Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Could Digitally Illustrated Covers Give Sci-Fi Romance A Boost?

Cover art by Roberto Quintero
The other day, the subject of book covers came up during a conversation I was having with a fellow science fiction romance blogger. We were discussing the importance of covers as a marketing tool, specifically their role in helping to attract readers to the sci-fi romance subgenre.

Around that same time, while visiting the blog of Mrs. Giggles, I came across the cover of a book called FIRST WATCH by Peter Hansen. FIRST WATCH, which strikes me as a Lovecraftian/hentai, m/m horror romance, is one of the launch titles of the new epub Riptide Publishing.

I really like the cover of FIRST WATCH, not necessarily because of the content (which, I must confess, intrigues me) but because of the quality of the illustrated image. That cover style reminded me of another ebook cover that holds a strong appeal for me: SKY RAT by Angelia Sparrow. SKY RAT was released by Pink Petal Books.

Given the existence of these two covers, I started wondering why we aren’t seeing more digitally illustrated covers for science fiction romance books. I realize that some already exist, but from what I've seen, most are plagued by poor quality. However, the covers for SKY RAT and FIRST WATCH make me wonder if better cover artists/designers are coming onto the scene, and if so, could they be tapped for sci-fi romance ebook covers (mainstream print books are a whole other animal)?

A big advantage of a quality digitally illustrated cover is that the cover could be more closely tailored to the story’s content (e.g., it could depict the physical details of alien heroes and heroines, or include tech/outfits that are unique to the story). The fantastical elements in SFR often lend themselves to the visual medium.

While digital illustrations might not be the go-to style for every science fiction romance, I can see them providing a bit of flair for the subgenre in general.

Cover art by Christine M. Griffin
I’ve been impressed with the increase in quality of SFR ebook covers, but given their importance as marketing tools, I still would like to see publishers experiment with them more often. A few buzz-worthy covers might boost sales for those specific titles and increase visibility for the subgenre.

I guess I’m just not convinced that simply because one is offering an inexpensive ebook, then covers don’t matter.

Has the cost of a digitally illustrated cover been an issue? I’ll admit I was curious as to how Pink Petal Books and Riptide were able to afford the above covers when other, bigger/more established epubs don’t use them (even just occasionally, from what I’ve seen). But do they cost that much more than a cover created with stock images?

Some covers are going to cost more simply because the designer has extensive experience. But if the cost between a digitally illustrated cover and one created with stock images is equal, is there a compelling reason to avoid the digitally illustrated one?

In the interest of education and enlightenment, I’d like to throw out a few questions here:

Do epublishers have any plans to experiment with digitally illustrated covers for science fiction romances?

Assuming the quality is good, is there a compelling reason, in general, to avoid them?

Despite the importance of covers as a marketing tool, are stock image covers an easy way for epublishers to control costs?

Are there any cover designers out there who can weigh in on the pros and cons of digitally illustrated covers for SFR, and/or the reasons we don’t encounter them very often?

Joyfully yours,