Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Elizabeth Chadwick Comments on Covers

Elizabeth Chadwick, bestselling author of numerous historical novels including The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion, added a comment about her own covers down in the comment section of a previous post. I'm reposting it here so you are all sure to see it. Elizabeth writes:

The women (and the man in one case!) on my covers aren't exactly headless, and may even have faces next time around but they belong to that school of design - and especially the nice but not historically correct frocks thing. However, since having been given those covers my sales have more than quadrupled and I have gone bestseller. I have heard from a major chainstore bookbuyer in the UK that the general public is still very keen on the headless nice-frock school of jacket and they are still selling big-time. In fact he's going to be saying so in an article for a writing magazine soon.

Other than that I had a reader write to me to say she so much preferred headless or turned away because then she could imagine the character in her own head and didn't have to put a post it note over their faces for the duration of reading the novel!

Bottom line: Headless may be a cliche, but at the moment it is still selling books like hot cakes!

The inside scoop from someone who knows! I thank Elizabeth for her input and hope that she will alert us to the bookseller's article when it is published. Be sure to follow the ongoing cover discussion at Historical Fiction.

A question for readers: does it bother you tremendously if the depiction of the main character on the book's cover does not match the description of the character in words?


Catherine Delors said...

Not a bit, Julianne! The young woman on the cover of "Mistress of the Revolution" doesn't have Gabrielle's red hair. Yet this morning a reader was telling me she peeked at the cover when reading an emotional scene to be reminded of what Gabrielle looked like. I think it goes deeper than physical resemblance.
What would have REALLY bothered me, though, would have been the wrong clothes/hair style for the time of the novel. To me, it would have screamed that it didn't care about historical accuracy.
To go back to Elizabeth, she almost convinced me to go headless! When you look at her covers, though, they are just barely decapitated: you see the nose and a hint of eyes.
Is this the way to go if you want your books to become bestsellers? In think, in Elizabeth's case, it has a lot to do with the recognition she was gaining as an author.
And about that quizz of yours? When are we getting the results?

Daphne said...

I actually don't mind the partially headless ones where (like Catherine said) you see the nose, mouth and part of the eyes. That gives you some reference for imagining how the main character might have really looked, but I think it works especially well when there isn't a well known portrait of the person. The ones I really don't like are the truly decapitated ones - it's just creepy.

I will always picture William Marshall as the guy on the cover of Elizabeth Chadwick's The Greatest Knight.

Julianne Douglas said...

I agree with you, Daphne. I think the partial faces are much more inviting than the completely headless ones. And I do like the fancy "frock" look as Elizabeth calls it, as long as the costumes are period-appropriate.

I, personally, never pay much attention to the physical attributes of the characters on the covers. I'll still form my own mental image from the words on the page, no matter what the cover looks like.

cindy said...

i'd rather leave the face of the heroine or hero to my imagination. so partial faces with fancy dress works for me!

Anonymous said...

I'm okay with the partial faces myself. It adds a bit of mystery.

Julianne Douglas said...

Thanks for stopping by, literatehousewife. I checked out your blog and it looks so interesting! I can't wait to spend some time there. :)

I think it will be great fun, as an author, to see what other people come up with as a cover for my book (assuming it gets published). To see what aspect of it speaks most strongly to them, to see how they package the various threads and themes into one image. I can't imagine what it must feel like to await the first view of the cover proof, or whatever they call it. I'm sure I'll be sick to my stomach with dread, excitement and curiosity.