Why cover artists are Gods and Goddesses…

I love cover art. I’ll admit it’s one of the first things that brings me up to a book and makes me grab it off the shelf. Only then do I look at the synopsis and the back blurb, flip through the pages and read a bit.

I’m *that* type of reader.

Which is why I love and worship those talented people who do cover art. I’ve seen some mighty BAD covers and I’ve seen some mighty FABOO covers over the years, going all the way back to when I worked as an editorial secretary for Penguin Books Canada.

Back then the art department consisted of two artists and a manager who worked wonders with their sketchpads (remember, this was in the 80’s and BEFORE computer programs took off) and came up with beautiful images for the books. But it was a long, complicated process of meetings and discussions and reworking images until it all came together to produce some wonderful covers.

One of my favorite stories is when we were working on Peter C. Newman’s history of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He wanted a certain image used on the cover of one volume and there was a problem – the canoe in the image just didn’t look right with the voyageurs looking to one side.

The cure? Flipping the image. The only way you’d know it wasn’t the original picture was the reversal of the HBC logo at the front of the canoe. It made the book even better.

Or Pierre Berton’s “Vimy”, an oral history of the epic WWI battle. After a lot of planning they settled on a purple cover with a poppy on the front. So little that said so much. Perfect.

With the introduction of such programs as Poser and Paintshop it’s become easier to produce covers and small presses have taken advantage of this to create some fine, fine images.

And… some awful, awful, ‘orrible book covers that shouldn’t have seen the light of day.

Exhibit one: Catherine Cookson’s backlist.

Take a minute. Get that blood out of your eyes. Please, take a minute.

Cover art is everything. Cover art will grab the reader before your words can and I thank God every day for the talented people I’ve had working on my behalf to create great cover art for my books.

Sure, my stories have to live up to the cover art. But without a good image I won’t even get a chance for the reader to pick it up and read a few words.

Think about it next time you grab a book in e-form or paperback. And send a silent thank-you to the cover artists who make magic happen for us authors with each and every creation.




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