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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Comedy of Covers, Part Trois...

A comedy of covers, part trois...the big mystery is whether I'll run out of funny cover stories before I run out of French numbers that I know.

My third book was Effigies. This is the only book that had a complete false start. The first draft of the cover featured an attractive photo of Choctaw baskets, which was appropriate to the plot. But it didn't scream "mystery" and my editor, who also owns one of the biggest mystery bookstores in the country, didn't think it would sell.  See what you think--

We kept this cover so long that I actually had brochures printed with it.

I had sent them ideas for a cover, and one idea had involved a historical photo of Nanih Waiya, the Mother Mound of the Choctaw.  It's a very spiritual place that I enjoy visiting.  One of the opening scenes of the book is set there, and other important scenes are set at similar mounds.  So I emailed the publisher a link to a digital image of that photo.

The eventual cover used that photo, artistically blurred in shades of green and turquose with a skull centered in front of it.  It's an eye-catching cover.  You really can't miss that skull, leering out at you.  Now, there's no skull in the book, but that seemed to be a tiny quibble and I wasn't interested in pressing my luck.  So that was the final cover.  It looks like this:

(And here's another funny/sad cover story--Amazon has been showing this large-print cover for my regular print paperback for two years. You have to either laugh or cry. If you'd like a copy of this book, click on the link and it will not take you to the large-print edition. Just ignore that big yellow seal. Sigh.)

Months after the book came out, I visited my publisher and got a chance to talk to someone involved in making this cover.  She told me that the digital image of the historical photo I sent had been of poor quality, and that they had really tried hard to get a better one.  They'd talked to people with the Mississippi archives and the Choctaw museum.  No luck.  To the best of anyone's knowledge, the original photo no longer exists and and all we have left is a digital image of a damaged snapshot.

"That's why we altered the color and blurred the image," she explained.  "To cover the poor quality of the original."

"That makes sense," I said.  "But why'd you put that skull on there?  For dramatic effect?"

She shook her head.  "No.  The original photo had an old man in overalls standing in front of the mound.  We didn't want him on the book, so we slapped a skull on top of him."

Ahahahahahaha!   You just have to laugh.

I'm telling you.  Watching books get made is just like watching somebody make sausage...

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