Thursday, May 31, 2012

Titles and Covers and Elves, Oh My...

I hate sci-fi and fantasy.

I'm a hypocrite. I know.

I didn't really realize this until sort of recently. Like last week*

Now let me back up a bit. I obviously don't actually hate the genres as a whole. They really are the most interesting to me. I love the Harry Potter books, liked Twilight, have published a small collection of short sci-fi stories, and am currently working on a novel with its roots in fantasy and its leaves in the stars. That's not hate, but I'm really good about making overstatements.

So last week. I was at the library, poking around and looking for something to read that would satisfy my very picky nature. (I ended up getting Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker, which I know I probably won't finish, and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which I really liked. When they do the movie, Alan Rickman needs to play Silas. So anyway.) I had read something on about a couple of books that looked to be hard sci-fi. The second one had lovely cover art, and it was newer, and the library had it. I figured I should start with the first, so I found it on the shelf and took a look at the inside of the cover.

It took me about two seconds to slide it back on.


The blurb was way too freaking long.

While that sentence makes me sound, well, lacking, I have a valid reason for thinking that. This book's description, coupled with cover art that reminded me of bad mass-market sci-fi coupled with Harlequin romance, only if the characters were electronics instead of people, were a major turnoff.

I didn't need to read the whole plot of the book on the cover. It didn't tease me or invite me in at all. The art was, eh, about as interesting as my microwave with its broken turntable (so not much.) The length of the blurb threatened to tell the entire story. Suddenly the novel became a hard sci-fi infobook.

I don't read textbooks anymore. I barely read them in college.

Worst part was, this was done by a publishing house. I'd react the same way with the fantasy books at the library. All of them will have an elf, or bow with arrows, or a leather bikini, or maybe a centaur. Possibly a blatant ripoff of hobbits. All that is pretty much why I avoid high fantasy like the plague. Yeah, this makes it really hard for me to describe with any helpful accuracy what sort of books I like to read.

Well first, it has to be attractive. There are a lot of movies that I haven't seen (and most likely won't) for the simple reason is that they just didn't look that interesting. I really could not care less how they "made you think" Uhm, well, yeah. A lot of movies do. First time I saw The Matrix, I was a little freaked out for a couple days. Not from the movie. It's still one of my faves. But just because I sat in Geometry class wondering if my pencil was real, doesn't mean it's a cinematic masterpiece. It was just a fun movie, and it got my attention.

Second, it has to entertain. If a book goes on incessantly about the politics and religious practices of vampire elves living in a 23rd century version of New York on a distant planet, I don't care if the setting is really cool, I'm done if there's no plot. Even the most interesting characters are boring if nothing ever happens to them. Pride and Prejudice didn't get popular because Lizzy Bennett spent the book pondering life while working as a waitress. It has an actual plot.

So writers, if you've chosen the self-publishing route, as many including myself have, you're gonna be doing a lot on your own, unless you want to hire some talented friends. This means cover design, and blurbs, and all that.

Please make it interesting. Deign to use a one-word title if it keeps things mysterious. Get a friend to read your book and help you if you need to. Avoid long plot summaries. Good food isn't interesting because the person eating it is full from consuming the meal. It's interesting because it smells good and teases the eater.

Be a tease. Leave a lot to the imagination.

You may find you sell more books that way.

*This happened longer ago than a week. Several weeks. I just remembered I had this post.

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