Sunday, July 12, 2009

Do you have any idea how hard it is . . .

. . . for cover artists to come up with models who closely resemble the protags in certain books?

I know different people have different attitudes toward covers. Some are happy with eye candy from the neck down. Others want faces, so they can better visualize the characters. Still others don't care if a cover has any human element, as long as it's well-wrought and relevant to the storyline. As a reader, I have no particular preference, as long as the cover isn't a complete assault on my aesthetic sense. But as a writer, I have a considerably greater investment in how the game of image selection and manipulation plays out.

Seems to me, the most problematic covers are those that feature people whose heads haven't been conveniently lopped off. I invariably feel a swell of guilt when I have to tell an art director, "Sorry, but that guy doesn't really look like my guy." I know designers' options are limited. They don't have their pick of models; they can't spend countless hours molding each and every cover element to fit the author's vision. Yet, when the final cover appears and a model makes some character look significantly different from how I've pictured and described him, I feel obliged to apologize to readers.

Sometimes, though, serendipity strikes, and a graphic artist's talent and resources mesh nicely with an author's vision. This was the case for me with Looking for Some Touch and InDescent. I could've nitpicked (Pablo should be a little more well-muscled; Adin Swift should be more beautiful and somber, a la the photo on the right from a Kresley Cole cover), but basically I was thrilled with the final results.

So now I wait with bated breath for the Bastards and Pretty Boys cover, which is in the tweakage stage at Liquid Silver. And I'm trying desperately to keep in mind what I wrote above. There can't always be accurate depictions of characters on covers. So far, for B&PB, I have one that's right on the money. (Meet, and feast your eyes on, Booker, below. That's definitely him.) But even if Charlie, the POV character, doesn't end up with quite the right look, I'm hoping readers take their cues from the text and let their imaginations make the necessary alterations. Oh, and that they give the talented artist props for everything that did come together in an expert way.

Movement far off to the left caught my attention. Caught and momentarily held it. My neighbor immediately to the south, or one of my neighbor’s guests, walked to the lake and waded in. A tall, wiry man with tousled dark hair, he wore plain cutoffs. Not Speedos, nothing tight and microscopic. When he was about hip-deep, he gracefully tilted forward and slid beneath the water like a warm knife into butter. Resurfacing, he lapsed into a strong, smooth crawl. I wasn’t sure why the sight transfixed me.

* * * * *

I liked the way he looked. I liked it more each time I saw him. I liked his high cheekbones and stark, whisker-peppered jaw, a shallow divot marking the center of his chin. I liked his long nose and handsome mouth. His lips, delineated by clean, soft lines, were just full enough to be alluring. I wondered how skillfully he used them . . . and silently chided myself for wondering.


Tam said...

I don't mind if they aren't exact and what I visualize is probably different from what you visualize slightly. My issue is if the character has long blond hair and the guy on the cover has military cut black hair. Ummm. Hello? Did you read the description at all?

Also if there are two guys with bulky muscles when one of the characters is described as slim and twinky. Really, I'm sure there are lots of twink photos available, even without their heads. If there is 8 inches in height difference (not length), don't show two guys the same height. There are ways around that, just don't show them standing side by side.

I know Trace at Amber Quill talked about how hard covers are and there aren't always pictures that fit, ideally I would hope an author is told "There are no pictures of tall Nordic gods with three eyes, how about a dog playing poker" or some alternative rather than incite the scorn of readers with a red haired midget with 1 eye.

On the whole for me, unless a cover is god awful (vampire babies anyone?) I don't really compare too closely. I just looked at your Touch cover again and it works for me. Or perhaps because I've seen the cover first I saw the character that way (as it's close) whereas you know the character first so see the flaws in the picture.

K. Z. Snow said...

Trace spoke the truth, Tam, and I'm beginning to realize just what these valiant cover artists are up against.

We writers can get pretty diva-ish when it comes to our characters. We know what they look like and want desperately for our covers to portray them to perfection. But, depending on the publisher and how its art department is run, that often isn't possible. Coming up with models requires (I assume) paying for models -- or at least their available photos. It also requires an investment of time. Both of these factors obviously limit the field of choices.

Some publishers don't seem to care if a cover reflects a book's content. It's the publishers who do care who have my sympathy. Helluva butt pain, dealing with authors who are constantly screaming, "But that's NOT how it/he/she should look!"

You, as a reader, have the right attitude, and it's one I've been trying to adopt as a writer: Just get it close!

The Touch cover is, by the way, one of my favorites.

MB (Leah) said...

I don't really notice covers unless they are weird or exceptionally nice.

With m/m I might be attracted to a cover if the guys are good looking, but for some reason I don't really put the cover picks to the characters. I base my pic of the character solely on how the author describes them.

In m/f though, I get very agitated of the woman on the cover doesn't resemble the female character.

Maybe that's because in m/f I identify with and notice the descriptions of the female character, whereas with men only, I just picture them in my head. Weird that.

K. Z. Snow said...

And I'm just the opposite, Leah. Depictions of female protagonists don't faze me in the least. Even for my own books, I can let them slide much more easily than depictions of male protagonists. I'm a lot fussier about the latter.

Guess that's why I love writing m/m fiction -- I seem to make a bigger emotional investment in male characters. Go figure!

Jenre said...

Have you got e release date for B&PB yet?

I've pretty much liked all the covers on your books that I've read so I think you must be ahead of the game, as it were.

You are right in that there are only a few stock shots to choose from and it is a bit confusing for the reader when the same man turns up on the cover of two different books (as is the case with the new Katrina Strauss book, which has your Adin from InDescent on the cover). I suppose this is why many publishers stick to the dreaded naked torso shot - it's much harder to match the man-titty from cover to cover :).

K. Z. Snow said...

EEK! Now Katrina has Adin? Actually, Adin as I visualize him looks almost exactly like that photo I posted. (Do you know who that cover model is? Hm? *wink-wink*)

But yes, it's very disconcerting for some readers to identify a character with his cover image...and then see that same face assigned to a totally different character. So I fully understand the use of headless torsos.

EC once reused the same m/f couple on different book covers, including my novel Plagued. The poses were slightly different, but the man and woman were obviously the same and the pix obviously came from the same photo shoot. I found it very jolting.

I'm glad you've liked my covers so far, Jen. I think the one for Bastards and Pretty Boys will be really good (Liquid Silver has an excellent art staff). Just don't know yet if it will be possible to find an accurate representation of the blonde POV character.

I'm hoping to get a pub date very, very soon. This is a summer-themed story, so putting it out in fall or winter wouldn't make much sense.

Jenre said...

The model from the Kresley Cole books did the round a number of times on romance covers, especially historicals, I seem to recall. I can't remember his name but he's a French model.

I love his yummy 'I read poetry too' look he has going for him.

Hee, my ver word is 'subess' - not today thank you :).

Tam said...

This is the third time this guy has shown up in my library and I only have 400 files, its not like 10,000.

Yes, he's hot, yes I like him, but he'll always be associated in my mind with the first character. Kind of a "hey, what's he doing in this book?" response. There are a couple of others as well. He's being "unfaithful" to his first true love. :-D

K. Z. Snow said...

My dears, that's none other than my personal fantasy-come-to-life, Nathan Kamp. You can find his book covers here:

If only his likeness were available to/affordable for e-publishers.


OH...the B&PB cover is good to go. Love it. And both models are perfect!

Tam said...

My my, he's like Fabio but cuter. LOL If he's not careful there will be overexposure (I can only hope for exposure).

K. Z. Snow said...

Nathan is a marvel. He looks a little different (sometimes a lot different) every time I see him.

Overexposure? There is no such thing. Heh-heh.