You Do Judge a Book By Its Cover

better-friends-than-ever-approved Recently a google search produced a website where the writer performed a Cover Snark review.  She revealed some 28 covers that someone had submitted and she gently made fun of them. The comment on my upcoming Feb 2015 release: “I really hope the construction workers who built this railway into the ocean were fired. Also, still living girl, maybe you shouldn’t follow your ghost friend into the ocean, kay?”

Not a scathing review, by any means. And all my friends rallied to vote my cover to the top of the snark list.Thank you! I actually think the Best Friends Through Eternity cover by Rachel Cooper is the best because I love the blue colours and I love the waves and letters in the sand. (Some comment claimed it was weird and creepy)

What I also enjoyed about the cover for Best Friends Through Eternity was that I was consulted along the way.  Ghost girl could have been in cutoff shorts, the letters along the spine might have been in the sand as they are on the front.  I think I was just one vote among several on the editorial team but still my income will be hugely impacted by this cover, I appreciate the consult.

Most importantly the image actually connects with the story, perhaps not literally point for point, which believe me some young readers may have a problem with, but thematically .

To me the worst comment Snark Reviewer made on a cover was “What the f***?” Come on, be honest, how often have you thought that about an image on a book.

Besides attracting a reader, I think that image should give some kind of hint as to what the book is about. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? And maybe you don’t get it right away.  Perhaps after you’ve read a novel, you look back over the cover and say, oh yeah, I get why all those letters in crazy font are scattered everywhere or why there’s a fine arts renaissance portrait on the cover.

What I also liked about the “snark review” is that for once the writer wasn’t on the hot seat.  For once one of the major marketing tools got some attention.

Canadian books have to compete with US novels that are half the price and have gazillion times the design budget. This cannot be easy. But I think some honest cover reviews might spur some better efforts and even some accountability.  If no one says “What the f***?” poor sales will always be hung from the author’s neck and at this point in history, writers’ heads and shoulders are already bowed down by the weight of all the responsibilities for promotion.

So come on reviewers, tell the publishers and designers what you think of their work. Star the covers not just the writing.

PS Votes proved Best Friends Through Eternity to be the winner by double the votes of the second place cover.  Yah, Rachel Cooper. Yah, supportive voting friends.




Research in fiction

 “I read nonfiction (exclusively) because I want to learn something.”

It’s a troubling sentiment I’ve heard often enough.  It goes along with “fiction is a waste of time.” Readers feel everything in a novel is made up and therefor somehow untrue and unworthy.  

What they may not realize is that fiction writers spend much of their time researching and not only for historical fiction.  Most recently I’ve been in touch with two police officers to get the details for issuing speeding violation tickets correctly (also for handling a bomb threat in a school), a hospital doctor and retired E.R. nurse to find out how best to perform an emergency tracheotomy, a couple of avionics experts and pilots to properly recount the details of a bush plane crash.  I interviewed a Canadian mom of two chosen daughters and an (East) Indian friend over buffet Indian food to better understand the culture of  the transplanted teen for my newest book Best Friends Through Eternity coming out February.


 Honestly, the bizarre details in any story are probably researched true facts.  We stick to the believable when we invent story bits.

If I want to learn something, I’d be more inclined to read a novel set in the period or with the themes or subject matter I want to learn about. If I’m travelling to a place I often email the local librarians to ask for novels set in their area. I need a narrative story for me to really live and thereby remember details.

Research shows us that we can learn empathy from reading novels; we can also relax, our blood pressure levels improve more reading than performing yoga.  If you can read while patting a dog or cat, your Zen will improve even more.  How do I know?

Research I did for a book called Dog on Trial

Read fiction for fun but you will learn a lot.