Covers and positioning

I contacted one of those Etsy artists about using some of his paintings as book covers. He may say yes, he may say no, he may do that typical visual artist thing where he doesn't get back to me for a year and then is really upset that I hired someone else. But his paintings are pretty, so go look at them.

You'll notice that they aren't wacky people and wacky aliens, despite my repeated assertions that I must have both on my covers. That's because I've recently started rethinking the wisdom of positioning Trang as a straight-up adventure/comedy book. I filled out a little interview form about the book for a review blog that asked a lot of questions about what inspired the book, and what inspired a lot of it was the aftermath of the September 11th attacks (I was living in NYC at the time)--the xenophobia, the anti-French bullshit, dealing with the stress and guilt, all that. So, you know, while I think of it as light and funny, there are things like repeated brutal scenes of Inquisition-style torture, so perhaps it's not as fluffy as all that.

The other thing that got me thinking is that I got a review on Amazon by someone who did not like the book AT ALL, and the main complaint was that "not much happens." This is a really common complaint made by readers of plot-driven commercial fiction when they read something that is more character-driven or more literary. Much like "Where's the Cher?" it's a complaint that's easy to make fun of*, but actually should be paid attention to, at least from the standpoint of positioning your book. The fact of the matter is that, at least in Trang, I care a lot more about the main character's post-traumatic stress disorder than I do about the wacky aliens.

So I think maybe I should go with a more "serious" cover. I mean, Trang's a mutt, but I like mutts--I like Buffy and Muriel's Wedding and The Atrocity Archives and other works that swing crazily from funny to tragic to terrifying to absurd. So a funny description and a serious cover may be the way to convey that.

*We can make some fun though, right? In Publish This Book Markley quotes from reader reviews of a couple of literary classics. They include a review of Native Son that reads in part, "This book was one of the most boring book that I have ever read. There are one or two scenes in the book that are interesting, but overall the book is boring. BORING. BORING. BORING." and one of To Kill a Mockingbird that reads in part, "This book is so boring! Nothing is going on.... [Y]ou have to go through pages and pages about Atticus's childrens' lives.... Does anyone have any idea why this book even won a Pulitzer?!?!"