Judging Books by their Covers (From the Authors’ Viewpoint)

Well, not really. However, they do have definite opinions about their book’s cover. With several friends revealing their book covers for next year, I realized I had the unique opportunity to pry into their emotions concerning the covers and whether or not it gets old. They are all at different stages in their writing careers and with different types of publishers, Suzanne Lazear with her first book, Kathie Giorgio with her second book, and Faith Hunter and her 7th under this name, and many more under others.


Suzanne Lazear: 

Innocent Darkness, Book 1, The Aether Chronicles– Flux, August 8, 2012

Wish. Love. Desire. Live.

In a Steampunk version of Victorian Los Angeles, sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock’s hoyden ways land her in an abusive reform school far from home. On mid-summer’s eve she wishes to be anyplace but that dreadful school. Her wish sends her tumbling into the Otherworld.  A mysterious man from the Realm of Faerie rescues her, only to reveal that she must be sacrificed, otherwise, the entire Otherworld civilization will perish.

Suzanne, this is your first cover. Innocent Darkness (YA Steampunk) is scheduled for release by a mid-sized press in 2012. Can you tell me what you think of your cover?  Does it reflect Noli and her story in your mind? Did you have any input? What information did the artist have before the cover was worked up? What do you think of this whole FIRST BOOK thing?

 I really like the cover, it’s very steampunky (And has sparkles!). The girl doesn’t the spitting image of Noli, but it works. I think they did a really good job on it and am happy with it.  I haven’t seen the back cover yet, but it features more of the faery elements.  I was in on the initial brainstorming process where we came up with several potential covers.  I also saw a mock-up the art department made before the cover was sent off to the illustrator and had a chance to offer some suggestions.  This has been a fairly long process, since I sold ID to Flux in April of 2010 and it comes out in August 2012.  Having a cover finally makes everything seem so real–especially seeing my name on it, all those years of dreaming and hard work have finally paid off.

Kathie Giorgio:

Enlarged Hearts—Main Stream Rag, February 14, 2012

Somewhere in 
Milwaukee, there is a mall with a specialty boutique called Large & 
Luscious.  The women who work there, 
while of different ages and backgrounds and hair color and heritage, all carry 
the same name.  The Fat Girl.  They are as society sees them. And they 
are as they see themselves.

This collection 
of linked short stories takes the reader through cancer and sex, motherhood and 
death, rejection and acceptance.  
There are Fat Girls at the state fair, Fat Girls in Starbucks, and Fat 
Girls in bars, in bed, and alone.  

All of the Fat 
Girls are seekers.  The anonymity of 
their name and the barrier of their bodies lead some into discovering their own 
abundance.  Others sink further into 
struggle.  All readers, regardless 
of size, will learn that there is so much more to a Fat Girl than her 
weight.  We are all so much more 
than our bodies 

Kathie, this is your second cover. I know you’re friends with the artist, and also that Main Street Rag is small press. I’d like to ask the same questions, but I’d like you to compare The Home for Wayward Clocks (literary fiction?) with your new collection, Enlarged Hearts. It’s the same artist with a very different feel.  Did you have the same thrill seeing the new cover? (and yes, I WAS THERE when you released the first:) What was the difference in seeing the cover and then the book?

Hey, Mud.  Yes, both books are literary fiction.  In both books, seeing the cover was when they became real and concrete in my mind.  It’s just like seeing your baby in an ultrasound…you suddenly have a visual of what you’recreating.  Then when the book is released and it’s actually solidly in your hands, it’s like seeing and holding the baby after nine months of pregnancy, and however many months prior to that of dreaming and planning for ababy.   In both cases, the covers took my breath away when I saw them.  The covers were confirmation that this was really going to happen.

With the first cover, the artist, Christopher Werkman, had not yet read the entire book when he did the artwork.  I sent him a pivotal scene from the book, where James is attacked by what he holds most dear, and Chris took off from there. James is a very specific character, and when I saw him on the cover, fixing the big clock, I thought, Oh, there he is!  With Enlarged Hearts, Chris read the entire book before he started the cover, and he told me he wanted to do something based on the first story, which is From Gravity, We Are Free.  Gravity is more of a proclamation than a story and he felt it expressed what was to come in the subsequent pages.  The Fat Girl on the cover isn’t specific; she’s more of a compilation of all the Fat Girls in the collection.

And by the way, having the books come out one year and two weeks apart from each other is like a pregnancy too.  I feel exactly how I felt when I had babies two and three thirteen months apart.  “Look!  Look at the newborn! But wait, look at the toddler!  Isn’t he cute!  But no, look back at the newborn!  She’s cooing! But wait…” And I’m currently working on the sequel to the first book, so I might just as well be pregnant andcaring for a newborn and a toddler.  My attention and excitement are split three ways.

Faith Hunter

 Raven Cursed—Roc, January 12, 2012

 Jane Yellowrock is a shape-shifting skinwalker and vampire hunter for hire. But lately instead of just slaying vampires, she’s been working for them.

The vampires of Asheville, North Carolina, want to establish their own clan, but since they owe loyalty to Leo Pellissier, the Master of the City of New Orleans–and Jane’s boss–they must work out the terms with him. To come up with an equitable solution, Leo sends an envoy with the best bodyguard money can buy: Jane Yellowrock.

 But when a group of local campers is attacked by something supernatural, Jane goes from escort to investigator. It’s up to her to keep peace in the region, and unless she wants to face up to very angry vampire Master, Jane will have to work overtime to find the killer. It’s a good thing she’s worth every penny

Faith, this is your…well, under Faith it’s your 7th book. Your first books under Faith Hunter was the Rogue Mage series and now you have your Jane Yellowrock Urban Fantasy series. Under your other names, I don’t know. I’d like to ask the same questions, however. If you could go back to your first release under whatever name and compare to Raven’s Curse?

Oh my. That first cover was for Death Warrant, by Gary Hunter (Gary Leveille and Gwen Hunter) pubbed by Warner Books 1990. I got the book and held it, and studied it, and sniffed it. I loved the feel of thebook, and yes, I loved the cover. For that time, it was a pretty good cover for a police procedural. But as I look back, and see the cover from the perspective of years and experience, I am well aware that it was horrendous. It was a stock photo of a badge (not from the correct police department) and a stock photo of Washington D.C, the two images merged, no embossing, standard font, stock work all the way, likely by a first year intern in the art department. I had no input at all. None. Which may well be a good thing.

Raven Cursed (Roc, Jan. 3, 2012) is another matter entirely. Before the art department ever got started, I described to my editor Jane’s new guns with the red grips, and the guns are perfect. The art department read the descriptive passages and got her clothes perfect. Her back is turned and you see this wonderful angle of her back, shoulders, and butt in leather, with her bladed weapons all sheathed. So sexy and tough!  And she is actually wearing the correct brand boots! There are ravens in the branches of the trees, which I had hoped for, with a full moon in the background. And my name is nice and big, and in foil! The cover of Raven Cursed has texture and weight to it. *This* cover I adore! There is nothing stock about it at all. It is perfect. In fact the cover to Mercy Blade was perfect too. Yeah. I’m a happy camper!

Can you compare the difference between small and large press cover input?

I had a lot more input on the small press cover, actually having the opportunity to pick the artist. My only instructions to her were to read each book and interpret it with a night scene on the bayou. She was amazing, capturing the feel of each book perfectly. I had no input on the large press covers at all, though the editors did call me and describe what they were thinking of doing, which was nice. And the people at Pocket did a very good job on the covers, though again, we are talking stock photography.

I’d also like to compare how you feel about other covers for the same books.

I like the covers that took thought and effort; I am not impressed with the slap-it-together-and-move-on covers that look like they came from the cookie-cutter-cover of the month. Roc has repeatedly done excellent covers, and after 10 years with another publisher who did less than stellar covers, it is thrilling!

I want to thank my friends Suzanne, Kathie, and Faith for sharing their impressions of their cover art. Now that I have this all put together I realize why cover art interests me so much. Way back in the ’70’s decoupage was a big thing. Instead of shellacking pretty cards, I shellacked cover flats. My favorite was Call of the Wild. A big white wolf under a full moon with a bluish cast to the cover. Some things we don’t forget.


8 thoughts on “Judging Books by their Covers (From the Authors’ Viewpoint)

  1. Great discussion, Muddy babe. It’s nice to know that some authors are pleased with their covers. I can’t imagine letting someone else design a cover for something I wrote, but then I might be a bit of a control freak. Hey, good excuse for not writing a book. I have all kinds of excuses, which is why I’m still on chapter 2. 😀

  2. Neat article. It is interesting to hear about folks who get input on their covers. Where I am, even the editor doesn’t get input. Lovely post!

  3. Hi Mud. Great post! I loved seeing the first covers beside the most recent and getting to hear (read?) the authors’ viewpoints on both. What a nice take on the subject. Keep up the good work!

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