Monday 6 September 2010

A quick thought on cover art

Seems the paperback cover for City of Ruin has really split opinion amongst fans.

Mark has highlighted some of the negative reactions to the image, and I've added a few more:

"The Harlequin dude must go. It’s not as bad as the infamous Patrick Rothfuss gay cover...”

"It looks absolutely dreadful, almost like a Harlequin Romance mated with and Urban Fantasy novel."

"It's horrendous. An utter failure. An abomination. My eyes are bleeding profusely as we speak."

"Wish publishers would steer away from this obsession with main characters on covers. It messes with the reader’s heads. We can do our own imagining thanks, that’s what we’re here for."

And so on. Now, I don't have a problem at all with these comments - everyone reacts differently to cover art (although the first comment is misguided in suggesting the cover would be better without the figure - it would be worse off both commercially and artistically if the figure was removed). But whatever.

It's the last comment that interests me though - why do readers hate it so much when an artist's representation of a character doesn't fit with their own?

I just find the psychology interesting. Everyone reacts to things differently - two people can read the same book and have two very different experiences. Hence why an artist's representation of a character won't fit everyone's image of how that person looks: it's their depiction.

Furthermore, it hardly matters does it? Just because the character on the new cover for your favourite book doesn't look at all like you imagined them, doesn't mean your own image is made redundant in any way. The depiction on the cover is just one person's image of that character - it doesn't have to be yours. You remain free to envisage that character however you like. And the publisher isn't trying to brainwash you with regards to what the character looks like, or spoil your own interpretation in any shape or form - to think that is just ridiculous (the only thought in the publisher's mind is to make the depiction of said character as widely appealing as possible).

I guess the point I'm trying to make here, is that I think it's unfair to slate a cover just because you don't like the depiction of the character.

Personally, I like the above cover. And no, Brynd doesn't look at all like I imagined him - but that's utterly irrelevent to me.


Anonymous said...

I'm not saying anything.


redhead said...

I guess the point I'm trying to make here, is that I think it's unfair to slate a cover just because you don't like the depiction of the character.

couldn't agree more.

but on the otherhand, I'll often have a knee jerk reaction to artwork of anykind, be it cover art on oa $8.99 paperback, or a Monet original at a museum.

There are plenty of times i skipped over a book because I didn't care for the cover art or even the title. And I can't tell you how many times I've gotten burned, because I've missed out on excellent novels. For the most part I don't mind if the character is on the front and looks or doesn't look like why I imagined. Although please, if the author insists over and over again that the main character has dark hair, please don't put on a blonde on the cover (this recently happened, and I was annoyed)!

But this City of Ruin cover art? Beyond the harlequin looking guy and the urban fantasy attack pose, It just looks like a cheap photoshop job to me.

Unknown said...

I don't think that particularly commenter is saying that it doesn't jive with his/her personal vision of the character, but that the cover takes away his/her option of imagining the character for him-/her-self. That's something I don't personally have an issue with, but also something I completely understand.

And I agree with redhead. I don't liken it to a cheap Photoshop job, but it does look like those awful CG characters you see on ebooks and the like. Very fake looking in all the wrong ways. It absolutely looks cheap. Where's Martiniere when you need him?

James said...

I've no problem with people slating the art or design - that's fair enough. Just don't understand people who slate a cover because the character's hair is too long, or whatever - who cares?

Luke said...

Problem is that you usually haven't read the book when you buy it---so the character on the cover, who's often a dolled-up reworking of the main character designed with commercial appeal in mind (and hence usually generic looks) ends up monopolising how you imagine the character--it influences your preconceptions.

THAT'S why I don't like main characters on covers--at least as long as their face is showing.

Ryan said...

"so the character on the cover, ... ends up monopolising how you imagine the character--it influences your preconceptions."

That's exactly my problem with depicting characters on the cover. I want to content of the book to let me build my mental image of the character(s), not the cover.

On a related note, when I eventually have kids, I'm going to do my best to have them read LOTR before they see the movies.