Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My "Pet" Peeve

Don't get me wrong.  I'm going to mention three books that I liked.  But, I have an issue with their book covers.  And, it's a "Pet" peeve.

Why don't cover artists use the description of the animal in the book when they illustrate the cover?  When animals are important enough in the book to be described in detail, I think the cover art should match the description of the animal.  Here are three examples in which the cover art was just wrong.  It was so wrong, that I noticed it when I read the book.  Am I the only one bothered by the wrong art work to illustrate a pet?

So, here's the one I read most recently.  And, I love the book cover.  It's a beautiful cover with books and a cat.  I've said before, I think Penguin (USA) and Berkley Prime Crime have some of the best mystery covers.  But, that cat on Miranda James'  Murder Past Due is NOT Diesel.  Diesel is described as "A gray tabby with dark markings."  Does that look like a gray tabby with dark markings to you?  And, Diesel is one of the two most important characters in this book!






Example two is from a book I loved, The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal.  I booktalked this book after reading it.  Let me tell you, those of us who like dogs just said that cover is wrong.  Alvin is a "Two-year-old rescue mutt, a fluffy chow-Lab mix with a head like a Saint Bernard."  And, he has a "silky red head," had arrived as "a fluffy ball of red fur."  He now has a "red-gold mane."  Red, people, red!






I'm reading Louise Shaffer's Looking for a Love Story now.   I like this cover.  The woman's hair is a pretty good match with Francesca's description, "red-brown hair that has a tendency to frizz."  See that red dog on the cover?  (Almost matches the description of Alvin from the previous book, doesn't it?)  Francesca's dog is Annie.  "Annie was a rescue, so her ancestry has always been a mystery; it's clear that several large breeds were involved in her family tree, and at least a few of them were mega-shedders.  Coal-black mega-shedders.  We had to dump the decorator's favorite white rug after only a couple of weeks because of Annie."  Uh huh.  A big coal-black dog.


I don't even consider myself a visual person.  But, for some reason, book covers with the wrong animal on it bug me.  All three of these are attractive covers.  But, I do have a "pet" peeve.  I wish they had the pet right on those covers.

47 comments:

Meen said...

Lesa, I so agree! And not just when it comes to pets. It's amazing how often the cover doesn't match the book, once you start paying attention to it. I know I've mentioned it a few times in my blogs when the cover seemed to belong to a different book then the one I was reading.

Jen Forbus said...

Lesa, you made me laugh! I completely agree with you and things like this is where the question, "do cover artists read the books they design?" You really can't believe they do in cases like this. I, personally, think it should be mandatory. Even with authors providing suggestions, artists should READ THE BOOKS!

Brad Parks said...

Lesa, you've really hit on something. If there's anything I've learned as an author with a cat in my book, it's that some people are more dialed into the cat than they are into a lot of the human characters. So I better pay attention, too!

(For the record: He's a black and white domestic short-hair. He is accurately depicted on my website -- http://www.bradparksbooks.com/characters.php -- and I will make sure that if he ever appears on my cover, we'll get it right).

Lesa said...

So right, Marleen. I can't think what book it was now, but I loved the book, hated the cover, until a friend sent me the illustration for the Australian version of the book. They had it right.

Even as a teen, book covers mattered to me. There was a contemporary YA author at the time (can't even remember the name), but I hated the book covers. She was popular, but I couldn't ever bring myself to read the books.

Lesa said...

I was hoping for a little laughter, Jen. And, if we all end up reading ebooks, book covers won't matter. It's a shame. I'll miss out on some good books that grabbed me because of the cover.

You're right. All artists should be forced to read the book.

I just finished Jim Butcher's graphic novel, Welcome to the Jungle. Loved Butcher's comments in the book as to why the illustrations of Harry Dresden matched his image of him. Geez, if they match the author's description, don't you think they might match the reader's?

Lesa said...

That's funny, Brad. Now, in your case, the cat didn't jump out at me as much as your human character. But, good luck with making that cat match your description, if he's ever pictured. I've already had a private conversation with an author about that.

I do understand the author's usually have no clout. That's why my rant is directed at cover artists, not the author.

caryn said...

With you totally on this one!

Lesa said...

Thanks, Caryn! I thought this would be a fun post.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Well said. It annoys the heck out of me too. I see it happening not just with animals, but with humans, weapons, etc.

I have also recently noticed more and more jacket copy that was wrong as to character names, locations, crime, etc. To me, that is even worse. And one can really tell which reviewer actually read the book and which reviewer reviewed off the jacket copy.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Kevin. And, you're right about jacket copy, too. I try not to read the jacket copy before reading the book, knowing it will either give away too much of the story, or it will just be wrong.

That is worse than the book jackets. Someone writing the jacket copy should definitely have read the book!

bermudaonion said...

Stuff like that does bother me. It makes you wonder if marketing read the book.

kathy d. said...

Agree. It is just wrong to put a different animal on the cover than the one featured in the book.

But then again they should do it with humans, too. A woman reviewer wrote a post last year on-line where she complained that publishers told cover artists to put women victims of all sorts of attacks (won't be graphic) on mystery book covers, even if women weren't the victims. (It sells books.) Now I do not understand that. I may need a PhD in psychology to figure that one out. Or why that attracts readers. (P.S. that woman reviewer refused to review any more books with violence against women on the cover).

Anyway, I'd rather see happy dogs, cats, horses, rabbits on the cover, but healthy.

Maria said...

But we all know that dogs and cats in books are VERY busy animals--they are solving crimes, rescuing their owners...they simply haven't time to sit for a photo shoot!! So they get stunt pets to sit in for them! Or perhaps they get the job for their best buddy and hey, if their buddy has red fur instead of black...

:>)

It really wouldn't take much effort to get a *little* closer.

Maria

Joe Barone said...

Don't you figure the cover artists haven't read the book. They are working from a brief synopsis.

Lover of Books said...

When a cover is done, I would think they would check their facts before it goes to print if they do not read the book.
Krista

BPL Ref said...

Oh, I agree! Looking at the covers, I can see that the animals were depicted to compliment other elements in the cover. Heaven forbid the cat should clash with the books.

But even more annoying for me is the depiction of something that doesn't occur in the book at all. A cat on the cover just to indicate a cozy when there's no cat in the book-- I've seen several of those. Or there's what I think of as a stereotypical cover as happened with Cathy Pickens' early books. Since the books were set in the South and people did eat, but the cherry pie and fried chicken didn't have anything to do with the murder or characters or anything. The later ones did at least picture a diner that was mentioned in the book.

Not to remove the discussion from the light and fun, but there have been some more serious problems with covers. Recently two books featuring African or mixed race protagonists have had covers with white characters. No one seems to know if it's just an assumption on the artist's part or if the publisher has encouraged it.

Marie said...

Great post. I totally agree. I noticed this on a couple of books I've read and found it really distracting.

You think someone would have noticed before the book went to print.

Lesa said...

I'll accept that, Joe, that they're working from a synopsis. However, as Lover of Books said, then the cover art should be checked for accuracy before the book goes to press.

Lesa said...

Maria! I love it that you think the pets are using stand-ins. There you go! Too busy to actually sit for portraits. Very good.

Lesa said...

And, kathy d & BPL Reference are right. It's not right when the human characters are wrong. I guess I just haven't come across that as much, other than the time the characters were in their 50s, and the cover had a chick lit 20-some-year-old on it. Just wrong.

Lesa said...

Love this conversation! Looks like it stirred up some feelings. Thanks for talking about the book covers, and "pet" peeves.

LSUReader said...

Those cover bloopers bother me, too. Right now I'm reading a book that features a hero with facial scars. But on the cover? You guessed it--full-facial shot and not a scar in sight. It bothers me because it's wrong and somehow insulting to the author (whose work is distorted) and to the readers (like we won't notice the difference?) I wish publishers would get it right or just omit the fancy cover art entirely.

Clarissa Draper said...

That drives me nuts because I go into the book with a visual and it's smashed! Yeah, it's a peeve for me as well.

CD

Lesa said...

You're right, LSUReader. And, then you back and look at the cover, and the hero doesn't look the way he does in the book. It's so frustrating.

Lesa said...

And, Clarissa? Once they put the movie version on the front of the book, forget it. Even so, some of those actors don't look like the character is described in the book.

As for Harry Dresden, give me the graphic novel or the novels anytime. The TV show didn't do him justice.

But, then that's a whole different subject. Book covers are the issue here, and publishers who should know better.

Chantelle Osman said...

I really hope e-books adapt so cover art doesn't become obsolete. I know it's considered taboo, but I will admit here that I sometimes, okay, frequently, judge a book by its cover. I've found many new authors simply by being drawn in by an unusual cover. I totally agree with you though - the cover must reflect what's on the page.

As for pets, over at Sirens of Suspense, we recently did a blog about pets in mysteries. I mentioned several series that I keep reading simply because I fell in puppy love. . . with the protagonist's dog :) http://bit.ly/d7nV3R

Ingrid King said...

Oh, I know! I felt the same way about the cover on Murder Past Due - loved the book, loved the cover, but it sure as heck is not Diesel!

Another example is Art of Racing in the Rain - Enzo is NOT a yellow lab! (I think yellow Labs must sell books....they seem to be on an awful lot of dog books that are not about yellow Labs. I wonder whether it's the Marley and Me legacy?)

I felt so fortunate that I had input to the design for my own cover - I didn't want a generic cat on my cover, it had to be Buckley!

And I'm clearly a sucker for covers with animals on them - I've put the other two books in your post on my TBR list just based on the covers....

Lesa said...

I'm with you, Chantelle. I'm a sucker for a good book cover. Even as a librarian, I've seen books and said to another librarian, I know I couldn't "sell" that book to anyone because of the cover art. So, I'm hoping e-books do eventually include the cover art.

Pets sell. Pets sell books, mysteries, and even blogs. Readership goes up when you talk about pets. That's not why I did this one. I was ranting about book covers the other day, and one of my co-workers told me I should do a blog post about my pet peeves. She didn't even realize she'd said "pet" peeves, but I latched onto it.

Lesa said...

You're right, Ingrid. Yellow labs and golden retrievers must sell.

Despite the fact you put those books on your TBR pile just because of the covers, I think you'll like the books. (grin)

Kris said...

This is rather annoying! I would think that if they are going to upt a character and/or a pet on the cover, they should have a full description of said character/pet before they start to illustrate. This way they could get it right. maybe.

Lesa said...

Kris, I know that one of the authors argued about the book cover with the publisher, but at no avail. The animal stayed the same. I told another author today that authors have no clout when it comes to their book covers.

BPL Ref said...

Oh, the "unsellable book"! Yes, I have some of my own memories of those. One was the first edition or two of a fantasy novel about unicorns but the art made it appear that it was aimed at small children instead of preteens & YAs. I think younger readers are more attuned to covers in some ways: an older child doesn't want to be caught reading a "baby book." If the cover conveys that, either through art style or showing a young character on the cover, it takes more nudging to get that book to go home with its intended audience.

Lesa said...

Sometimes you can nudge them, BPL Reference. What makes it hard is when the librarian (me) won't read the book either because of the cover. I know. Slap my hand. But, even as a young teen, I wouldn't read books if I hated the cover, and I still won't.

But, covers that I've never seen sell themselves are ones with modern art. Those just don't go at all, and other librarians have said the same thing. Fortunately, I haven't seen books come through recently with those covers. Maybe someone finally caught on.

Donis Casey said...

It's true that the artists work from a brief synopsis. My publisher commissions a cover almost before the book is done. I do get to look at the cover beforehand, though, and my publisher (Poisoned Pen Press) is amenable to change. But I've known more than one author who pitched a fit over the inappropriateness of her prospective cover to no avail. Especially true with the big publishing houses

Kristie said...

I totally agree with your "pet" peeve!! As a librarian, I see this all the time. Way too often! Argh!!

Lesa said...

Isn't it great that you have a publisher that will work with you, Donis? It's a shame authors don't have a little more say in the artwork on a book jacket. At least to make the pets and characters agree with the description in the book. If the editor didn't like the description, they should have worked with the author earlier.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Kristie! I'm glad you feel the same way about it that I do!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Oh my goodness! Look at all these comments!

I think it's totally a marketing decision.

And, yes, it bothers me, too! :)

Lesa said...

And, I receive a couple comments in my regular email, and on Twitter & Facebook as well, Elizabeth. I did stir something up. Avid readers want book covers to be right. One friend told me even as a child, she was bothered by the cover of Black Beauty because the horse on the cover had white on it.

Janet Rudolph said...

I totally agree with you, especially when it comes to important characters..the lead or the animal (and sometimes they're both). I love David Rosenfelt's golden retriever covers. They're perfect! Each one could be framed. His Andy Carpenter series features a different dog on each cover. As an aside, David rescues golden retriever and has a lot of them. Glad he has a say in the cover.

BPL Ref said...

This is such a neat topic that I can't seem to let it alone. The examples that Lesa shows up are really great covers, they just don't reflect the content. In cases like that, does anyone else feel really conflicted? I almost feel I hate to complain because the pieces are so beautifully and lovingly done. . BUT they're not quite right. I'd love to have a print of the Murder Past Due cover to hang up somewhere. I guess I almost feel it's a battle of the artists, with author as word artist vs. cover artist. Ideally, the latter should complement the first but it doesn't always work out.

Jeanne

Lesa said...

Janet,

You're right about the covers of David Rosenfelt's books. Those goldens are gorgeous. Yes, the important characters should match the descriptions.

Lesa said...

Jeanne,

That's what I said. I actually like all three of the covers that I used as examples. And, as you said, Dean's is a gorgeous cover. That just isn't a Maine coon cat on the cover, and it definitely isn't Diesel.

Anonymous said...

And I thought I was the only one who "agonized" over such a, to me, major faux pas! I find it irritating at best and downright "lazy" on the part of the editor/bookcover designer. Guess they think we readers don't really read books word for word! Including pet descriptions. It's a disservice to the author if you ask me!

Lesa said...

As you can tell, you're not the only one. Then, there were the comments I received on Facebook, and in my regular email.

I do think the cover should be run past the author, not just one of those, "We hope you love this cover as much as we do because this is what we're going to use," running it by the author. If the author says the cover is just wrong, someone should pay attention.

I even heard from a librarian who complained about a book she read as a kid, and she remembered the wrong cover. Oh, no. Readers pay attention.

Sandie Herron said...

I'm a little late coming to this post, but I wanted to add my "ME, TOO!" It bothers me a great deal when the cover art is so different than the real character.

I recently heard a story from Elaine Viets. She received a proof of the cover art for her next book, and it showed her main character with short hair. Problem is that her character had long hair, and it was definitely mentioned in the book.

I don't know the name of her artist, but I've always enjoyed covers by him/her (I believe he also does the new Penny Warner series.)

Elaine decided to write a scene into the book where her character cut her hair short to match the book cover!

Lesa said...

Oh, that's funny, Sandie, that Elaine would change the book to match the cover. I'm glad you share my "pet peeve!" And, thanks for sharing Elaine Viets' story.