Judging a Book by its Cover

“Why, it’s one o’ the books I bought at Partridge’s sale. They was all bound alike — it’s a good binding, you see — and I thought they’d be all good books. . . . but they’ve all got the same covers, and I thought they were all o’ one sample, as you may say. But it seems one musn’t judge by th’ outside. This is a puzzling world.”
–George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

perf5.000x8.000.inddMarin here, and today I’m thinking about the puzzling world of book covers. Recently I worked with a cover artist–the very talented Rae Monet–to create the cover for my third book.

A cover’s primary purpose, of course, is to convince the reader to buy the book behind it. A great cover not only entices the reader, but captures the story in some way.  Cover artist Peter Mendelsund says “his job is ‘finding that unique textual detail that…can support the metaphoric weight of the entire book.’”   But beyond that, a cover needs to represent the book. The mood of the cover should match that of the book–a couple in a clinch for a romance, something dark and eerie for a paranormal, an illustration for a children’s book. Even things like font matter–you see the font that was used on the Harry Potter books, and you recognize it immediately.  The cover, according to Smashwords founder, Mark Coker, should be a promise to the reader. A promise that the book is as professional as its cover, that it is of the genre depicted by the cover, and that you will enjoy reading it.

There are plenty of sites out there which discuss the elements that make a great cover, and I list a few of them below. But as one of them points out, what really makes a great cover is what makes you purchase the book. I tend to like covers that are more abstract, that hint at the character of the book without revealing too much. Here are some of my favorites (click on the covers to visit the book’s Goodreads entry):

Deanna Raybourn was new to me, and I picked up her book in the library almost entirely because of the cover. The others are authors I know and like and would have read anyway. All of these covers evoke their stories and the genre. I think Julia Quinn’s cover must have worked quite well, because she has used a variation of it at least twice since then…

I asked my fellow Passionate Critters what they like, and don’t like, in a cover:

“I tend to gravitate toward books with real people on the covers. I tend to like couples too. I like feet/legs too–or just bodies with no heads–so I can get the gist of the romance while leaving something to my imagination.”

“I like illustrated covers, too, if they’re well done and not drawn by the author themselves. Actually…it’s easier to say what DOESN’T work. Go here to see some samples: http://lousybookcovers.com/.”

“I like a simple cover which conveys the mood or feel of the story that I’m buying.”

“I’ve always liked Kristan Higgins’ covers. You see a couple but not too much of their faces.”

“I’m the opposite of the others, I love faces.  At least the guy’s face, I’m OK with the back of the girl’s head.  Clinch covers work for me as well.  I want a sense of the time period, what the characters look like, and the overall mood of the book.  From the cover I should easily be able to tell if it’s a romance, sci-fi, fantasy, etc, as well as what era it’s set in, and a decent idea of what the main character, or characters, look like.  I also like to get a sense of who the characters are, is it a brooding alpha male?  Throw him in a tux and make him look angry….or heated…or both.  Character looks are huge for me, especially for the male, and nothing irks me more than grabbing a good book and then having the guy be described as someone I don’t find even remotely attractive.  It kills the whole thing for me.”

“I don’t honestly know.  Some are clearly just bad or rather lousy, but they don’t count.
But of good, well-done covers, where there’s nothing actually wrong with them…hmmm. There’s no type that appeals to me – some just look…right.
I think it’s sort of subjective to a degree – flowers and a wedding dress would put me off, because it screams sweet and I don’t particularly like sweet.
My favorite sort of covers are UF [urban fantasy], which always seem to be very distinctive of the genre, usually a beautiful background, a strong character (all of them, they never seem to have their heads chopped off) often a woman, and a few swirly bits to pretty them up.
I think it’s an arty thing (which is why I struggle) just getting the proportions and colors right and pleasing to the eye.”

“I like real people, faces, and even a bit of setting. I like to see the story. I don’t like the drawn covers–like chick lit has. And don’t get me started on the computer graphics that….are just…not real looking. LOL  But that’s just me.
I don’t like chopped off heads or flowers or wedding dresses or babies.  I don’t know what that says about me.
Oh, I also don’t like floating heads…over cities and stuff.”

Clearly, we all like different things, which only goes to show that you’ll never please everyone, no matter how brilliant your cover may be. What stands out for you in a book cover? Share your favorite!

Some other takes on what makes a great book cover:

https://selfpublishingadvisor.com/2016/08/10/the-book-beautiful-the-cover/
https://springfieldwritersguild.org/2016/08/11/dont-judge-a-book-by-its-cover/
https://www.wired.com/2014/09/makes-brilliant-book-cover-master-explains
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/30/book-cover-design-indies_n_3354504.html
http://www.graphic-design.com/DTG/Design/book_covers/index.html
http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/designing-book-covers/
http://www.iuniverse.com/Resources/Publishing-Distribution/CoverDesignEssentials.aspx

 

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

The Importance of Reading as a Writer

Hi, all, Jennifer here!steking

I’ve had a revelation this summer. (Of sorts)

And here it is: Reading makes me a better writer.

Wow, hardly earth-shattering, right? I know. We’ve all heard this before. But not until a few months ago have I really seen it affect my writing. But what I also realized was that this summer I’ve read more books outside my own genre. I’ve read young adult, women’s fiction, and A LOT of non fiction.

I saw my writing change when I had to do major edits recently. Without much effort at all, I was able to add 8,000 words to my manuscript. And best of all, my editor loved what I wrote.

With one more month left to summer, I plan to take advantage of this time and add even more books to my reading list. It’s actually been kind of fun finding books I wouldn’t normally read.

A few of my favorites have been:

NIGHT by Elie Wiesel  The author reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man. Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.

ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Do you have a favorite book you’ve read this summer?

Also, my romantic comedy WEDDING DATE FOR HIRE is on sale right now for 99 cents for one more week.

Grab me while you can!InstagramWDFH

 

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her latest sweet romance: CATCH HIM IF YOU CAN

Happy Reading

I know there have been a couple summer reads posts on the blog already this month, and this is another one, but hear me out. A Facebook friend posted a “must read” list the other day, and every one of the books was intense–about mental illness, or cancer, or the Holocaust, betrayal, murder, suicide. I asked if anyone read happy books any more, and the answer was no. Really?

I will say that I don’t always read happy books, and I definitely don’t watch happy TV–I’m binge watching Bitten and Penny Dreadful at the moment–whoa. The books I write, although they have happy endings–a requirement in romance, of course–tend to be on the dark side. But every once in awhile, I need something light-hearted–the literary equivalent of an ice cream cone. And when I want to read happy, I’ll usually pick up a romance.

But the Facebook exchange got me thinking. I can’t remember the last time I read a happy book that wasn’t a romance, although cozy mysteries come very close–my faves are the Aunt Dimity books by Nancy Atherton, and the Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen. Browsing through Goodreads, it’s hard to find one–every description seems to contain the words “poignant,” “deeply affecting,” “deeply moving,” “haunting,” yadda yadda, which are usually code for “will make you bawl until snot comes out of your eyes.” I’m sure they’re great books, but they’re not for me.

So my challenge for you, friends, is to help me come up with a list of feel good books for the summer. Happy, but not happy-ever-after. I found a few that look promising, and they’re on my TBR list for an upcoming road trip to Massachusetts and Maine:

 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. The title alone is enough. I actually read and finished this book after I drafted this post. Read it. You must, must read it.

 

 

The Whistling Season. Aptly demonstrating the power of a good blurb.

 

 

 

My Lady Jane. I’m not entirely sure how happy this will be–Lady Jane Grey didn’t exactly have a happy ending–but I am intrigued nonetheless.

 

 

 

 

What books do you recommend, or have on your TBR list?

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Life in our Books

Do you ever wish you had done something differently? Wish that you’d had something extra inside of you to stand up when things didn’t seem right? That happened to me this week. And I ended my day, thinking…

This is why we write books. 

I went to drop my daughter off at school. I noticed a man, sitting on the bench outside. He was average good-looking and wore a Captain America shirt. And when we started for the door, so did he. Okay. No biggie. Lots of people come and go from the school. And I don’t know everyone. But because he caught my attention in that odd way, I locked my car, which I never do when I’m running into the school at noon to drop my daughter off.

I opened the front door, but didn’t wait for him, either, which is also something I would normally have done. Out of politeness, you know? And then I approached the inner door to the office and I rang the bell to get in. The guy waited behind me, but instead of waiting “in line,” he moved beyond me into the corner. Abnormal? Yes. Red flags [or yellow if you’re a football fan] were waving in my head. I was let into the office and he came in with me. Also a regular occurrence. Happens all the time. Other moms. Dads. Grandparents.

I went to the “visitor sign in” desk, and he went to the front desk and said, “I’m here to pick up my son.”

Front desk Lady: “What’s his teacher’s name?” [they ALWAYS ask that, even when you think they ought to know by now, they ask]

Mr. RedFlag: Mrs. Farfignewton [he said a name that didn’t exist]

The Front desk ladies look at each other, and I’m thinking, “What an asshole, deadbeat dad. Doesn’t even know what his kid’s teacher’s name is.” The front ladies asked him what his son’s name is, and he said, “Richard.”

WHAT THE FUCK? Richard? Really? I know this sounds crazy. But as parents and active members of a school community, you just get used to hearing names. And believe me, RICHARD is NOT one of them. So the Front desk ladies are wary by now and they ask him, “His last name?”

Mr. RedFlag: Uh…Smith.

By then, I’m actually getting nervous. I let some dipwad in the door, and he’s a very bad man. And i’m also thinking, well this guy isn’t getting anyone from this school. And then I wished I never let him in. Wished I’d listened to the voice inside me that knew something was off.

That’s when he identified himself as from the Sheriff’s department. And he had a partner who came in at that point as well, and I’m not going to mention how good-looking and romance hero worthy they both were. <3 hotguyAnd even knowing they are the good guys and were probably doing random checks on the safety of the schools [there was a kidnapping a couple of weeks ago where a woman picked up her daughter from school], I was also mad. One, at them for pulling the stunt [even though it really wasn’t a stunt] and two, at the world that this is what we’ve been reduced to. That we must be suspicious of everything, everyone. Sad.

But the writer in me will take that scene, and she’ll turn it into a romance. Because the principal will be a younger single woman who will take offense. And then when she and the Sheriff’s deputy happen to run into each other later that weekend, sparks will fly.

And…maybe, somewhere in that book, a mom will do the right thing and NOT let that Dipwad through the door. She’ll know that something is off, and she’ll close the door behind her without letting him in the front office. 🙁 That’s what we can do in our books. We can make the world hopeful and less scary.

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About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Location, Location…

If you’ve read my books, you’ll know I like to set them in locations slightly off the beaten path–very few Mayfair ballrooms for me! Stirring Up the Viscount takes place largely in County Durham, England, where I spent a year in college. Secret Promise characters can be found in Boston, where my mother lives, an island in Lake Erie an hour or two from my house, and Wallsend and Tynemouth in Northumberland, inspired by this photo of Tynemouth Priory:

Tynemouth Priory. Photo by Chris McKenna (Thryduulf) via Wikimedia Commons

My third book, which I’ve just finished–finally–takes place in Maine, inspired in part by this gorgeous painting by Frederic Edwin Church in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Twilight in the Wilderness (1860), by Frederic Edwin Church. Cleveland Museum of Art.

Dalemain House, Penrith, Cumbria. (Source: VisitCumbria.com.)

 

My next book is unrelated to my first three, and takes place in a location inspired by own family tree. My paternal grandmother’s ancestors hailed–some five centuries ago–from Kendal, England. Formerly in the County of Westmoreland and now part of Cumbria, Kendal lies just south of the more famous Lake District. The heroine in the book is an heiress from Kendal, and might live in a Georgian home like this one.

 

Levens Hall, Kendal, Cumbria. (Source: BritainExpress.com)

Or possibly  a 12th century house like this one, which was owned by the Bellingham family from 1562 to 1688. If my family history is accurate–no guarantees there–there are Bellinghams in my family tree.  I’m hoping to head over that way this summer (assuming I don’t sell my house, which looks less likely with each passing day) to tromp through graveyards in search of ancestors, and soak up atmosphere for the next book.

What inspires you in your writing or your reading? Any ideas where I should set the next book? I’m always on the lookout for the next great location!

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Romeo & Juliet

Ah yes, one of the most re-told stories in my opinion. There are many great movies out there that originate from books, but none touches my soul more than this romantic tragedy.

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You can capture this great masterpiece in book form, in movie form, play, or ballet. It is a story that can speak to generations. And while I enjoy the classic telling of the story, there is something to be said for the modernized versions of this tale. How many people found Shakespeare boring before Leonardo and Claire?

ROMEO AND JULIET, Leonardo Di Caprio, Claire Danes, 1996, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

ROMEO AND JULIET, Leonardo Di Caprio, Claire Danes, 1996, TM & Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved.

And I ran across this little image for yet another version that I’ve added to my to be watched pile. has anyone seen this version?

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And let us not forget a small shout out to the cartoon versions….

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I think seeing the remakes and various tellings of such a classic story really speaks volumes for the work itself. The Romeo and Juliet influence can be seen in many books out there and I for one, will forever be grateful for William Shakespeare.

What is your go to favorite book to movie?

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

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