Have you ever picked up a book with a really cute cover? Maybe it has a pretty blonde girl on it…maybe in a wedding dress. Then you finish the book, and you look at the cover one more time. And you realize that the main character was a brunette. Did anyone else get married in the book? No. So who was that blonde girl on the cover?
Were there no brunette models to hire? Do blondes sell better? Who made this cover, and did they even read the book?
These are the stories from traditional publishing that make authors (and readers…and brunettes) so angry.
I’ve got some bad news for you.
The purpose of a book cover is not to describe the story
Book covers are designed to attract potential readers, not to make authors happy. Book covers are the packaging for your product (the book). They are designed to tell readers if the book contains the sort of story they like to read. The desired response to a book cover is “Ooooh, I want it!” not “That looks really accurate!”.
Potential readers don’t sit around looking at your cover and admiring all the care put into the tiny but accurate details. Especially now that many readers will see your cover for the first time as a tiny thumbnail.
So, your cover must be well designed and appropriate for your genre. Both those things are many times more important than the hair colour of the main character.
But, for real, there’s no blonde in my story
I hear you. While a well designed cover than suits your story trumps the details, I don’t think there’s any excuse for getting obvious details wrong. As a reader, I hate it when there are obvious mistakes in the cover art, and the hair colour of the main character is a pretty important detail. Mistakes like that are just sloppy, and don’t speak well of the designer.
This is one of the reasons that I’m so passionate about custom illustrations and photos, I like to know that I’ve gotten those details right. It’s so much harder to find stock photos that get the details right, but also make a good book cover, and I think that a lot of designers end up having to compromise one or the other.
Compromise the design, and you sell less books. Compromise the details and you end up with a cover that doesn’t make the author and fans happy, and is usually more generic.
So where’s the sweet spot?
I like to get all the details I can. Tell me all about the main character’s colouring, fashion taste, and body types. Tell me what kind of dog she has, what car she drives, where the story is set. And then I’ll create a cover that gets nothing incorrect, but only includes the details that work for the cover. Just enough to make you stand out from the crowd, and to show what makes your story special.
And if your main character is brunette, I won’t give her blonde hair. My promise to you.