therefore, some readers that are looking for erotica will be disappointed, and those readers that are not, won’t read the book because the cover gives them the wrong idea. You will have upset two groups of people that will never buy your books again.”

Drats! She was one hundred percent correct. The fact of the matter is you must choose your cover very carefully. You want to tell a story with your cover, but you don’t want to tell too much, and you certainly don’t want to tell the wrong one.

The back of your cover is just as important as the front. The information on the back can sell your book, or have the potential reader return it to the shelf. Not good.

A good blurb is essential. I’m rather tickled with the summation I’ve written for Hot Coco. It’s short, sweet, snappy, and pretty darned clever, if you ask me—I may be a bit biased. 

Am I thrilled with the blurb on the back of my other title, Deadly.Com? Mmmm, not so much. As a matter of fact, I’ve had people tell me that the synopsis is totally wrong for the book—one person told me that it gives too much away. Uh, oh, there’s something that you really don’t want to do—give away the ending of your book.

Believe it or not some authors have done just that. They write a very detailed synopsis that includes the ending, such as: And in the end, Charlatan wins the race to seize back Westwood Thoroughbred Farm’s reputation! Oh dear, why would anyone want to read the book now when the suspense has been ruined and they know who will win the race, and that Westwood will be exonerated? (BTW, I did not do that.)

Some authors believe that if they write a blurb that includes an uplifting ending, people will want to read the book to see how Charlatan wins the race, and to find out why the horse farm needed to be exonerated. I doubt it.  The reader will most likely bypass the book and move on to another with a synopsis that leaves them wondering how the story will end. It would be a better idea to write: Westwood’s future depends on the mighty grey gelding, Charlatan. But can he pull off the big win? 

Makes sense?

Confession: I keep a print of the original cover for HOT COCO on the bulletin board in my office. Why? Well to tell you the truth, because I really like it, and it was really hot. More importantly it is a reminder that the right cover, conveying the right message is crucial to good marketing.

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