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Friday, April 23, 2010

A Comedy of Covers, Part Quatre

Is that right?  Is that how you say "four" in French?  And did I spell it right???'s the genesis of the cover of Findings, which is one of the most effective of any of my covers and, not coincidentally I'm sure, is the cover of my most successful hardcover to date.  A person scanning a bookstore shelf or an Amazon page has a microsecond to think, "Hey!  That looks interesting."  Covers are critical.  Why do you think I'm spending a good chunk of my first month as a blogger talking about them?

And since you, my young Grasshopper, are here to learn how sausage is made how books appear in your hands, read and learn...

The first draft of the Findings cover was a work of art.  It was truly, truly beautiful, but it was just not going to work.  Here it is:

Those of you who have seen the book are probably thinking, "That's the final cover.  I've seen it with my own eyes.  What is this woman blathering about?"

There are so many things right about this cover.  The emeralds are bleepin' gorgeous, and the storyline spins on an emerald.  I told the press that Confederate money and a collection of 19th-century love letters figured into the plot, but I had no idea how they could work on the cover, but Patrick the Genius Cover Artist pulled it off.  He even added an old-style dip pen to the mix.  I loved it...

except...take a gander at that blue eye.  And those oh-so-Caucasian features on the woman's face.  Faye is multiracial, and I make a big deal about her full pretty lips and soft brown eyes.  This is the first cover that might possibly portray Faye and all the people who read the first three books will look at it and go, "Huh?"

My first response from the contact at the publishing house was, "Maybe it's not Faye."  Again, I ask, "Huh?"  There's a middle-aged redhead in the book who's not nearly this pretty.  There's another middle-aged woman, an archaeologist, who's not nearly this pretty.  There's a librarian of indeterminate age, and the face isn't really right for her, either.  But the point is that those are secondary characters.  If there's a face on the cover, people will presume it's the heroine or the murder victim.  Since the murder victim is an elderly black man, they're going to think this is Faye, and it ain't.

So the artist tried again.

This is better.  Much better.  The eye is now brown.  I could live with this, if I had to.  But look where he put the pen.  It's as if he's emphasizing the narrow, European lips that look nothing like Faye's.  And I still don't like the pointy nose.  I asked, very politely, for him to try again, and I absolutely love the final version.

The lips and nose are almost completely blurred away, and we're left with an evocative eye.  (And an eye that's brown.)  Does it look like my image of Faye?  No, not much.  But there's plenty of scope for the viewer to develop a personal image of what she looks like.  And I like that.

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