Last week I started talking about how fantasy book covers seem to be changing. Not all of them, but a certain percentage have been, and that’s most notably the biggest sellers.
Have you seen the new Harry Potter Covers?
Yes, they’re clearly still fantasy, but…not the wild and colorful covers of our youth. (Okay, early middle age, not youth.) Each still has a clear fantasy element, but they’re not what we’re used to. They’re different.
How about this: the UK covers of GOT
This photo is via Fantasy Faction, who have a great article about the evolution of the GOT covers from 2014. Click on the picture to read it!
The point being, these are not your old 1980s fantasy novel covers, done by an illustrator with the main character in some action pose on the front. I suspect these covers cost a lot less money to produce, and took far less time. (I think the article quotes 4 months for the whole set.)
But these writers are big enough names that readers don’t need to be ‘told’ it’s fantasy.
So I’m putting this down as…
POSSIBLE REASON NUMBER 1:
Big Name Authors don’t need the traditional covers
Not only do their readers know their names already, but the non-traditional cover also gives the books a chance to attract a reader who might be leery about being caught with a book with a Frank Frazetta* cover on it. (Yes, that reader is out there.)
So could there be any other reason?
Well, another possibility cropped up immediately after last week’s post. Someone on another forum looked at my splash of covers, and commented that one of them looked like an indie cover.
…AN INDIE COVER. ::delicate shudder::
Interestingly, it was a cover from one of the Big Five? Big Four? publishers on what I suspect is an excellent book. (I’ve read this author’s work, which never fails to hit it out of the park.)
But the publisher had taken three photo images and worked them together into a cover, and that particular method has been used so much by indie publishers (of which I’m one, I’ll remind you), that there’s a certain look that one associates with indie covers. I knew exactly what that person meant. And…I agreed with them a little bit.
Publishers have been cutting corners lately. It’s an expensive world out there, and they’ve been experimenting with using stock photos just like the little guys. It’s cheaper.
What’s the drawback? Well, it could pass for an indie cover, and that carries the stigma of looking ‘less professional.’ But using stock photos also has a danger:
Again, this one’s via Fantasy Faction “Books Do Not Sell without Covers” from earlier this year. Click on the pick to read the AWESOME article.
Here’s another humorous link, via a romance writer whose publisher used a stock photo…that was used by everyone else, too.
The truth is, there’s a limited number of stock photos and models out there, and getting the right photo is pretty tough. Sometimes it turns out to be the right photo for everyone else as well. ARGH!
So publishers are struggling to find was to both A) Make covers less expensive and B) Differentiate them from Indie Covers.
In my eye, that would mean getting away from stock photos if at all possible.
POSSIBLE REASON NUMBER 2:
Differentiating the covers from Indie Covers
A couple of recent genre covers that I find particularly smashing:
Now, these are absolutely amazing books, but the covers don’t quite have the traditional ‘fantasy/scifi’ look either. (A friend of mine felt that the coloration of the Jemisin cover made it fantasy, while another said it was the font. I am willing to accept either as accurate since I don’t know.)
I’m still working my way through this, and looking at forthcoming covers at a lot of publishers has shown me that this is only a small part of what’s out there. (Angry Robot, for example, has a bunch of awesome covers coming out that don’t fall under this umbrella.) So I’ll keep looking and see whether this is an ongoing trend…or a flash in the pan.
Here are a couple more articles that I’m still parsing my way through:
*Don’t get me wrong. Frank Frazetta did some amazing covers, but they were a bit…over the top.