Questions for Readers

This morning, between phone calls and the latest in a line of repairmen, I sat down to blog.The moment I did, the bane of so many writers’ existence hit — no, not writer’s block but the cat. Actually, in my case, the cats. Both decided they wanted to be in my lap. It didn’t matter the laptop was in my lap. No, they wanted there and they were willing to fight — one another and me — for the privilege. As a wise two-legged who has been owned by cats most of my life, I did the only smart thing possible. I carefully removed them and, promising them treats, made my escape to the kitchen where I opened a can of stinky food. Now, with them happily nomming in the other room, the dog asleep, let’s see if I can get this post finished before something else decides to interrupt me.

First up, book covers. I’ve been thinking about this a great deal of late. Partly because I am working on the expanded edition of Vengeance from Ashes and that will require a new cover, one the differentiates it from the original version. Another reason I’ve been thinking about it is because Sarah posted a cover in a discussion group the other day that in no way, shape or form signaled genre. Then I came across this post, via The Passive Voice.

So here’s my question for you. Do you care what sort of paper a book cover is printed on or are you more interested in the visuals of the cover itself? When shopping for an e-book, especially if it is not a book you are particularly looking for, how much impact does the cover have on you stopping to read the blurb?

Here are a couple of other questions to consider: do you get upset if the cover art doesn’t accurately depict the main character (assuming the MC is depicted on the cover)? How likely are you to stop and read the blurb if you are looking for particular genre but the cover signals something else?

Yes, there is a reason I’m asking these questions (well, one other than the fact the repairman is making so much noise I can barely think and the cats are back from their stinky food, looking as if they are about to restart the fight over who gets to sit in my lap).

Moving on. I saw a post on FB the other day where it seems GRRM has said he might — MIGHT — have the next book out next year. Sometime. Maybe.

So here’s my question. As a reader, do you lose interest in a series if an author takes too long between books? How long is too long? For myself, I can give an established author a year or two between books, especially if I can see they have other titles coming out. But an author who doesn’t put anything out, or very little, but who enjoys the life of being famous will lose my interest pretty quickly.

I worry when I go a year or a bit longer between books in a series. Yes, I have several different series going and tend to have a new book out every 3 to 4 months. Still, I worry that my readers will move on to other books if I don’t get new books out on a fairly regular basis. I have a hard time understanding those authors, especially the ones with more than enough money to live well and not worry about where the next rent check is coming from, who don’t write. Okay, if you’re blocked, move on to another project. If you’re tired of the series, say so and do a quick story that ties it all up. Or just say you won’t be writing anything else in the series. Sure, you’ll piss off some readers but at least it is better than stringing them along.

And no, GRRM isn’t the only one to do this. He is just the most recognizable for most of us.

Speaking of waiting for the next book in the series to come out, what are your thoughts about books that end in cliffhangers? What about those authors who end book after book with Charlie hanging off the edge of the cliff? Will the other characters arrive in time when the next book is published to save him? What if the series is cancelled? Will poor Charlie be left on that cliff for the rest of literary history?

Yes, there is a purpose for all the questions. Let me know what you think. thanks!

Oh, and don’t forget Nocturnal Rebellion is available for pre-order.


  1. Cover: Yes, I assume the MC looks like the picture and dislike when I find out it’s not the case.. No, I don’t care that much about the cover fitting the genre. I pick books by the blurb. That said, if the character on the cover is holding a gun, there better be a shootout in the book 🙂 If the cover art is highly stylized, that’s different, but I expect realistic scenes from the cover to actually happen.

    Series: Yes, I might lose interest only because there’s so much out there to read. Also if it’s a story that’s big on world-building or has many characters, getting back into it 2-3-4 years later is a lot of work. It may be worth it, or it may not. Brandon Sanderson can get away with it. Joe Nobody, probably not.

    Cliffhangers: Not a fan. It works for serials, but 500-page book? Give your reader some respect and provide at least some closure.

  2. As far as “how long will I wait for the next book” – for the longest time, I would only read completed series, or those that were close to completion. Now, I feel that if I don’t have a new volume every 18 months or so, I will lose interest.
    I’m a sucker for a scary cover, one that suggests something terrifying is lurking in the shadows. If the blurb doesn’t remotely match it, we have a problem. There should at least be a vague resemblance between the character as described and as pictured; don’t have a non-descript everyman in the book and a Greek god on the cover.
    Cliffhangers are good, but only if you are pumping out the next book in fairly short order. Don’t leave me hanging for five years.

  3. Covers do lead me to click on a blurb by an unknown author. I’ve realized I’m drawn to blues, and I will click on any science fiction book with a pretty blue in its cover. If I know I like an author, there’s no need for a blue cover. I suspect I’m an outlier, and no one should go blue just because of me.

    Cliffhangers are annoying.

    Series. I made the mistake of telling my sons–who love Jim Butcher–that the sequel to his steampunk hasn’t even been written yet. They’ve decided to wait to read the first one of that series. I’m a little that way myself, but not totally. It’s much more immersive to find a series that’s got a lot of books in it than to wait for each book, and a lot of people know that.

  4. With an unknown author, if the title and/or cover doesn’t “pull me in”, then I don’t look at the blurb. (Note, unknown here includes “nobody has told me about the author”.)

    Of course, the covers for the Hidden Legacy novels (by Ilona Andrews) “shout” romance and if I didn’t know who the authors were, I might have passed on the novels.

    So the “title/cover rule” can fool you. 😉

    1. Paul if you think the covers for Hidden Legacy are off putting to readers you should go to the blog/webpage of the writers they couldn’t/can’t stand them either.

  5. Covers: As long as it looks like something close to the story/genre and is done well. All is good.
    Series: Long time between books is 4 years and no more money for the author (GRRM and one time Robert Jordan). One year, two years I can handle. When it starts extending beyond that and I have to restart the whole damned series again to get an idea of what’s going on? Forget it. I don’t have the time or the time to be waiting and rereading stuff like that.
    Cliffhangers: Good once in awhile, as long as the wait period isn’t like the above. Something that will drag me back if it’s a good hanger and not something used to try to suck me back in.
    And that’s my buck fifty on the questions. 🙂

  6. more interested in the visuals of the cover
    e-book — the cover draws me in and I look at the blurb to see if what attracted me about the cover is reflected in the blurb

    do you get upset if the cover art doesn’t accurately depict the main character — eh. I’d expect that the MC on the cover has *some* relation to MC in text (don’t have a 2’6″ blond dwarf when the MC is 6’2″ and brunet), but it doesn’t need to be exact.

    How likely are you to stop and read the blurb if you are looking for particular genre but the cover signals something else? — the cover will drawn me in, but I’ll leave if the blurb doesn’t match the genre I’m expecting. Key genre words are helpful; “gothic romance” isn’t the same as “sweet romance” — I know to expect dark and creepy a la Jane Eyre with a gothic.

    As a reader, do you lose interest in a series if an author takes too long between books? How long is too long? — Probably 12-18mos, maybe up to 2yrs. Having said that, I’m willing to wait for quality. Robert Jordan needed tighter editing, especially in the later books, but getting books on a semi-regular schedule was already difficult. Add in his health problems, and we were lucky to get the series finished at all.

    On the flip side, know when to kill a series or at least close the door. I enjoy CJ Cherryh’s work, but her Foreigner series has gone on for far too long and needs to die. The first 4-6 books were nice and fresh, but after that, I got the distinct impression of someone going through the motions. If she had more to say in that universe after the first 4-6 books, then take a break and jump forward 10-20 years.

    Speaking of waiting for the next book in the series to come out, what are your thoughts about books that end in cliffhangers? — long waits erode the urgency, I’d say hold that book back until you’ve finished the sequel and release them fairly close together (3mos apart?) so readers can maintain their interest and urgency. Otherwise, it seems that the author didn’t care about Charlie either.

  7. Title first, cover second, blurb third, free sample pages if on Amazon fourth, page from middle if in hand, fourth. If the cover looks amateurish, unless it has been recommended by a friend, I will instantly put down. Does the cover model need to look like the mc? No. Needing to wait years makes me lose interest. A cliffhanger when the next book is not available is deeply aggravating. I might not remember WHY I got mad at an author by the time the next book comes out, but I’ll remember that something bothered me about the book and will not pick up the sequel. I don’t mind cliffhangers if the next book is available. If there’s not a cliffhanger and I liked the book I might buy up to where the author has finished, and when the next book does show up, buy. If the book was just okay, I’ll pass on the next books.

  8. I can absolutely be drawn to pick up a book solely based on the cover. However, the blurb had better make me believe the interesting cover is representative of the story within. If you show me a cover with cool spaceships or futuristic rayguns and the blurb compliments the cover, I’d better find a swashbuckling space opera, or something similar, behind that cover. Fail on that point and I’ll probably never give the author another look. If the author is trad published, I’ll look askance at the publisher’s future releases, too.

    For me, cliffhangers are fine between chapters or parts of a book. They suck between books. The main problem with them is that the cliffhanging situation will fade from the reader’s mind unless they go straight from one book to the next. The cliffhanger loses its immediacy and, if it takes too longer to publish the next book, I may no longer care–especially if the next book isn’t the last book in a series. Having suffered through one cliffhanger, I am rarely willing to risk another one.

    I think authors have to keep up with a series, providing new books regularly (at least once a year). Longer than that, and I think you risk having readers lose interest.

  9. For cliffhangers, it depends on the situation. What part of the plotline has been resolved, what hasn’t, is the cliffhanger evidently a jumping off point into a different storyline, etc.

    I’m willing to cut authors some slack when they have other responsibilities like a ‘regular’ job, etc. Being in something of the same boat.

    But no slack for Martin. He’s got no excuse.

    1. Second paragraph, about cutting authors slack, was referring to time between entries in a series.

    2. Oh, come on! He had to waste months of writing time weighing in on the Hugo Wars. What do you expect him to do, finish what he started?

      1. Martin has achieved the absolute nirvana of writing: he no longer needs to write at all, only have television writers finish his story for him.

      2. PS you heard the rumors that Martin can’t even finish his series and has got a ghost writer?

      3. Martin isn’t the only author who has delivered years late.

        I’m surprised the publishing industry doesn’t have some kind of out in their contract; “if you don’t deliver within so many months, we’ll team you up with a coauthor so you can get it done. If you balk at that, we’ll just hire someone to write it as a work-for-hire, stick your name on it, and send it to the printers ayway, and since you didn’t write it you don’t get paid, even if it’s out there with your name on it.”

        1. Patrick Rothfuss seems to be moving into “can’t finish the book because he’s demoralized by the last Presidential election” territory.

    1. Most of those covers are actually pretty good. There are some I didn’t like, but I didn’t go look at the genre they were for, so maybe they were made to fit into the expectations of that genre? Hard to say.

      I find it interesting that my cover artist submits to that site (Dane Low) and his covers have worked very well for me, any problems with them I would take the blame for, because in my earlier covers I used to tell him what I wanted there. Now I just give him a couple of scenes and leave it up to him, and they’ve gotten much better.

      But the point I wanted to make, is that if you look at those covers and think they’re not that good, then you need to think some more about covers. Because those ARE good covers, those ARE the kinds of covers that sell. It took me several years and a lot of research to start understanding this, which is why I now pay someone else to do my covers.

      And my sales have reflected the wisdom of this decision.

      As for time between books, I made the (perhaps bad?) decision to write a trilogy. I have been told by many people that they won’t buy book 1 until I’ve published book 3 (hopefully out before the month’s end). On series however, because the story ‘wraps up’ at the end of each book, they’re a lot more forgiving. As for how long I’ll wait? Until I forget to look for it. There are a LOT of authors I no longer read, because I got tired of waiting for their next book. GRRM will only sell a lot, if he writes it, because of the publicity the TV show gets. If it weren’t for that, the book would probably sell pitifully. Hell, I had forgotten who the hell GRRM even was until the TV show got everyone talking about him.

  10. I looked at the 50 winning book covers. Man, what the hell are those people thinking?!!! Of the lot, perhaps two caught my eye and hinted at the story within. The rest seemed like a snarky New York City in-joke, like the “famous” statue of Michael Jackson and a monkey made to look like the Madonna and Child.

    I’m a Philistine, I guess. The in-joke thing leaves me cold. I dislike even knowing about the fricking Michael Jackson statue. I saw an explanation of it in an art book, it was so annoying I haven’t forgotten it.

    I like Baen covers. You can get a sense of the story, usually. That’s what I want to know, when I’m looking for a book. What are the characters like, what is the world like, will it be an adventure, will it be a romance, are there cool space ships, and so forth.

    1. Some of the ones were pretty good – Karma looked intriguing; The Nemesis Cell would have had me pick it up and look at the back. Enchanting the dragon’s cover was good in signaling fantasy but I worried a bit about the title because that sounds like fantasy romance and leaves it ambiguous. Shadows of Valor was well designed and I like the framing devices used. Death Jars of Broams Eld makes me think ‘Young adult fantasy?’ Same with Silverglen.

      All these shiny worlds’ cover actually did very well, for an anthology, which is rare.

      1. I use Dane Low, and his covers have done wonders for me. Look at all my covers starting with the first POI book and on. On the first few books I used to give him fairly detailed advice, now I just give him a general idea of what I want (which is why I think the covers have gotten even better). I know that a lot of my readers picked up my books because they saw the cover and said ‘hey, what’s this?’

  11. Covers – I’m pretty much stuck with scenic covers, with a painterly effect, something which suggests the story or elements thereof.

    Series; maybe a year or two in between in an on-going series, although if it is a writer I really like, I’ll happily wait longer. For my own books – the historicals are all free-standing. They just share a background and a wide array of characters – it’s not lineal, so I usually don’t feel in any great hurry to bring out the next. For the Luna City series (which also share a common setting and a cast of dozens of characters), it’s six months to a year.

    Cliffhangers – I’m kind of mixed on this. I really don’t care for them in stuff that I read, but I will plead guilty in doing this for the Luna City books. The cliffhanger at the end of every book so far is a teaser for the next. There are A and B plots that are set up and resolved in the book – and the cliffhanger is the deliberate set up for a plot in the next one. I’m trying to bring them out every six or eight months, so I don’t think I am torturing readers on the same scale that GRRM is. YMMV, though.

  12. Here’s my general rule for new book shopping: Don’t lie to me.

    Blubs: If you hook me with BS, then the detailed description does not match… you just lost a customer. I won’t buy it because ‘I See What You Did There, And It Wasn’t Funny.’ Yes, you got me to read more, but only because you lied. ‘Hook them any way you can’ is not a good rule to follow.

    Covers: If you put a ‘person’ on the cover, that person looks like that. If you have aliens and spaceships… they better be in the book. If they are fighting…they better be fighting in the book. Again, Don’t Lie To Me.

    Yes, covers matter. When wading through the myriad of books that I don’t have time to read, I sort by cover first. Interest is piqued with them. The only problem is that I am an atypical reader (I think)… I read ‘slowly’. So usually, I don’t just grab books at random. I already have a huge TBR pile and try not to add more to it. The ones I do add are the ones with awesome covers that get me to read the blurb.

    Series & Cliffhangers: I put these two together because they go together for me. I won’t pick up a new series unless it’s finished. I don’t mind cliffhangers in the series… because I didn’t pick it up unless I knew I could get all of them. There is only one series that I am currently reading that is not complete, called the Frontiers Saga by Ryk Brown. He does not end on cliffhangers, but does leave unresolved story arcs.Those are fine, because I know I’ll get a new book in the series every two months or so. Any longer and I would forget what happened before, leaving me needing to re-read the series before the next book. I don’t have time for that, esp. being a slow reader.

    The most agonizing and disappointing series read I ever had was Wheel of Time. I started the series when book 8 was out. I spent a summer between college courses in Podunk, USA catching up. By the time the last one was out, I had to re-read the whole thing again to remember what had happened. That made the series suck for me, esp since you never get the same feel out of a re-read because you know the plot. Then Jordan died, passing the baton to B. Sanderson, who IMHO is not as good a writer. That changed the whole flavor of the story, and I still feel like it’s ‘not right’ even to this day.

    I absolutely love John Ringo’s books. He is driving me nuts right now. So many unfinished series. It’s one of the reasons I have not picked up BTR past book one yet. Any of the other series of his I read is an insta-sale as soon as it comes out, but I’m almost to the point of having to re-read in the Posleen, Prince Roger & Troy series just to remember stuff. Ringo gets a pass because he’s so damned good, but unless you have that kind of appeal with your fans, you may just get the wrong kind of ‘pass’ if you do the same thing.

    I say finish writing the series before moving on to the next thing. It’s just good manners towards your audience.

    Summary: As a reader, my fannish demands are:Don’t Lie To Me, and Don’t Take Too Long.

    YMMV *passes salt grains all around*

    1. Black Tide Rising is more-or-less the only series that John Ringo has finished. There’s a short story anthology as well, and IIRC there are other stories that will be told in it, but the four novels are a complete story in and of themselves.

    2. Well, of course Brandon Sanderson couldn’t finish Robert Jordan’s work as well as Robert Jordan could have done it. Even going by Jordan’s notes, he could not supply the missing vision and creativity that his fans expected. What we got, an emergency landing instead of a plane crash of an unfinished tale, was about the best that could be done.
      A better comparison would be between the Wheel of Time and the Stormlight Archive, best work vs. best work. So far we only have two volumes of the SA, but the third (of ten planned) is finally done and should be out by November. It says something in its favor that so far, the SA has been good enough to draw Michael Whalen out of retirement to do covers for it.
      Sanderson has said that he gets creative burnout working exclusively on one of his epic doorstoppers, and switches off to other projects during and between, apparently on the theory that a change is as good as a rest. He does provide progress bars on his various projects on his web site, and they do move, so that fans of his various series know he hasn’t forgotten them.

  13. Covers – if they send mixed signals, I might check the blurb. If the blurb doesn’t jive, back on the shelf it goes. I don’t really worry about the protagonist being on the cover.

    Cliffhangers – NO!!!!!!! Two series died for me because of that. Well, and they were trad-pubbed, so it was almost a two year wait for the next one, so why bother? It did not help that in both cases, when I tried the next book, they were both worse and took the story into the weeds (literally in one case.) In a third case, it wasn’t entirely a cliff-hangar, but the publisher cancelled the rest of the series.

    Time lag – Depends on the author. For trad-pub I understand that there are longer waits involved. Or if I’m reading the news and find out that someone is having medical or family problems, I’m a lot more forgiving. But a year between books in a series is about the longest I’d like to wait.

    1. I’d argue that Stephen Kings The Waste Land and the movie Empire Strikes Back were both examples of ‘good’ cliffhangers. Enough of the current conflict was resolved that the cliffhanger served as a good jumping off point into the next entry.

      1. And Elizabeth Moon’s second Paksenarrion book was an example of a bad one. She left the main character–not merely in danger–wandering the countryside with what might as well have been a wasting disease.

        She did a beautiful job of resolving it, but I will never again read a book of hers if it’s part of a series–not unless the last book was finished before I got the first one.

        I dropped THE DRESDEN FILES for pretty much the same thing. As long as the books were more or less self-contained, fine. But I will not be jerked around again.

        1. I read Paksenarrion after it was finished, so I didn’t have that problem. Interestingly enough, there’s a trilogy by Pamela Dean that I had no idea *was* a trilogy for many years—the ending to the second book was a bit odd as an ending, but it was workable, even though it was basically “walk away from the magic.” I just figured it was a “literary” ending and didn’t much like it, though it didn’t inspire me to get rid of the books themselves… which was good when I discovered the third book and got completion.

  14. Cover: I have only ever bought one book (out of, ah, let’s just say a bunch) on the basis of what material the cover was printed on and that was a copy of the Iliad I picked up as a reference book. It had a faux leather cover with gold lettering that reminded me of some of the really old books on the shelves at my grandparents’ house – pretty much what I imagined an old copy of the Iliad would look like. Other than that specific case, the visuals of the cover are more important to me than the materials, although, I guess even for the Iliad it was the visual that drew me to it. An eye-catching cover, for a vague and subjective definition of eye-catching, will entice me to read the blurb before less pleasing covers, but I understand sometimes publishers assign the cover design to the apprentice intern cover artist so I check out the blurbs for books with less appealing covers as well – unless said cover is so poorly done that it hurts my feelings, a visual insult, if you will.

    It doesn’t bother me if the character on the cover doesn’t accurately depict the main character – I can think of one series in which the version of the main character on the cover is practically a character in her own right whose tattoos are painted differently for each cover to reflect the theme of a particular story. As for the cover signaling a different genre… that would depend on whether I was looking for a new book in a bookstore or for a new e-book. In a bookstore if the cover signals a different genre than the one I am looking for then I would probably pass it by, but with e-books, in theory I have already sorted and filtered the offering by genre, so I might stop and read the blurb to see why the book is on a list where it apparently doesn’t belong.

    Rate of publication: Personally, I am not a speedy writer so I don’t let it bother me if a favorite author also happens to not be a speedy writer or, in a worst case, if he happens to be a glacially slow writer. The key thing here, for me, is the next book in the series needs to leave me feeling that the plot has advanced in some meaningful way. If, after waiting patiently for years, the next book only introduces more unresolved plot threads without resolving any old ones or only moves the story forward, in excruciating detail, by a single day or (so much worse!) is nothing more than the equivalent of a dream sequence… well, I’ll start feeling either author has no idea where the story is going or is just screwing around with the readers to milk more money of them.

    Ending on a cliffhanger: sometimes that’s where a story ends, but if it’s overdone it gets stale.

  15. I haven’t bought a physical book since I got my Kindle so what the cover is “printed on” is always the same.

    Cover art should fit the medium. The biggest e-book offender I’ve noticed lately is the 1632 series. I’m sure they look amazing on the hardcover dust jackets, but on a Kindle they’re terrible.

    Cover genre is not that important to me, these days. My new author discovery mechanism has become “also bought” or “recommend based on”. That said, if it’s wildly off I’ll probably scroll past.

    Cover representation shouldn’t be wildly wrong, but I agree with the advice given here several times: It should evoke the feeling of the book, not a specific scene (although a specific scene works for that, fine). I rather prefer vague people on covers so I can imagine the character from description.

    Series delay is not too much of an issue for me. I tend to buy in batches. Pam’s Wine of the Gods tended to get purchased in groups of three or four. Robert Jordan got dropped because he was too complicated for the delays; after re-reading backstory twice on new books, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

    Cliffhangers are very much “it depends”. If the book just stops, I won’t read the next one unless it was a VERY good book (aside from the ending). However, if you wrap up that book’s plot and leave a teaser for the next one, I’m fine with that.

    The last two are closely related. I had no problems with several of the Kurtherian Gambit endings because Michael cranks out a book a month. However, now that his universe is growing, the book a month is not always in the same series and I’m less enthused at the endings. On the other hand, he’s writing like a TV series: There are small plots, book plots, and “season” plots. The books the end the season plots have solid “we’re done for now” endings. That works for me.

    Wow, this got long.

  16. In decreasing order of interest: 1. the story itself, how well it reads, how well it hits interests. 2. Visuals such as cover or the illustrations that add so much to a light novel. 3. Actual physical construction of the book itself, barring defects so great as to detract from the first two.

    Covers aren’t important to my process, partly due to a very tight budget driving things to known authors, word of mouth, and snippets. I don’t care much about accuracy.

    When looking at fanfic on someone’s favorites list, I check synopsis, tags, and if those interest, I start reading. Am I hooked or bored? How’s the pacing? Writers improve over time, if it drags do I want to give it a chance to get better?

    I lose excitement over time, but whether I lose interest depends on how interested I was in the first place, or how I change over time.

    I can tolerate cliffhangers. I do like some closure.

  17. Do you care what sort of paper a book cover is printed on or are you more interested in the visuals of the cover itself?

    Nope, don’t care about the paper. When I get a paper book these days, it’s either because
    1. I’ve already been sold on cover and blurb online and wanted it in paper (cookbooks, reference books, books only available in paper or cheap in paper and ridiculous in ebook prices…)
    2. I was caught by a cover and blurb sufficient to overcoming the “don’t want more paper books cluttering the house/hauled in my luggage” inertia (much higher than my paper judgement).
    3. It’s a preorder from a favourite author that I don’t want to miss, so I just do the preorder in paper months ahead of time, and am surprised and pleased when the brown truck of happiness drops it off.

    When shopping for an e-book, especially if it is not a book you are particularly looking for, how much impact does the cover have on you stopping to read the blurb?

    Extreme amounts. If it doesn’t catch my eye, I don’t click through / stop to read the blurb. The only time I search for books & click through unappealing covers to read blurbs is if the author / book has been specifically recommended by word of mouth, or I’m following a link that has a really catchy title without the image. (Word of mouth is powerful; even if the cover is terrible and the blurb unappealing, I’ll still download samples to see if I like the same thing a person I respect / like reads. Straight “ran across it in an article” links have a much higher threshold of “must appeal.”

    Here are a couple of other questions to consider: do you get upset if the cover art doesn’t accurately depict the main character (assuming the MC is depicted on the cover)?

    Nope. But I do get annoyed if it misconveys the genre, subgenre, and tone of the book. I don’t care if the main character is blond and the cover is a redhead who’s a foot shorter. But if you promise me bladerunner-esque noir scifi and I get something that’s chick lit with a veneer of “Cool exotic future city! With biomodifications for sale!” I’m going to be pretty annoyed.

    How likely are you to stop and read the blurb if you are looking for particular genre but the cover signals something else?

    Very unlikely. Very, very unlikely. Unless the cover is really eye-catching, in which case I’ll stop to read the blurb, and send a sample to myself for later, in case I’m in the mood for that.

    As a reader, do you lose interest in a series if an author takes too long between books? How long is too long?

    Yes, BUT. It depends on the story, and how well it grabbed me. For example, with Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, I was perfectly eager to pick up more releases as I learned they were out (not necessarily the same thing as when they were released, especially in the days of dial-up.) That could be 3-4 years between books, and that was perfectly okay.

    If on the other hand, it’s some popcorn dime-a-dozen vaguely amusing urban fantasy, I may not even remember the author’s name in two months.

    Also, my tastes change as I change, and sometimes the author’s still writing, but I’m no longer interested. Back in high school, I started with James Blish’s adaptations of the original Star Trek episodes, and then read through pretty much every original series tie-in book in the library. I watched and read most of the next generation and deep space nine passed around on VCR tapes in college classes. These days, I remember a few fondly – My collection of John M Ford’s books started when I liked The Final Reflection and went hunting for more by him. But I haven’t read any of the tie-in stuff in years, and, well, I still haven’t gotten around to watching the last several movies, much less new shows… *shrugs*

    Speaking of waiting for the next book in the series to come out, what are your thoughts about books that end in cliffhangers?

    Cliffhangers are annoying. Deeply annoying. They work on short works – IF I’m invested enough in the serial / comic book series, I’ll buy the next one right away to continue the story. However, if I run out of story available to buy before the story is resolved, or if I run out of time to read for more than three-four days, then the annoyance will trump the want to find out what happens next, and I’ll drop the series.

    On the other hand, if the main plot arc is resolved and the cliffhanger is just a side plot, then I’m willing to wait for months to years if I really enjoyed the story for the next one.

    What about those authors who end book after book with Charlie hanging off the edge ofa the cliff?

    See above: if I don’t feel the promises made to the reader at the beginning were fulfilled by the end of the book, I’ll drop the series. If they are, and there’s a side cliffhanger, I’ll chalk it up as one more annoying black mark against the series, and keep reading as long as I get more enjoyment and entertainment out of the book than annoyance.

    Will the other characters arrive in time when the next book is published to save him? What if the series is cancelled? Will poor Charlie be left on that cliff for the rest of literary history?

    If the other characters don’t arrive and Charlie is left hanging for the entire next book while people go off and do thing X instead, I drop the series. If the series is cancelled (and they so often are, by author or publisher), then at best you leave fans who want a final resolution for Charlie. At worse, you have former fans who are annoyed that you can’t finish a series.

  18. I don’t care what paper a cover is printed on. I have been known to pick up a book if the cover art attracts my attention. Michael Whelen covers were really good at that. (is he still doing covers?) I didn’t alway buy the book, but I’d look harder at it. At least once the author got a sale that way – I’d’ve never picked up CS Friedman’s space fantasy trilogy without that cover. They’re still the only Friedman I’ve finished.

    Series must progress. I, too, am tired of FOREIGNER, although with the addition of the kid alien POV it’s got a little more life. A lot of it reads, though, as if she’s got this 3 book structure in mind for arcs and has to pad the writing to justify the three books per. And then there’s Lee & Miller, who are producing regularly but AFAICT aren’t moving the story along. They say they’re setting up… Well, it’s not interesting to read. The character Theo reading as a puppet jerked around by the plot doesn’t help.

    I’ll give an author some time to get more books in a series out, especially if they’re long – it take time to write that much. If there’s been a hiatus of 4-5 years, though, I’ll look harder at the new offering, before plunking down money. A gap of ten years… I’ll look REALLY hard. That often signals the author has lost track and control of the story, and I rather expect character and world building violations.

    1. IMO the main problem with the last three Liaden books isn’t that they haven’t moved the story – there’s been plenty of story events in them. The problem is that the events aren’t linked up. There are too many subplots, following too many characters, and with too little relation to each other. In one case (the AI and mentors thread) it’s difficult to see how it even can connect back to what anyone else is doing. The books are lacking in unity of action; the reader doesn’t feel that what happens to one character is relevant to another.

      1. I liked the first one, though I’d say it was almost as much romance as SF. I ground through a couple of the others, but it turned into some kind of Neverending Soap Opera and got so bogged down in tedious details of nothing that made a story, that I gave up.

      1. De Royo, and Dos Santos too. There are two books whose covers I remember vividly because I picked them up several times, and the blurb didn’t interest. kept picking them up because Whelan cover, finally tried them, did not enjoy… and then forgot them, and picked them up again, because Michael Whelan cover!

        1. I’ve a couple of fantasy books by Irene Radford I got from a 2nd hand bookshop because the covers were by Luis Royo; and the blurb sounded interesting but they were books midway through a series. I’ve never read them simply because they were midway through a series. *sigh!*

      2. It depends on the artist, in my case. Whelan was always a go-to for me, because the editors who hired him seemed to have similar taste to what I wanted. John Jude Palencar is pretty decent for me that way as well.

        Larry Elmore isn’t a horrible choice, but I always found his work better in black & white and his covers are a subtle irritant to me. Walter Velez—his folk are round. As in, everything is round. It’s impossible to ignore. And Darrell K. Sweet… oy. Hard-working artist, so his work is impossible to gauge as a signal, because it’s on good stuff and bad stuff both. Artistically… I could go on for days. It has problems, shall we say. But he was prolific, and that’s what counted.

  19. As one of the remaining hardcopy buyers, I like my covers sturdy. The art is irrelevant: you can’t tell anything about the story from the art. Indie books are more likely to have some connection than House books. I mean, look at the cover of the first Darkship book. Give me those old canvas over board covers that last a hundred years any day.

    I usually look at the blurb as my second clue what a book is, the “other people boughts” are my first clue, and usually where I start browsing after I put the books on my list in my cart.

    I’ll wait hopefully for the next in the series until the last isn’t any good. I stopped reading Pern one book after MasterHarper. I stopped reading GRRM a LONG time ago. I’m still hoping and checking Butcher’s website for Dresden Files.

    Cliffhangers, as a general rule, are enough to get the series walled. (I’ll make an exception if it’s, say, book three of five and I have book four already in my hand from the local library.) Especially if it’s an Indie book and the author didn’t say “This is not a complete story, you must buy book two to get the end of the story” upfront in the blurb, above the read more cut. Forget it. Furthermore, I make a note to never waste my time on that author again.

    1. “stopped reading Pern one book after MasterHarper”

      Masterharper discovered the theory of flight 🙂

    2. I think the last one that Anne did was the one I really consider ‘end of the series.’ Not liking the stuff her son did, honestly. Masterharper I still love to bits.

      And I buy hardcovers. I will go dig through secondhand and such for hardcovers. Why? Because I am now introducing my son to the books I enjoyed as a kid and hardcovers survive re-re-re-reading more than paperbacks. I used to favor paperbacks because I always thought “I can always get another copy when mine falls apart” but really, once they go out of print…

      I don’t really have a problem with series long runners – probably because I read manga, and I have to wait until they’re translated, and so on. Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series does that to me, and I’ll pick them up as they go, but I guess like other folks if I stop liking the story I’ll stop reading the books.

      Series cliffhangers – okay for manga, not so much for books. Teaser for the next volume of a novel is okay, but some sense of ‘this part is over’ is recommended for me.

  20. E. M. Foner uses the same cover for his entire series of Union Station books. All he does is change the color of the woman’s dress and the robot’s bow tie.

  21. do you lose interest in a series if an author takes too long between books

    Yes…to name names David Gerrold lost me on his War with the Chtorr a decade ago (we’re 20 years or so late on the next book). In fact, I pointed out a couple of years ago if he put half the energy into the series he did into puppy kicking I’d probably still care about him as an author.

    Jim Butcher is approaching that with Dresden. He had been reliable for a book a year and we’re pushing two with no date for the next one. I bring up Butcher because I think the quality of the last few books has a role in that. I would have waiting another year for Ghost Story but the books since Changes have not had the frission Changes and the four or five books leading into it had. That means my attachment to the series is lower meaning how long I will wait is recalibrated.

    1. As much as I enjoyed Butcher’s “Dresden Files”, I couldn’t get into the latest one “Skin Walker”. Got it from the library and got a couple chapters in before putting it down and walking away. Just didn’t grab me like the previous books. “Cold Days” started good and seemed to drag down near the end as well.

  22. ARG! Those fifty covers were hideous. Every. Single. One.

    I want a genre and subgenre signal on the covers. If there’s a spaceship on the cover, there needs to be a spaceship in the story. Gender and general coloring of the cover figures should be in the ball park. The “mood” of the cover should be reasonably congruent with the book. That dark scary cover should be around a horror, or a thriller with horror elements. Explosions and space ships should only be used in MilSF and Space Opera–if there are explosion in the book.

    And if it there’s more than a year between books in the series, I’ll have forgotten most of the minor characters and most of the foreshadowing, and the nuances of everything.

    Cliffhangers? Umm, I can handle occasionally leaving a character in dire straights at the end of a book, but the sequel needs to rescue him fast and not do it again. And I’d prefer the book to end . . . how to put this? With a breath of relief as phase one of escape/rescue/survival has been successful . . . now let’s plan step two, which will be more difficult, but we’ll do it!

  23. Some cliffhangers are ok.
    But most things actually need to be resolved in the book, and not every plotline can end in a cliffhanger. Especially if some of those cliffhangers were reached before the halfway point of the book, and then were just left hanging. (Hey, you’re the one who brought up GRRM.)

    1. Having read some of the other comments, I have more to say.

      There needs to be climax and resolution of the book’s plot.
      Outside of that, it’s fair.
      If the the heroine turns to the protagonist during the denoument and says “let’s get married!” It’s perfectly justified to fade to black with that question “officially” unresolved.

      Sometimes, this is the best option.
      Nobody wants “the lady” or “the tiger” to become canon. (The tiger)
      Is Deckard a replicant? (Yes.)
      Does the guy from Inception make it home? (No.)

      Take Elizabeth Moon’s “The Speed of Dark”. Brilliant novel, but it kept going after it should have ended. After the protagonist makes his choice that will either result in his death or his becoming a completely different person, the story is done. Don’t give me an epilogue where a character I no longer recognise slowly drifts away from his friends in an attempt to provide a happy ending. Leave it bittersweet, with the protagonist walking in the park, knowing that everything is going to change.

      1. The Lady and the Tiger is the first story I ever walled. It seemed to me, that the author was too much of a coward to actually make a decision and finish the story so tried to have their cake and eat it too by having the audience make the call.

  24. I was in a SF/Fantasy bookstore a few months ago chatting with a friend as we looked over the new SF/Fantasy books and I commented that more than half of them had no signifier of Genre. If shown the books I would not have been able to say from a glance if it was Fantasy, SF, or Other. Since that was so common I had to ask why and the conclusion I came to was Shame.

    The publishers were ashamed they were publishing Genre, or they believed readers were ashamed to read Genre and needed to keep genre hidden lest they be accosted on a bus and mocked for their non-Literary reading choices.

    Either of those answers are just pathetic. You don’t want to be seen selling Genre? Why? Is there mockery from the cool kids at the Literary houses? If so, why? Selling a tenth the number of books is worth the prestige? And if it is caused by certain readers wanting to read genre but being ashamed to be seen to be reading genre? That’s caused by the same kind of people that look down upon genre in the first place. Just crazy. Why would I care what you think about what I read? Buying certain books to be seen to be reading certain books and getting head pats for reading certain books? Does that ever happen?

    In twenty years of work I’ve had only a few instances where someone even cared about what I was reading, and only twice that they gave me crap for it. One was mockery of reading fantasy but no one cared and just rolled their eyes at him, the other was for a kid’s book I was reading. Some might have joined in but I was known as a reader and my response was pretty good. I started reading from the book and picking up speed until my words were a blur. Mocking someone for reading kids’ books implies they are a worse reader than you are I guess, but when they clearly demonstrate you couldn’t keep up to them if you had a hundred page head start? Kind of shuts the mockery down.


    1. If they had SF/F covers that looked like SF/F covers they might attract the wrongfans. And we know they don’t want that.

      1. Because there is nothing worse than wrongfans having wrongfun, and then telling other people to buy your book. Oh, the shame, the horror!

        OK, I couldn’t type all that and keep a straight face.

  25. With covers I may not even read the blurb if it signals a genre I don’t normally read. I’m sure I’ve missed some good books but with a TBR pile in the 1000’s I’d rather miss a good book then add a bad one.
    If a cover matches the genre I’m looking for and looks interesting I will then read the blurb to decide if I want to add it to my TBR pile.
    I normally don’t look closely at people on the cover since I know most of the time they will not match either the authors description or my own mental image of the character.

    Since I read quite fast and a lot of books the time between them does not usually bother me. Neither does one ending with a cliffhanger. The only time that has ever been a problem is when I’ve checked back in the interval a series had been coming out to find out it had been ended by the publisher. I still occasionally look to see if the author has been given the rights back and has decided to continue it.

    1. I think the only time ever where an artist matched my mental image of a character was Keith Parkinson’s illustration of Polgara the Sorceress. His covers for The Elenium really shaped how I imagined Sparhawk and Ehlana because the descriptions matched the image (down to broken nose!)

      I don’t include the Dragonlance covers by Larry Elmore because if I recall, he was part of the original team and they were very good about collaborating on that. I don’t think Parkinson was.

      1. I agree, that is a fairly accurate representation of Polgara. I am amused by the original cover on one of the Belgariad books that looks like Luke Skywalker.

  26. Covers – I’ve learned not to pick up anything with a cover showing a half-naked man with a sixpack, as it signals a porn/plot ratio way too high to hold my interest.

    Having written that, I just remembered that in the seventies someone released an edition of Northanger Abbey with a classic Gothic Romance cover – blue tones, woman in negligée fleeing a looming mansion. The blurb made it sound like a Gothic Romance, too -“what chilling mysteries was young Catherine Moreland to uncover in Northanger Abbey” etc., etc.

    So… what if some enterprising publisher decides to issue Wuthering Heights with a half-naked Heathcliff on the cover? Oh well, that’s easy: I never liked Wuthering Heights anyway.

    1. How about Sword Art Online with a half naked Heathcliff on the cover?

      Grins, Ducks, and Runs Away!

  27. From the top:
    Do you care what sort of paper a book cover is printed on or are you more interested in the visuals of the cover itself?
    If I’m buying dead-tree-format, I want the book to not feel like it’s so flimsy that reading it could cause it irreparable harm. Beyond that? Eh. The material of the cover should be a medium that serves the art to best advantage (glossy-glare finish would detract from efforts to convey “noir”, for example).

    … how much impact does the cover have on you stopping to read the blurb?
    Whether I’m strolling (in B&N) or scrolling (online), there are only 3 things that make me stop and take a closer look: Author (or publisher, if it’s Baen) name recognition, cover art, or intriguing titles (in that order of significance). Face it: The folks you already have via the first will look at your work even if it’s afflicted with the cover Sarah’s first Shakespeare book had. But cover is pretty much all you REALLY have to capture anyone outside that group.

    … do you get upset if the cover art doesn’t accurately depict the main character?
    Only if the misrepresentation is SINGULARLY egregious. Using a hot blond with cleavage to lure folks into reading Honor Harrington would bother me. Using the same girl on the cover of an urban fantasy whose narrative character is actually brunette, not so much.

    How likely are you to stop and read the blurb if you are looking for particular genre but the cover signals something else?
    All depends what it signals. I almost *always* stop and check pictures of exploding spaceships, even if I was really looking for something epic-fantasy-ish that day. If it signals things that intrigue me, I might pick it up and read the back. The blurb would then have to sell me (or not).

    … do you lose interest in a series if an author takes too long between books?
    The should-have-already-read pile never gets shorter than me. The books-by-people-I-know-PERSONALLY-and-haven’t-read-yet pile is nearly as tall as me …. But, that said … it depends on the writer, and the books. I can wait without noticeable impatience for two or three years between Brad Thor books. I counted the days until the next Harry Potter installment. Bottom line for me: If I love the writer/series, I’ll welcome the newest installment whenever it arrives. BUT …… at this point it really boils down to two significant concerns: Making sure your delayed installment gets in front of my eyeballs, somehow, and (even MORE importantly) making sure you haven’t waited so long that the characters YOU remember and the characters *I* remember have become different people. I would assert that “The Undiscovered Country” is the best script that the original Star Trek cast was ever offered, but the movie suffered because the actors had become different people after three decades, so the characters became disappointing and shadowy reflections of the ones I came to see.

    … what are your thoughts about books that end in cliffhangers?
    If it is the sort of episodic series to which we have become adapted (Harry Potter, Honor Harrington, Miles VorKosigan, etc.), then cliff-hangers annoy me. Though, to be completely fair, the transition from Clancy’s “Debt of Honor” to “Executive Orders” was one of the most grandiose cliff-hangers of all time, and I absolutely loved it. That exception aside, though …. If you’re writing a continuous-but-multi-volume story, like the Belgariad, then it’s perfectly acceptable to end on a cliff-hanger. But if the series is supposed to be a string-of-pearls sequence of self-contained episodes, then they should darn well BE self-contained.

  28. We’re supposed to look at covers?

    All kidding aside, any variances between the book’s cover and its contents- like, for instance, the main character looks human on the cover but is blue with green hair inside- is a meh for me. Since i got the full story on that kind of stuff when working on the Hell’s Faire RPG, its only a ‘other, another cover artist didn’t read any descriptions’ reaction. (Hell’s Faire front cover depicts the ACS suits as having transparent faceplates, which they definitely do not. The Posleen on the cover have lizard heads, not crocodile.)

    These days, my book purchases are ebooks except for stuff like software tutorial books etc, where if i buy em later the print copies cost half the ebook copy. Thus, i really look at jsut the front cover art, not the blurb because those are unreadable on Amazon. I usually read the version of the back cover that is on Amazon…. sometimes.

  29. Cliffhanger ending is fine– so long as you come back later and *wrap it up* ! !
    *Cough – Linda Evans – Cough*
    Left them all in the middle of Île de la Cité….

  30. I’m 100% Kindle now, I have a good number of paperbacks that I haven’t read in paper but have repurchased as e-books due to vision problems. That said I could care less about what the print edition is like since I can’t read it and won’t be buying it. A shame as I love paper and dearly wish I could re-read much of my print collection without repurchasing it.

    Authors I follow on Amazon or that I subscribe to newsletters from could do about anything with the cover, I pretty much ignore it and just read the blurb to insure the book is of a genre I read and not something I don’t care for. I’ll see the cover in the e-mail and when I click on Amazon but that is the last time I’ll notice it, Kindle device thumbnails are tiny blurs that I mostly ignore.

    If I don’t get a communication from you then I’m likely to find a mention of your book on one of the Amazon promotional lists that get sent out quite often. There I’m looking at a list of under a dozen in the e-mail or if it redirects to Amazon anywhere from 100 to 200 titles. There the cover matters, most of the listings show title and author which is pretty worthless to me for picking books, so I rely on the all too small picture to decide to move on or open a new tab. Any written stuff on the cover is just wasting space that could be used to visually hook me, if it is large enough for me to read then there is no room for the artwork. If your cover art gets me to open a tab then and only then will I read the blurb, at that point the cover is once again immaterial.

    Most books that pass the filters above get added to one of three wish lists, Unlimited, Buy, and Pre-order. Usually a book on the Pre-order list migrates to one of the other two lists and doesn’t generate a purchase directly. If funds are low I read off the Unlimited list. If there is spare money in the kitty I search the Buy list for follow-on books in series I have been reading or new series by known authors. Sadly there are many books on the Buy list list that have been waiting for funds to be available for a long long time.

    By the time I actually read the book I’ve most likely not seen the cover in a readable size for a few days and wouldn’t realize you had a dragon there and a tank in the book, still I’d try to be true to the genre because If I buy a dragon book because I want to read about dragons and find myself reading a tank book I may well go back and look at both the cover and blurb to see if I was mislead.

    Length of time between books in a series isn’t a hard and fast rule for me although when looking at my lists a more recent sequel, particularly on the Buy list is far more likely to generate a sale than one that lags the previous volume by a year or more.

    I make exceptions for a few like Cherryth’s Foreigner or if Niven does another Ringworld book. Finding something like Rusch’s Anniversary Day rapid-release series brings me great joy.

    A side note on author’s newsletters, I have signed up for a lot of them and after a few weeks unsubscribed. I don’t want long chatty messages like the ones I’ve been getting from the ScFi-Bridge folks I’ve recently tried, I don’t have time or patience for that. If you want to keep me on your mailing list you need to have something that is short, sweet and points me to new and recent releases, maybe with a list of links to the rest of the series. Even better a link to the Amazon series page where I can see which of the series I already have purchased. Maybe do two mailing lists, your chatty one and a simple “here is a new book” one and let folks pick one or both to subscribe to.

    The Amazon Follow notifications are very useful to me as they have the information I need to buy books and little else.

  31. Yes, I care. A really stupid looking cover is off-putting.

    If you’re writing YA a dorky cover is a death sentence. It’s why the Weber- Linskold A Beautiful Friendship goes out whenever I put it face out but I have to hand sell Changeling’s Island. And one Indy title (which I shall not name) is pretty much a dead letter unless I personally know the kid and have a track record of golden recommendations with him.

    Look at what the pros are doing. Steal their design ideas. Most of them are reproducible. when in doubt KISS.

  32. Google “Ensign Flandry Book Cover” and compare images. The 1960’s cover is dark, swirling, guy in a helmet; the redesigned 1970’s cover has the furry chick with a sword. Guess which one convinced teenaged boys to buy? Plus, it’s more true to the story line. Yes, the cover matters.

  33. “do you get upset if the cover art doesn’t accurately depict the main character?”

    Main character on cover isn’t required. If you consider very old books, they had no slip cover, and no cover art other than the title of the book itself, and maybe the author. The spine usually had more on it. For instance, I have a copy of The White Company, with a ?cardboard? cover with green fabric, and either a yellowed white lettering, or maybe it was supposed to be gold lettering, of the title. That’s all.

    Nowadays, if you have cover art, I damn well expect it to have either the main character, or an actual event from within the book shown, or a VERY close facsimile. (Let’s face it, sometimes you get an artist who has a great piece of work that is a close fit and doesn’t need new art or even modifications to match your story; especially if he or she has been creating for many years.)

    Unless your cover art is abstract, or kitchen floor tile designs, just to make it look pretty, it needs to accurately reflect the contents of the book. Anything else is dishonest; as in false advertising. After all, how would you feel about buying a bushel of lovely apples only to find the seller had put a layer of them over a nearly full bushel of rotten ones? Yeah, I’d go back and have a rotten apple fight clobbering him with all of them at high velocity. Now imagine book buyers hooked into buying junk because of a cover throwing those paperbacks, or hard covers at you. Or for electronic media, feeding malware in million source deluges on all your systems. Karma can be a real female dog.

  34. “As a reader, do you lose interest in a series if an author takes too long between books? How long is too long?”

    Depends. The old Star Trek, Star Wars, John Norman’s “Gor” novels? Yeah, too long a wait and I drift to other stuff as a higher purchasing priority.

    However, there were two books that have since become a larger series that I maintained interest for over a decade. P.C. Hodgell’s ,”God Stalk” and “Dark of the Moon” seriously hooked me. But I couldn’t find ANYTHING afterwards and it was like the author vanished off the face of the Earth. Wasn’t until years later that I found the reason for her doing so was real life. A gal’s got to eat and when your publisher evaporates with all your promised income, well, you’ve got to do something. And the early 1980s was too soon for indie publishing and e-books for her. Glad she came back to it.

    The Game of Thrones series is a possibility. The show has kept me interested in the novels; but at this point it’s taken Mr. Martin so long that I’m not sure I’ll buy the next book or not. Probably not on release, but maybe a year r two later. Not his fault; he’s been busy with the show, and some fans were rude enough that he could well have finally given up writing as not being worth it anymore.

  35. There are a few outliers like Foundation’s Edge, Skylark Duquesne, and The Ginger Star that succeeded even though they came decades after the previous work. If you don’t have the prestige and following of an Asimov, Smith, or Brackett that may now work for you. Don’t think anyone thought of the latter two series as unfinished (although, I was thrilled by both when they first came out.)

    Ian Fleming was the only one to get away with cliff-hanger endings for me. Burroughs did some, but he was long dead by the time I started reading him; so, I could just proceed to the next book.

  36. The cover absolutely can make me stop and consider a book. If the book is by a writer I like, I will usually dig deeper. If I don’t like the writer, it is not likely I’ll get the book absent some significant new information. In either case the cover isn’t critical. But if I don’t know the author, the cover and/or title are the things that will most likely make me want to dig deeper. A cover that makes me look twice (e.g. an anachronism in an alternate history or time travel book) is also likely to make me read the blurb. The blurb will likely decide if I get the book.
    Paper, form, etc of the cover matters a lot less than the graphic/title, though cheap is cheap and makes me expect cheap.
    Cover art that doesn’t accurately relate to the book is annoying, but usually only after I have read the book and figured that out. Its a minor ding that could push a marginal author off my interest list, but probably only if the author was teetering there anyway. If I really like the book, I’ll forgive (but not forget) inconstancy between the story and the graphic.
    Time between books is a huge issue. I like to find series that I haven’t read, but there are several already out. Really great series, I like to re-read if there has been a significant amount of time between books. The longer between books, the greater the chance I’ll miss the “next” one. If I miss one, I’ll only go back and pick up on the series if I can fill in the missing gap. I hate trying to figure out what I missed when reading.
    Authors can also start branching a series. Same universe, but different characters. L.E. Modessitt Jr often does almost a series of series. For example he will do one or more books in one time frame and then one or more in the same universe but a different time frame (e.g. Recluse, Imager, etc). Having the directly tied books (i.e. same slice of time frame) tightly spaced in publishing time and then a bit more of a break before starting a new time frame section of the series is easier to bear than a standard series that I forget what happened in the last book because there was so much time between books.
    I tend to like the books to resolve the issues of the book and not leave a cliff hanger. There absolutely can be continuations between books, but if you get to the end and the end is like the start of a book, that to me is poor writing. Grabbing my attention in the first page is great. Grabbing my attention in the last page and then asking me to wait a year for the next book is not.
    At the end of the day, there are a lot more books published than I can read. I can think of four writers that I like their work so much that mismatch graphics or long time between books won’t stop me from getting their next book. I can think of another dozen or so authors that the minor annoyances of mismatched graphics, long delays coupled with one or two mediocre efforts have put me off the writer so that I’m not likely to get the next book no matter what the title, cover or blurb. I can’t count how many “one book wonders” that I’ve read one book of a writer, decided I didn’t like them enough to get the next or read a few and then didn’t feel any anticipation for the next so stopped looking for them.
    So getting that first book in my hands to make me decide you are an author I want more from and then consistently delivering interesting stories is the key. If you aren’t that great an author, a great cover that gets me to try one book won’t rescue you. A lot of your questions really go to the marginal author (not so great that I’ll put up with a lot to get the next book, nor so bad I’m not going back to that well again). How can the marginal author reduce the grit in the gears so that I’ll keep coming back vs gum up the works and make me feel the game isn’t worth the candle.

  37. Cover: Don’t care (much). But at least the genre should match; no unicorns on military SF, please. Actually, no unicorns, period.

    Series interval: If an author takes more than a year for the next installment, I consider that an invitation to stop reading the series. As for Mr. Martin (and Mr. Donaldson etc.), I feel a little sorry for them: They toil for years and years, cranking out huge quantities of boring verbiage, and there I go and fall asleep after a single page. Makes me feel bad.

    Cliffhangers: No.

  38. I appreciate cover art that respects the story. When the cover art is meant to show a scene from the book I would at least want it to be true to the text. If the artist gets lazy and doesn’t at least try to display some imagination, it can be most annoying and distracting. They are trying to create a visual for me and when it is badly off from the text it really detracts from the entire experience.

  39. OK I read about a third of the comments and don’t have much more to add, but here goes:
    Paper quality v visuals – visuals
    Impact: First title, then cover, then blurb
    Depicting main character: same as all the above commenters – shouldn’t be so far from the character as to be deceptive. I didn’t depict the main character in full on the cover of my book (coming soon) just a half back view indicating age and badassery (a very long gun).
    How likely to read blurb if cover doesn’t reflect the genre I’m looking for: not likely
    The GRRM issue: I read the first few one after the other until he took a long, long, loonnng break. When the next book in the series finally appeared I simply couldn’t get back into the characters, and no one has the sort of time it would have taken to go back and reread from the beginning. I think it must trouble him to this day that he lost me as a reader.
    Cliffhangers: internal to the book, yes; at the end of a book, no. Or perhaps yes if it is the form of a hint at further adventures to come, or an intimation of dark deeds ahead, but Charlie hanging of a cliff? No.

  40. The moment I did, the bane of so many writers’ existence hit — no, not writer’s block but the cat. Actually, in my case, the cats.

    A fellow sufferer! I feel for you, dear lady. (NB: Adding a needy Newfoundland and a German Shepherd who believes in mandatory continuous supervision…of humans…doesn’t help much.)

  41. Question 1) – The Cover.

    My old, old copy of “Dying of the Light” (GRRM’s first novel IIRC) had a passably relevant front cover: an impassive/thoughtful woman’s face – i.e. Gwen – looks at you against a backdrop of the trojan suns above a planet-landscape scene with a vague graphic that might have been meant as a cross between the cities of Lartyen – the graphic is glowing with light – and Challenge – the graphic is a tall tower. It was an honest, though not artistically brilliant, hint at some of the book’s content. There was a more slovenly blurb on the back: it said Dirk was hunted by “aliens” which made it sound a bit like a predator novel (all characters in that book are human, including the hunters).

    It was soon reissued with a cover of a spaceship – which had zero to do with the plot and no compensating artistic merit. I think it was stuck with that awful cover for years.

    Recently I bought another copy of it for my goddaughter, a game of thrones fan whom I thought might be interested in seeing the author’s first novel. The cover art had obviously had a bit more money spent on it (I guess GRRM is a known name now 🙂 ): it showed Gwen in side view under the trojan suns. Compared to the very first cover, the woman seemed a bit younger – nearer her teens than the latter half of her 20s (Gwen must at least be that). Because the first cover showed just Gwen’s face, it inevitably focussed more on the idea of what she was thinking/feeling than the second side-view. The latter view would have been fine for some spell-casting or dragon-riding girl on a quest, but it was less suggestive of Gwen’s complicated situation.

    I bought ‘Dying of the Light’ on personal recommendation the first time and from my knowledge of the book the second time, but covers – like blurbs – matter a bit. The better the art the more likely you are to look, and then you take from it a flavour of the book. The book (if it is any good) will have far more than just that flavour, but it may fail through getting the wrong readers if it does not have at lest a hint of that flavour.

    Question 2) – Time between novels in a series.

    To me, it is all about trust – that the writer cares enough about their story.

    Some series are wholly planned before the first novel is published: Tolkien took decades imagining middle-earth, then 14 years between writing the first chapter of LotR and publishing the first volume, the last following 3 years later. JKR took 5 years between imagining Harry Potter and publishing the first volume, then she raced to the middle at a book a year and took 3 years between books 4 and 5. Writers who write or plan much more background than they publish are serious about getting things right: they’re saying “it takes time for me to get it right”. Not all cases are planned in this way. Dianna Wynne Jones is another who knew much more about her characters than she put on the page but I suspect “The Lives of Christopher Chant” was not a planned or foreseen prequel to ‘Charmed Life’, yet it coheres well with it.

    By contrast, Gene Wolfe’s ‘Shadow of the Torturer’ series was intended to be a novella – and, reading it, one can easily see where, half-way through the first book, it was meant to end. The “with one bound he was free” contrivance by which the hero is exiled instead of executed is handled skilfully enough but that, and a few other minor contradictions, reveal that the background ideas with which he informed the novella were now being stretched to four – and then five – novels.

    So I will certainly wait for the next in a series if I think the time is being used for ‘getting it right’ thinking – of which the best proof is that there was a lot of ‘getting it right’ thinking and planning before anything was published.

  42. An MC on the cover (unless it is in darkness or abstract) actually makes me angry. How dare a publisher tell my imagination how to see what is written in the book? Fiction is the most democratic art form, covers that are realistic intrude on that freedom, therefore I tend to avoid them. Having a creative abstract design is what really catches my eye.

    I hate cliffhangers.

    I don’t normally pay attention to series ( though if I am aware I am a completist). I personally prefer books that stand alone but exist in the same world. Thus, if one comes out (even years later) I can be pleasantly surprised rather than impatiently waiting.

  43. Covers: They tell me something about the book, I hope. And they need to be somewhat artistic. Make it somewhat relevant, not too goofy (unless you’re writing a silly book), not too cluttered or dark (lighting). (There are a few books that I’ve decided not to read over the years because the cover art was atrocious. But not many.)

    Still, I worry that my readers will move on to other books if I don’t get new books out on a fairly regular basis.
    I’m moving on anyway – I read faster than any of you can write. 🙂 And I want to vary my reading, too. But I will come back, if you don’t take so long that I’ve put your other books away or can’t recall which one I even read last. Going that long takes some effort.

    As to paper quality – I hardly buy paper books anymore (I don’t have the shelf space for them), so I’m more concerned with decent artwork (though much more concerned with the writing inside).

  44. >Do you care what sort of paper a book cover is printed on or are you more interested in the visuals of the cover itself?

    Generally more interested in the visuals. But I don’t want plastic-coated covers or dustjackets (for the hardcovers) that eventually has the plastic peel off. Irks the hell out of me.

    >When shopping for an e-book, especially if it is not a book you are particularly looking for, how much impact does the cover have on you stopping to read the blurb?

    If it is a book I am looking for, I already know about it from another source, and I don’t need to read the blurb. If it is not a book I am looking for, whether random browsing or looking at things Amazon is recommending, cover is very important. Image, title, font, etc.

    >Do you get upset if the cover art doesn’t accurately depict the main character (assuming the MC is depicted on the cover)?

    In general, I get irked. The cover makes an implied promise that then gets broken. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to read it (because I have to read it to find out that the promise isn’t followed through on), or re-read it (if it’s worth reading anyway). But there is a mild level of annoyance.

    >How likely are you to stop and read the blurb if you are looking for particular genre but the cover signals something else?

    Very unlikely. Same implied promises as last answer. But this time, I am using the covers/titles as a first filter to see what I am looking for.

    >As a reader, do you lose interest in a series if an author takes too long between books? How long is too long?

    I am one of the odd ones: I do not lose interest in a series if the series is good. I might put it on the backburner of my mind, but I’ll re-read what’s already out from time to time, and when a new one comes out, I’ll pounce. If a series is not to my taste, I’ll abandon it. (I abandoned ASoIaF very early on in the first book, and WoT after the story irrevocably violated my sense of plot in book 5.)

    >Speaking of waiting for the next book in the series to come out, what are your thoughts about books that end in cliffhangers? What about those authors who end book after book with Charlie hanging off the edge of the cliff? Will the other characters arrive in time when the next book is published to save him? What if the series is cancelled? Will poor Charlie be left on that cliff for the rest of literary history?

    No. Have him saved from the cliff and then look out to the stormclouds gathering on the horizon and swiftly coming. Or don’t do it time after time after time. Once or twice in a series, perhaps. Weber’s Safehold series does this well.

  45. As a casual and occasional reader of fiction (I gravitate toward nonfiction), I rely on the book cover to convey genre at least a little, and lead me to read the blurb. I prefer the cover NOT to depict characters, leaving me entirely free to imagine them. I dislike cliffhangers because they feel manipulative and unsatisfying. Yes, I’ll gladly wait a few years for a good new book by an author whose writing I enjoy. Caveat: my friends who love book series seem to get impatient enough between books to sometimes try another series, but that doesn’t usually cause them to switch – they’ll still but an eagerly awaited next book by a favorite author. They want to complete the series!

  46. As a general comment to cover art; the one flaw of the incredible battery life of the Kindle Voyager is that it makes *all* your covers look like crap. But, once it is there, I’ve already paid for it.
    Back in the days of dead-tree editions, I kind of like those glossy covers with the bas-relief/embossing, but while this does attract attention, the blurb has more impact on the decision to purchase. As I purchase books using the 28″ monitor, the artwork and color can attract my attention. As Sam L. mentions, Vengeance of Fishes implies that the font choice made was the wrong one.
    The cover can be abstract with no particular penalty, but then, if the main character/scene is on the cover, it *damn* well better be somewhere in the book. Shirtless male characters on the cover can indicate a romance novel, which if there are enough redeeming other qualities is still purchasable; however, if it is not a romance novel, and still requires a shirtless male, try to include some non-romantic element as well.
    The main purpose of the cover is to attract my attention enough to read the blurb. I do not make an informed decision unless the Author is known without reading the blurb. Amazon’s ‘look inside’ is only invoked if I am still uncertain after reading the blurb, and actually should be considered a marketing ‘fail’.
    Genre is a big issue, especially online, as there are cross-links between general fantasy, romantic fantasy, urban fantasy, alternate dimension fantasy, etc. The cover *art* can be ambiguous, and I will still read the blurb to determine if it is an acceptable genre.
    Note that all this is mainly for new/unknown authors. If I am already a fan of your writing, a crappy cover and title don’t really matter. What you need mostly there is to get Amazon to fix the ‘sort by publication date’ to stop putting your 2014 novels before your 2017 novels (Pam Uphoff, they were doing this to you today).
    Time between novels in a series is unimportant, except I’m getting older, so don’t take too long. My memory of what I have read is good enough to pick-up after a 3-4 year hiatus, but if you are taking that long, a 2-3 page ‘what happened before’ forward is appreciated.
    Cliffhangers suck. My gold standard on this is the second series of Zelazny’s Amber novels. He apparently had a long story arc that required 5 volumes, but stopped writing and published the volume whenever he got the contractual word length. That said, you can include a little plot segue into the next story line at the end, but you had better have finished and wrapped up the current story line in totality.
    Expanded edition is fine, and do keep the same name. Some of us are old enough to have lived in the late 60’s early 70’s when apparently the publishing houses wanted to re-title all of the SF classics. The only thing more irritating than looking at a book and then realizing you have already read it is to buy the book and then realize the title is a cheap trick by the publisher to get more cash. That said, I purchased the ‘uncut and uncensored’ – ‘original manuscript’ of Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, and never could figure out what had been cut and censored.

  47. – Cover paper: I’m now 98% Kindle, and most of my 100’s of physical books are MMP, in which fancy cover papers/embossing/foil always seemed a useless affectation.
    – Cover art: I do prefer that, if the cover looks like an illustration, it fairly represents a scene from the story; I don’t care that much whether the illustration includes the MC – it’s sometimes interesting to see how the author sees him/her. A clue to genre, or at least not grossly misrepresenting genre, is also important, for new-to-me authors…I’d rather not be primed for space opera and get urban fantasy.
    – Decision priorities: Author if known to me, then cover art genre if clear, then blurb especially if new author or to figure out where in a known series the book falls (I WISH there were a totally consistent & reliable series sequence indicator on the front cover of every book – having to research inside or otherwise to figure out if this is the ‘next one’ bugs me).
    – How long is too long: depends on the series – the amount of coupling/continuity between episodes, whether the stories are good enough to reward the investment in refreshing memory of backstory, etc. I prefer 6 months to no more than a year, usually.
    – Cliffhangers: Generally, no. If the author is obviously splitting a very long story into two volumes, I’ll forgive the ‘gimmick’ if I like the story enough.

  48. In my experience/opinion most book covers stink ( that’s as polite as I can say it ). I pick books to read based upon the author. Either one I know or one recommended by someone I know and respect. The only reason I came to this site is that it is linked at Instapundit.

    Paul L. Quandt

  49. Covers: If it’s an author I’ve never read before the cover grabs my eye and makes me pick it up and read the jacket blurb. Years ago I came across James P. Hogan’s “Inherit the Stars” and the cover art of two astronauts digging up the body of a third, differently suited, astronaut intrigued me. But the jacket blurb about a 50,000 y.o. astronaut had me going “Yeah, Right.”, so I passed on it. Then a friend loaned mr Hogan’s time travel novel “The Proteus Operation” and I liked it so much I went and found as much of his stuff as I could, including “Inherit the Stars”, which was the first book in a great series. Oops.

    Between the cover and the jacket blurb I can usually tell the genre/subgenre, so that’s not so important to put on the cover

    If it’s a book that’s part of a series DO tell me that on the cover and one of the inside pages. While unemployed a while back I visited my local library rather than book stores and managed to pick up two books that gave no indication that the were book 2 in their respective series. After reading a few chapters I got a funny feeling that I was missing a lot, so I Googled them and found out about the series’. I did finish reading one of them, but didn’t bother reading any of the others. If the publisher won’t bother to clue me in, I won’t bother to read the books.

    The MC doesn’t have to be on the cover, but the cover should reflect what the book’s about. THe paper should be good enough to last a good while.

    How long between books? After a couple of years I start to wonder what’s taking so long – especially if I’m reading a series with a long plot arc, like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. If they’re stand alone novels with the same characters, like Clive Cusslers Dirk Pitt, or Kathy Reichs’s Bones novels, I can wait a bit longer.

    Cliff hangers? A qualified no. Give me a finish to the A plot, the main story as advertised on the jacket blurb. If the B plot, like the relationship issues the MC has with another character go unresolved, okay

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