The Passion Of Lovers

The passion of lovers is for death said she, The passion of lovers is for death

Love, exciting and new.  All book designers should fear the day where love is theme for the book. I fear those days, I do. Not because I can’t do it or because I am not exactly a fan of romance. Because you might end up with the cover shown above.

It is a good cover, for the genre. Good type, well placed, the photo itself is really nice. The woman is beautiful without looking like an artificial model, and the lad looks fit but you can’t see his annoying six-pack. All round a good, competent work, and I am sure the designer will be happy with it – and so will the author and publisher.

You know what is the problem with it?

This is the problem.

The advent of “ready made” book covers makes me wonder. The prices these “designers” ask make me wonder. And most of the covers make me wonder too. Nothing says lack of class more than an image with “book title” and “name author”. You have seen one of these and think there is not much difference between the 2 examples shown here. And unfortunately, there is not. Also, I have strong feelings on the price she asks. It is because of people like her that I have people asking why do I charge so much when there are people making book cover for $45.

When I decided to go ahead with my idea for this post I googled and this was the result:

romance books

See any difference between them? I don’t. I am not being mean. I know it is a niche, I know that is what most authors look for. I am not trying to say they are all shit and worthless – I am trying to say that these covers create 2 problems:

  • it makes publishers* and authors think all covers should be that cheap, that the process is just placing type on a photo, and all other sort of bad habits (*publishers are not always as well informed, as experienced, as tasteful as we expect – and when you are a professional, covers mean payment and it does not matter if the publisher is Penguin or a start up)
  • it makes all sort of unqualified people think they are actually book cover designers.

Of course we all start somewhere and not everyone can begin their career within a publishing house, where you can learn and develop your skills. The problem here is the fees. When you lower your prices that much, when you sell “covers” like that you are ruining all the work freelance designers have done to show and prove ourselves to the publishers out there. You might say “well most authors and publishers will certainly prefer a personal design, made by a competent, experienced designer, so you should not be bothered by this”. Hum, no. Many don’t. But the problem is not the many. If a single cover like the ones from the $45 is sold, then it is a problem already – it means that someone with the qualifications to do so didn’t get that job.

One might not think one or a thousand is a big deal but yes it is. This new “business model” takes work out of people who studied and have experience to do so. It generates a though that some of us are cocky or try to exploit people, with our huge fees and our contracts full of terms and conditions. Makes some people believe that we behave like we’re entitled to this and that. Yet you don’t have dentists with low cost prices and if you do, you think they might be a bit dodgy, don’t you?

By the way, look at these too.

The perception that most people have of the creative industries is still to this day a sort of alternative science, or something more into the ethereal / esoteric realm. I’ve read a post by another blogger with her prices for design and I was stunned. Not because they are unfair or too expensive. Because someone actually pays her what she studied and worked for.  Now if you are an editor, publisher, or in the publishing business in general, think about the last time you had someone asking you $2000 for a cover + royalties + fees for any edition other than the first one, and a plan for 3, 5 and 9 years. Now think how would you react if I asked you this.

Whatever your reply is, I would feel like Cervantes’s Don Quixote in the end of it:

The difference is not so much the quality but the clients you have, I read, and how long can you support yourself (or be supported) till you find a client that will agree to pay those fees. We are talking freelancers, here. Personally I think it has to do with the country, the quality of the work, the quality of the client, among other things. And I am being somewhat vague because I don’t believe that there is a formula. This works with the lady in question, but would it work with someone else? Could it be because she had a networking base, influential father, who knows? In the end of the day, she does not compete with Uber-book-designer Ramona, as their set of clients are far apart.

But again the gray area is the issue. It is about all the designers that are in the middle of that spectrum, that can’t ask the star designer fees (because nobody will pay them) and won’t charge Ramona’s fees (because they are insulting). The blogger I am not publicizing because she has already good clients, earns fuckloads of money and Ramona and the others, I hope, do not.

Looking at my portfolio, I like to think I can always do some sort of magic, but what if I get one of those? I work with very, very different publishers. One never knows! My concern is the covers – all alike! And I don’t want to design a cover that is equal to all of those – competent or not. Yes, it is your job to follow publisher’s line, the author, yeah, I wrote about this before. I dread ending up with a cover like those, and then someone somewhere says “well your work is not that different from that, innit”?

Sometimes being against the grain is a problem and trying to break from the chains of the template romance covers is an herculean task. If even possible. I google and google and can’t seem to find the example to state that it could be done. I came across a list of Best Covers Of NASCAR-Themed Romantic Novels. Among many other manifestations of a world that borderlines my concepts of “strange”. Is this the rule 34 of books?

Here is the “Best 2013 Romance Book Covers” from goodreads. I don’t see nothing that sets them apart. Warm color, blue, blue, warm color, and so on. Could this genre be “saved” from itself or will it prevail in his own glory?

Abebooks at least have a sense of humor.

A small confession: when I thought about writing this, I was sure I would find a great example on how you can this any other way.

I haven’t.

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