Tuesday 9 April 2019

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Urban Fantasy

One of my friends, Stephen Hayes, recently wrote a book called The Year of the Dragon, about a group of Christians during the Apartheid era in South Africa. He wasn't sure how to classify it, but a few people (myself included) told him we felt it was clearly Urban Fantasy.

This prompted him to do quite a bit of research on different genres, and Urban Fantasy in particular, and this past weekend, he wrote this blog post:

I found his perspective interesting, and he particularly points out how the vast majority of Urban Fantasy covers these days feature naked, faceless, male torsos. He used City of Bones by Cassandra Clare as an example... but he's right. Do a quick search on Goodreads for "Urban Fantasy", and you'll see what he means.

This got me thinking about my own Urban Fantasy contribution, Memoirs of a Guardian Angel (Cover pictured below):

Funny enough, when I first spoke to my cover designer for that book, I wasn't sure how to classify it, either.

But she has a good feel for what sells, and after hearing my synopsis, she insisted it was Urban Fantasy, and I should go take a look at bestsellers in that genre and let her know what type of covers I liked.

I did so, and presently told her that the one thing I did not want on my cover was a naked male torso. She laughed and said that since she wasn't partial to those either unless the book was also obviously Romance (which mine isn't), she promised to keep bare-chested people off mine.

I'm really happy with what we came up with. There's a male chest, but it isn't bare. It's quite abstract, but I think it fits nicely among the Urban Fantasy bestsellers - which is an important requirement for a cover these days - and also captures the feel of the book really well.

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not you agree. :-)

Now, we often like to decry the fact that people judge books by their covers, and we often quote the old cliché about how you shouldn't.

But the fact is, people do judge books by their covers, and that may not be a bad thing. Ultimately, as authors, we do actually need to sell our work, and most people want to read or listen in the genres they're used to... and the best way for those people to judge whether a book is something they might want to spend their hard-earned money on is the cover.

Do you agree? And how do you feel about the current trend in book covers, particularly for Urban Fantasy? Can you immediately figure out what genre a book is, just by looking at the cover, and are you turned off buying books because the cover implies the book is of a genre you don't normally read?

Please let me know in the comments below. I'd love you hear your opinions!

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