A lot of authors want that "WOW!" factor on their covers, and hey who can blame them. But here's the thing - the covers that WOW my socks off - I NEVER buy the book. I have no real reason I can put my finger on why I don't buy them - well now that's a bit of a lie - sometimes the author lets me down when I sample a few pages, so back onto the shelf it goes. But that CA REALLY did their job. They gave the author the couple seconds of my valuable time to look at their book. It's not the poor CA who fell down on the job. Some of the best books I've ever read had the most God-Aweful covers I've ever seen - but MAN could that author write.
So why does it seem some authors consistently great covers and others are hit an miss? (Come closer and I'll tell you a secret. No Closer. there you go.)
CAs do their best work for authors that let them.
What do I mean by that? Well if you give me good tools, straight wood and clear instructions and I could build a damn fine box. Give me crappy tools, warped wood, confusing instruction - and well you get what you get. Ever heard the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears? Covers are like that - too much author interference in the creative process and the artist is going "WTF do they WANT?" too little and you get the same question. But if the author gives the CA just the right amount of information, and just the right amount of freedom to create art - that's what you get - ART! A cover that will WOW you.
I work in the eBook industry, and frankly I'm beginning to wonder if eBook Publishers don't give authors too much say in their covers. The Big boys have a 30 minute conference call with the author, their agent, marketing person, and the Art Director. Then the author's input ENDS and they get what they get. I've seen covers for NYT best selling authors that do not fit the book at all. Someone was asleep in the meeting me thinks.
Did you know that covers should pay out the designer at around $3,000 to $5,000? If you want to pay me that amount of cash to do the cover - I'll do whatever you WANT on it. But for my going rate of $50 for an ebook cover? Don't think so. I'll take your ideas into consideration but You ain't getting a special model shoot for exact duplication.
Cover Artist are a rare breed of artist. Yes, they are artist in the truest sense of the word - they create things of beauty out of stock photos and pre defined text. They create their art not for the "I made this! I had the concept, I had the inspiration and I created this." Sculptors do that, painters do that but the poor little CA is given their concept by the author. It's not like you can put an old west cowboy on the cover of a contemporary novel (well unless it's a time travel story).
Honesty time, I have authors I ADORE working with. They give me the information I need and then let me create. I have authors I literally CRINGE when I have to work with them, because they are never satisfied and tie my hands behind my back creatively. I'm also a bit of a bitch and can guaran-damn-tee you that if I've had a enough of an author I'll do EXACTLY what they want and not even half try to make it look good. That's what they wanted - that's what they got. (on a side note I can tell it by the sales too)
The CRAPPIEST cover I've ever done is my best selling cover! I'm ashamed of it! I can't even look at it. But, you know what the author has NEVER complained about that cover once and I've tried to make it up to her on every cover since then. (one of these days I'm going to redo that horrible thing for her)
And the worst thing a Cover Artist has to deal with - they rarely get any recognition for creating that awesome cover. Nope, the cover wins award 90% of the people congratulate the author on the award. And you want to know what? We CAs are Okay with that - really we are.
So next time you see a really great cover - hopefully somewhere it will say who the Cover Artist is - and when you mention how great the cover is - instead of Saying "Author Name's cover is gorgeous" You'll say "Cover Artist Name did a GREAT job on Author Name's cover." But even if you don't - it's Okay. Cause we see the results of our work every quarter on our royalty statements.