Apropos of Covers…

The group writing blog, Writers in the Storm, Melinda VanLone recently had a different take on covers. Some of the points underline what Sarah, Cedar, and others have said – covers are not first and foremost works of art. They are tools for selling.

The second point… I’m not entirely sure about, although based on the problem on the ‘Zon with “Just what is Urban Fantasy anyway?”

From the OP:

Step Two: Make Sure the Cover Art Fits the Genre

Once you nail down the shelf or category, take a much slower stroll along those aisles and pick up books similar to your story. It’s vital that you do this physically, in person, at a real bookstore, and not a library (you want current trends). You want to do your research in a place where people actually spend money.

Don’t do this research online.

If you research on Amazon, the results will be full of fluff and spit, stuffed with Kindle Unlimited attempts to make money without effort. Most of those covers are slapped together with little thought and no expertise, with the hope of tricking people to read even ten pages. Your story is worth more effort, and more thought, than that.


Part of me agrees with the usefulness of going to a bricks and mortar store. But not all of us can do that easily, and I’ve seen great live-book covers that stank as thumbnails on Amazon, B&N’s website, or other e-tailers.

As an aside, I’ve found some very interesting and thought-provoking ideas and tips over at Writers in the Storm, and some things that I really wondered about. It leans toward romance and contemporary fiction, but many of the articles are broad enough for other genres.

Writers in the Storm: The Cover Two-Step.


  1. I would think that doing your research on covers on line would require keeping the same things in mind, that some covers might not be good representatives of the best way to sell. But it’s easy enough to look at the number of reviews and sort out which books are most successful.

  2. That is why the first thing I say is to look at the top 100 best sellers. You don’t care about the covers of books that don’t sell, or are permafree. The books that make money – those are worth paying attention to!

    1. For Sci-fi I’m fond of the idea of retro style art covers. I have no idea how well they’d do, but I know that *I* like them.

  3. It’s vital that you do this physically, in person, at a real bookstore…You want to do your research in a place where people actually spend money.

    My inner snarker can’t help pointing out that these two may be mutually exclusive. Certainly if the goal is to get somewhere where people spend money on books, Barnes and Noble is out.

    In all seriousness, I’m not sure you can “nail down the shelf” at an actual bookstore and browse to see if you match. Bookstore shelves tend to be pretty broad genres, while covers are working for very specific subgenres. Yes, I had a devil of a time looking for urban fantasy that isn’t paranormal romance by searching Amazon categories. However, I don’t know that I would do any better if I was looking through a general “science-fiction and fantasy” section where urban fantasy is mixed with everything from space opera to sword and sorcery.

    Most of those covers are slapped together…with the hope of tricking people to read even ten pages.

    I think I know what they mean, but truth be told a cover that “tricks” people into reading ten pages is an excellent cover. If your cover convinces people to read ten pages, that means that its done its job; by Page 10, the writing should be selling itself and the cover should be largely forgotten.

    1. Used to, you could tell by seeing if there was a bare-chested man in the background behind the leather-clad-chick (Jane Yellowrock, Stookie Stackhouse, and Dresden Files covers being an exception from the beginning). If you saw the half-clad dude or a large predator, it was paranormal-romance. Otherwise a leather-clad chick indicated urban fantasy.

      Then 1. PNR bled into UF (metaphorically as well as literally), and 2. people started doing other things with covers.

    2. I think this is true so long as you don’t *lie* about the sub-genre with your cover.

      If you do that, 10 pages later the reader will probably hate you.

  4. When it comes to urban fantasy, probably do whatever Patricia Briggs or Ilona Andrews (or their publishers) are doing. They seem to have pretty good luck with covers, and with genre-identifying elements. Also, they’re not writing totally romance or totally non-romance, so you can see what appeals to broad swathes of readers.

  5. wait, there are places people still go to buy actual physical books… in actual stores?

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