Filed under shit you probably don’t need to be worried about: Over the past few days, I’ve noticed some writers in a couple of groups over on Facebook have suddenly become rather…concerned over the newly important issue of faces on covers. Yes, this is suddenly a thing. Evidently we don’t want to put faces on covers to drive off people of certain genders or ethnicity. Or people who prefer to imagine what the MC looks like on their own. Or people who get upset about seeing faces on covers. Because 50 Shades doesn’t do it.
Ermagherd! Ferfty Sherds!
This bugs the fuck out of me on two levels.
First off, a reality check. I mean seriously folks. As an author, I’m not looking to appeal to every single person on the planet. That’s a superpower that is completely beyond my scope as a human being. It is flat out impossible to do. Moreover, some of the readers people used as examples of “good” reasons not to put a face on your covers are, quite frankly, people I really don’t want to go bending over backwards trying to please. One commenter’s sister gets so deeply offended at the author trying to impose their idea of what the character should look like on her by putting that image on the cover that she won’t even consider a book that does it. Another thinks that the reader should be able to see themselves as the main character and that putting someone on the cover gets in the way of that. And so on.
What they’re describing is a kind of hyper-sensitive, highly reactionary reader that you just can’t please. Ever. This is the reader who leaves two and three star reviews of nearly everything, then leaves a five star review on a book the rest of the world sees as a steaming pile of rhino shit, but then one stars the same author’s very next book and talks about feeling betrayed because they didn’t take the story in the direction they thought it should go. Granted, they are thankfully few and far between. But they’re NOT the kind of person an author should be bending over backwards to please, no matter how stridently they speak out against you. They represent a small segment of people and they are NOT your problem.
Like any author, I have an audience that I DO appeal to, an audience who, for some odd reason, digs what I write the way I write it. And I’ll grant you that my audience might only ever be a few thousand people. But they are MY audience. They either like seeing a face on my covers, or they really don’t care one way or another and just dig my writing style. Whatever the reason, my work just resonates with them, and that’s cool. We have an easy relationship to maintain. That large group of readers, that’s my bread and butter as an author, and they are the people I’m really looking to thrill.
So I’m NOT going to worry about the group of folks who don’t like my cover choices. I’m not going to worry about driving away a small segment of potential readers with something that minor. Odds are good that the people it DOES drive away would never be one of my readers anyway. And yet there are people who say I should worry about that.
No, I’m going to worry about keeping MY audience happy.
That brings me to the second thing that drove me batty about all of this. Fucking REALITY people. So, there are all these writers, many of whom are not published, who are debating how putting a face on a cover could drive readers away, theorizing and postulating, or in some cases, pontificating, about how it’s better not to, or what to put on the cover and what not to instead of a face, and still falling back on “Fifty Shades doesn’t do it.”
And not a single piece of hard data to back these theories and pronouncements of Gospel Truth up. None.
It took me ten minutes to go to Amazon and pull the top 100 pages for four sample genres. And THIS is where it gets hilarious. In Paranormal, more than half of the top 40 titles had a face on the cover.
More than half. Empirical evidence for the win, right?
But, not satisfied with that, I went to Women’s Fiction. Only three of the top 20 featured faces on the cover. Okay, so maybe it doesn’t hold true in all categories. But the number 3 title in that genre had a close up of a face.
But over in African American Women’s Fiction…wow, look at all of those people on the covers. Most of those featured full faces on the cover. The same held true in African American General fiction.
My conclusion: Of the four samples I checked, three showed that faces on covers still seemed to sell in the top 20 as often as other images did. In other words: It depends on your genre, so do your research before you go telling someone what will or won’t work on your damn cover. Otherwise, you’re yelling at yourself in an echo chamber, and giving one size fits all advice that goes contrary to reality.
Or, you’re getting all worked up over a non-issue when you could be writing.