Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why Is It So Hard to Get an Agent? Because It's Supposed to Be.

Why is it that cover art (meaning not photographs) is getting less popular? Personally, I find that I'm less likely to get a book if it has a photograph cover. Photo covers seem to be getting way more popular.
I think this is one of those publishing pendulum things. Right now, photographic covers (especially on YA books) are more popular with readers. But I think that may change. I'm a fan of both approaches.
Are you personally more likely to get a book sent to you from an agent or one sent to you without an agent? Or do you really care about that?
I can't speak to how likely I am to be sent one or the other without revealing something about my publishing house-- it's different at different houses, you know. I can say that I acquire more from the agented submissions than from unagented, because that's true of everyone. But it's not because I care whether someone is agented or unagented-- it's because agents are (largely) doing their jobs and sending me a higher percentage of manuscripts I might acquire.

13 comments:

T.L. Byford said...

I think photo covers on non-fiction are acceptable, but I will not buy a fiction book with a photo cover. They look cheap and generic.

If a publisher doesn't believe enough in the book to take the time to develop professional artwork relative to the story, why should I take the time to read it?

It's also the whole "escaping reality" thing with fiction. How dare you wrap my fantasy with your reality...lol

~tlbyford

TLH said...

I like photos in general, but for a book cover they need a little spicing up. I do, however, HATE covers with a picture (or drawing) of the main character. I would rather create my own mental image from the author's words, thank you.

EA, if one is seeking an agent, and has been for some time, and it seems that every agent in one's genre is completely uninterested in one's work, at what point should one realize that one's work is just plain... bad? Is there a sign we should look for that says, "Give up!" in big, flashing letters?

~Tara

PhilH said...

I don't get why people would have a thing against *all* photographs. Most of them are horrible, some of them are beautiful, just like illustrated covers.

And why would photography not be "professional artwork"? Someone is putting time and effort into setting up that picture, and then editing and cropping it right. And they get paid for it. What's not professional?

I'd pay more for a good photograph than I would for the artwork on *either* the British or American cover illustrations for Harry Potter.

Jill Edmondson said...

Covers

I just wonder if a photo cover is in any way more cost effective for the pulishers?

I know of some of my familiar faves (series) that are NOT photos, and from the "brand" point of view, I think they work (and work well).

With my book, Blood and Groom, the publisher said right from the start that they would use a photo (with a bit of doctoring). I happen to like what they have done... but it is my first book, so I have nothing personal to compare it to.

Cheers, Jill
www.jilledmondson.blogspot.com

Aubrey (AKA Stacey) said...

That's interesting because I tend to go for photo covers more than cover art in YA.

For example some of my favorite covers right now include NEED by Carrie Jones, PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL by Jessica Day George, SONG OF THE SPARROW by Lisa Ann Sandell...all photo art.

I think as long as it is designed to fit the book and not just use some stock photo then its a better cover IMO.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I dunno-- I judge a book by the jacket copy more than by the cover - I've been burned too many times by gorgeous covers on mediocre writing, and I've had a lot of pleasant suprises with less exciting covers.

Besides, photo covers are ALSO professional artwork! They take time and money too! Do you think they get the covers on the Ally Carter books by dragging in a random girl off the street, taking one shot, and then plastering it on the front of the books?

Don't Dis the Photographers, man......

Steve Brezenoff said...

It's not just time required to create original art for a book; it's loads of cash. Using stock photos, especially without exclusivity, is FAR less expensive, and these people are not dealing with huge production budgets.

Anonymous said...

@ T. L. Byford

"If a publisher doesn't believe enough in the book to take the time to develop professional artwork relative to the story, why should I take the time to read it?"

There are factors you're not taking into account. For instance, some chain buyers INSIST on photographic covers. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy (are photographic covers REALLY more popular or does it appear that way because those are the only kinds some buyers will buy?) but you have to take into account that chain buyers DO influence the look of a book. Not all publishers bend to their wishes but some, usually smaller houses, are forced to take those opinions into consideration in order to get a buy.

It has nothing to do with a publisher's faith in a book. It has to do with what will sell a book to an intended audience and sometimes that direction is shaped by perceptions of those who buy books for bookstores.

Anonymous said...

T.L Byford said: "... but I will not buy a fiction book with a photo cover. They look cheap and generic..."

Wow, pig-headed a little, aren't you? Give me a break.

The publisher cares about the book or they wouldn't be publishing it to begin with. Some books lend themselves to photo cover, others don't.

T.L. Byford said...

Pig-headed...hmm. Strong words from someone brave enough to post as "Anonymous".

I like chocolate cupcakes. I do not like vanilla cupcakes. I never buy vanilla cupcakes. Simple math.

My point is, I am the one spending my hard earned money on one book out of millions competing in a saturated market. I quickly narrow down my choices by eliminating an element "I" don't like, photo covers. I spend less time choosing and more time buying and reading.

I'm not knocking publishers, but I don't care about their budget, time constraints, market analysis, etc...when I am shopping for a book. I want a good book, in a good package, at a good price. Value.

If covers were not important we would not be having this debate and publishers wouldn't bother to put them on.

And no, I don't choose a book just by the cover. They have to smell good too...lol

~tlbyford the pig-headed book buyer

Christian H said...

See, I am very picky about cover art. If it's not done in a style I like or tries too hard to be neo-Classical/realistic but fails (think a lot of fantasy book covers), I won't read it. Yeah, yeah, I know, judging a book by it's cover. But a photograph can't be a style I dislike or not realistic enough or whatever, so the cover makes less difference for me if it is a photo.

My point being, everyone's silly neurotic buying compulsions make no difference on an individual level; we can argue all day over why we say "it has to be photo" or "it has to be painted", but no one is remotely close enough to normative to really give an indication as to the general pull of the market. My guess is, if the publishers are producing photo-covers, then most people want photo-covers.

cynjay said...

If you won't buy a fiction book with a photo cover, you won't be reading much YA next year. I've seen a lot of the new YA covers and it must be at least 80% photos to illustrations.

christine tripp said...

but you have to take into account that chain buyers DO influence the look of a book. Not all publishers bend to their wishes but some, usually smaller houses, are forced to take those opinions into consideration in order to get a buy.

Very true, I have had to redo covers based on the booksellers wish to have it a blue background instead of pink, take out a clown nose, because many people are afraid of clowns, etc.
Publishers can also make mistakes in using a cover, based on old stats about what will attract the buy, what will not. Witness the Bloomsbury fiasco.