Friday, 11 October 2013

A cover question

 
Now here's a knotty issue for those of you who take an interest in book covers. Should a cover be an accurate reflection of details in the story? Does it irritate you if a prominent feature of a cover is simply wrong?
 
The reason I ask - and I suppose I'm looking for confirmation that I did the right thing - is that I've now seen a mock-up of a potential cover for The Sea Garden and loved it at first sight. (And that doesn't always happen, let me tell you.) But there was just one thing, very minor but nevertheless a potential source of puzzlement for readers: the image showed a mysterious tunnel of wisteria, and the garden tunnel in the novel was formed of bougainvillea.
 
I wish I could post the cover here, but I can't as it's still under wraps. Wisteria really is very beautiful, as well as bringing a feeling of gnarled history, perhaps for the simple reason that it takes so long to grow and is often associated with old houses.
 
 
Bougainvillea, on the other hand, is even more rampant and lends an undeniably exotic splash of colour that is absolutely appropriate for my Mediterranean setting.
 
 
What to do? The manuscript was right there in front of me, still open to changes in the copy editing process. In the end I did a bit of horticultural research and replanted my imaginary garden in the South of France with wisteria. But did it really matter one way or the other? What would you have done?


15 comments:

Evelyn said...

If it's an important part of the story, I think accuracy matters, so I would have changed the manuscript to wisteria as well. Plus I like wisteria a whole lot better than I do bougainvillea which grows almost like a weed in my home state of California!

Jacqueline Brown said...

I think you did the right thing too. I have been peeved by covers showing one thing, perhaps a typical French lavender scene, but the book, although set in France is not in lavender country at all. It seems to tick a theme box, but not a relevance box!

Cornflower said...

I think you're right to change the text, Deborah. The cover should reflect the book, and readers are quick to notice discrepancies.

Adrienne Reiter said...

I agre with Cornflower. My mysteries or based in San Francisco and local readers are quick to point out the most seemingly innocuous discrepancy. Best to play it safe. I found you on Book Blogs and sent you a friend request. I'm now your newest follower. You can find me at http://adriennereiter.blogspot.com
Cheers!
-A

by Gill said...

speaking as a gardening idiot i dont know one plant from another so it wouldnt have bothered me. The cover should convey a sense of the story but does not have to be accurate to the nth degree

Shelley said...

I think I would have done the same. Your love for the cover prompted the change but I don't think you would have changed the text if it hadn't felt right. Wisteria is beautiful and even the name has a sense of dreaminess about it. Xx

Michel said...

I am glad you changed the cover as I get irritated (feel misled) when the cover is inconsistent with the story.

Dawn Jayne said...

As a reader, I don't care so much if a cover is accurate.

In this particular case, I had to Google the two flowers because I had no idea what either looked like, and I'd bet the vast majority of readers won't know, either.

As an author, of course I'd like to believe my carefully crafted world and nuances will be universally understood and appreciated, but unless a reader has the same interests as I do, much will be lost in 'translation', so to speak.

I've picked up on cover inconsistencies before, but I've never found them particularly troublesome, except in extreme cases. (I once bought a book where the cover art white-washed a African character - really, what century is this?)

Covers are just a glimpse into the soul of a story, and I think if it reflects the feel and tone, it's a success. You've already hooked me!

April @ My Shelf Confessions said...

I personally wouldn't have known since I'm not a plant expert; but I think it DOES matter when an author takes the time to consider that and thinks of the readers and the story when considering a cover. I sometimes get irritated when a cover is SUPER misleading, especially if it's a key aspect of the story, or if the cover doesn't reflect anything in the story at all. I think you did the right thing though for those "stickler" readers who would notice those things

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Thank you all for your insights - some great comments. I think this shows that it's not a cut-and-dried case but very personal. As a reader I enjoy looking at covers, design, the whole package of the book (and is this something that will keep the paper book holding its own against e-books for like-minded readers?). I do notice when a detail is wrong on the cover and it does irk me.

But I fully recognise that not all readers are quite so literal. My reasoning was that most people probably wouldn't notice or care, but why upset the sticklers, among whom I must count myself?

Bunched Undies said...

As always late to the party. Wisteria generally photographs better than bougies (as we call them in Arizona) and have an inherent sense of lost history, so I think you did the right thing.

Marcheline said...

First of all, the cover is under wraps? Excellent pun!

Secondly - I think covers are very important. (This, from a woman who buys wine based on whether she likes the label or not.)

For example, the Harry Potter series is one of my favorite reads of all time. However, I didn't read it for many years because I very much disliked the cover art. It didn't do anything for me whatsoever, and it gave me a very misguided impression of what the story was going to be like.

For me, a cover that conveys the feeling or ambiance of the story is more important than whether the cover has a picture of someone or something actually in the story.

Muriel Jacques said...

Wisteria is probably nicer on pictures, but Bougainvillea is what I grew up with. It is everywhere in Provence. That said, I am sure that, whatever happens, your cover will be great anyway!

James Kiester said...

Personally, when a story doesn't match the cover I feel like I was tricked. On the other hand, I know so little about flowers I'd never spot the difference.

HeidiInHolland said...

The old saying is "don't judge a book by its cover" but many of us do. I am drawn to a beautiful cover. I do however think this one sounds like while both would work, the idea of closing the book between chapters and seeing the bougainvillea (sseing that it plays an important role in the story) would enhance the book for me. It would aide in the visual picturing of the atmosphere.

Greetings from Holland ~
Heidi

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