Books and covers

I got into a discussion yesterday about books and covers. I was talking about BOSSYPANTS, which I read and enjoyed, but which I never would have picked up because the cover is so freakish. And then my husband sent me a link to Andrew Clements’ new book, TROUBLE MAKER, and I was telling him that most of his covers have the same format and are done by the same artist, and isn’t that a great way to create a signature look, because anytime I see a Clements cover, I know who wrote it. Of course, Clements isn’t the only author who does this. J.A. Konrath, king of self-pub, has made sure that all of his Jack Daniels books have similar covers. Of course it’s a series so that’s a no-brainer, but he goes the extra mile and names all of the books in that series after alcoholic beverages. Smart and smarter.

Clements’ books aren’t part of a series, but they are all about middle school kids in school settings, and the cover illustrations have a lot of  child-friendly appeal.

Then I got to thinking about book covers that I do like, and came up with these. (Of course, I add my own book cover because, they did a FANTASTIC job with it.)

So, what are your favorite book covers?



Pamela Keyes takes on Caribbean superstition, Phantom of the Opera, Shakespeare and High School drama in her book THE JUMBEE. This is a retelling of Phantom, complete with masked lover, and a young actress trying to find her way… in this case, for a high-stakes High School production of Romeo and Juliet. Keyes holds the reins of this story tightly and controls the many threads: phantom/jumbee, Shakespeare, family issues, tropical hurricane, and love triangle within a drama-filled plot.

It took me until Act 2 to get interested in the book, mostly because I didn’t care for the main character, Esti. And while I never got on her side, in Keyes hands her story is interesting enough to have made me glad I read through to the end. But the main issue I had with the book is my own fault: I bought the eBook version and my Nook just doesn’t do the cover justice.

The right way to follow a writing trend

Paranormal seems to be a big trend in YA lately. Some people love that, and some are totally over it.

I find myself in the (un)fortunate position to be writing a paranormal story. And because it’s based on the Caribbean jumbies I grew up with, I figured that I was still standing out from the pack. And then I came across this book.

My first reaction: frustration.

While the premise of this book is different from my own, the setting and creepy cast are similar. I really hate to participate in trends, so at first, this really chafed.

My next reaction: curiosity.

It’s my job as a writer to know what’s happening in the market. I need to know the genres and trends so that I know where I stand in the world of children’s lit. And finding stories that are similar to mine, can only be an advantage. I was worried before that my premise was too out there, but now I know it’s not. (Meanwhile, Nalo Hopkinson has the jump on both me and this author as far as writing about Caribbean folklore creatures is concerned.) If this book does well, it bodes well for someone else taking a chance on mine. The similarities between my book and this one are close enough to perhaps attract the same readers, but the premises are different enough that should my book be published, it won’t tread on her ground. We’re also in different age brackets. My book is MG. Hers is YA.

As a writer, this is part of the job. There’s hardly anything new under the sun, so it’s how you set yourself apart that matters.

Read the work that’s similar to yours.

Know the market for that type of book.

Distinguish yourself from the pack.

Write well.

Don’t worry.

(If only I could take my own advice on that last one, I’d be all set.)