Pictures Matter

All right, so this site is typically dedicated to prose. In prose, words matter. Yet, even in your typical novel, pictures matter, too. Let me demonstrate. First, check out this activity from Studio YOLO: 

Studio YOLO conducted a group activity where I wrote an original piece of text for a comic book story with all the visual descriptions removed and asked everyone to interpret said text into a fully realized comic sans supervision. It was an experiment meant to indulge a certain type of collaboration, challenge the boundaries of story, and reveal something about the artist.

And now an example of said story:

Click here to read them all and see what different pictures will do to the exact same prose.

All right, that’s comics. I get it. But we talk about prose here, Jon! Don’t you see a little difference between a media where are and word are married in one story vs. the “single media” of a prose story? Look, your choice of picture will change the reader’s perception of a blog post as well as a novel. Covers really do matter. Let me give you an example.

Mike Duran has a new book coming out. He asked readers what they thought of the first cover:

When he read feedback that a number of his readers thought the book looked like gay erotica at worst or torrid romance at the best, he decided to change the cover. The cover he chose did not send the message he wanted to send; the picture effected the way the readers perceived the story.

He changed it to this cover:

And now the cover matches his intent far more.

You see… you can work on your prose all you want. You can become a master. But if the pictures — whether it be a picture on the blog post or the cover on your novel — if those pictures don’t match up with the story you want to tell, it will change what the reader thinks of what’s going on inside.

There’s one set of novels I have wanted to read for decades. It’s the Paradise War by Stephen R. Lawhead. Lawhead is a great author; I first encountered his writing in the Pendragon Cycle. When I saw he wrote this, I snatched it up, despite the cover.

I’ve never read the book. I’ve been too embarrassed. See, when I look at that cover, I think it’s a torrid romance, despite the fact that I know Lawhead well enough to know that I’ll be entertained by the story. The cover creates such a disconnect I can’t read it.

There’s a new edition of the books. Several, actually. The newest cover wraps around a book I could handle reading:

So, yes, pictures matter. Even for your prose, pictures matter. When you write, take the time to pick out a picture that matches your intent and even enhances it. Learn a lesson from our own Mike, who matched a perfect picture to his microfiction. Yes, it takes a while. For my microfiction in particular, I often take longer trying to find a good matching picture than I do writing the actual story! Yet, the pictures matter.

So find a good one, eh?

2 thoughts on “Pictures Matter

  1. The old saying is, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Of course, the only reason we have that saying is as an acknowledgement that that’s exactly what we do. And because we do, we as authors need to be aware that people will be judging our books by their covers. Or in this case, blog posts.

    1. You seem to assume that authors choose their own covers. As an industry insider, I can tell you that 95% of the time the art dept. working with the marketing dept. chooses the cover and the author has to live with it, like it or not. The exception, these days, is so much derivative self-published stuff and there, the copy-cat syndrome is king.

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