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.
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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.