One of my pet peeves is book covers whose bylines are bigger than their titles.
I’m in advertising: I can see the practical reasons for a big byline. People are more likely to buy and read a book by an author they’ve read before, or at least heard of. They may not know the name of the new book, but they’ve come to trust the author. It makes sense to give more real estate to an established name.
But there’s just something about it that feels wrong in the gut.
First, fans are going to look for your name anyway. They’ll bookmark your website or follow you on Facebook or Goodreads to find out when your next book hits stores.
But more than that, it feels wrong that the publisher is counting on fame, instead of artistic merit, to sell books. Bigger bylines make the author a celebrity and the story an afterthought.
Other books earn attention with clever titles, unique cover art, intriguing hooks, and fantastic first pages, but these books are simply saying “You’ve read this author before. This book will be pretty much the same.”
It’s a mark of formula fiction.
Perhaps I shouldn’t complain. Perhaps big bylines are hazard signs to warn us away from junk food fiction back toward the books that actually take a few years, instead of a few months, to write.
And it’s not like these authors are pretending to be something else. They’re not tricking their readers into buying something they don’t want. They didn’t lie to earn their millions.
I just think it’s sad. They have the knowledge and the talent to tell stories; they’ve built a platform and an audience. They could do so much more than the Same Old Thing. But instead of looking for new and better ways to surprise and delight their readers, they’re settling for “whatever they liked the last time.”
I’m curious: if a new writer broke onto the scene and made her unknown name giant on the cover, would readers buy the book assuming she was a big time author? Maybe use a pseudonym that’ll be vaguely familiar?
Do you agree? Disagree? Or am I making something out of nothing?