A short essay on the Solaris website explains their approach to genre cover art:
As I see it, there are currently two schools of thought – to package your SF/F novel to appeal to as wide a readership as possible, in the hope of enticing readers from other areas of the bookstore to pick it up on a whim; or to package your SF/F novel to appeal to the perceived core readership of the genre, or indeed, fans of Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who, people who want a book with a spaceship or a wizard on the front of it.
In setting up the Solaris imprint for BL Publishing, though, Publisher Marc Gascoigne and I decided – for better or for worse – to place ourselves directly in that second camp. The reasons for this were two-fold. Firstly, our existing imprint, the Black Library, had been successfully publishing SF/F novels for eight years – novels that tie-in to the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 fantasy worlds of Games Workshop. Experience had shown us that we already knew, as a business, how to package books for a niche audience – our recent range of Horus Heresy tie-in novels have sold over three hundred thousand copies combined since last April. Secondly, we believed we could see a gap emerging in the market, and we wanted to fill it.
Many genre imprints in both the UK and the US were taking the other route, packaging novels to appeal to a wider audience, focusing on getting front-of-store promotions and aiming for the bestseller lists. Sales expectations for genre novels seemed to be getting higher and higher. On the other end of the scale, a proliferation of small presses seemed to be flourishing, publishing limited run books for a small collector’s market. Essentially, at the heart of the genre, the midlist was disappearing. The result of this was that the core SF/F readership was not being as well served as it had been in the past; people who went into a high street bookshop to browse the SF/F section were not necessarily seeing those aforementioned books with wizards and spaceships on the front.
“The field must visually celebrate itself, rather than run away from itself. Couldn’t agree with you [George] more. And I realize the context in which you’re saying this, regarding the midlist specifically. When sf/fantasy publishing shows an insecurity about its visual strengths, that insecurity rubs off negatively not only on our audiences, but in the broader media, and we push ourselves backwards every time we do that.