Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gotcha Covered

By Cornelia

When I got home from LA Monday night, I had a fun piece of mail waiting for me--cover art for the paperback of A Field of Darkness. This is actually the second version I've seen for that edition, and it got me thinking about some previous iterations considered and/or employed as bookly outerwear.

Here's the first design I saw for the hardcover, a little over a year ago:

I love how spooky it is, especially the way everything's tilted, and the Ferris wheel ties in nicely with the New Yorks State Fair being an important setting.

When I first showed this to some pub-savvy pals, several commented that my name being the same size as the title was auspicious--something that had never occured to me.

Then I was told that a big chain's buyer thought this version looked too forbidding and dark for the store's customer base. The title's font color was changed, in hope that it would have a broader appeal to that audience.

Here's the final version:

I've never been a big fan of pinkish hues, so at first it looked odd to me, but even my inner tomboy had to concede that the sum total of what I know about design and marketing amounts to a whole lot less than bupkes, on its best day.

My daughter Grace still thinks it's too girly. Her first comment was, "what next, they're going to call it A Field of Barbie?"

I think the buyer person was right, though. It's flashier with the pink, and I like it better.

I first saw the art for the audio version packaging on Amazon:

I loved that Blackstone had chosen a photograph that looked like something in a cemetery, with all those cool blues and greens (another pivotal setting in the story). That's still the version you'll see on a number of online bookstore sites, but it's not what appears on the actual CD box.

Here's what they ended up going with:

I like it even better than the first version.

Several weeks ago, I got a jpeg of the Australian edition, which will come out in paperback from Allen & Unwin's new Arena imprint:

The Australian editor seemed a bit nervous that I wouldn't like it, since she made a point of saying that they tended to have a different aesthetic for cover art than U.S. publishers do, but I think they did a great job. Knives and roses come into play pretty heavily too, plotwise, and I think it's cool how the petals at first look like blood spatter.

I'll be really interested to see what happens with covers for the French and German paperbacks. My sister just got back from a trip to Austria and Germany, and she found me a copy of Struwwelpeter, a children's book that's mentioned in Field. I wonder if the illustration I reference might make the cut--it's from a poem called "Die Daumenlutscher," a dire warning to children who suck their thumbs:

Scary, no?

I've emailed to ask whether I can post a scan of the American paperback art, but haven't heard back yet... will add it if they give me the okay.

I'm also dying to find out what kind of cover will end up on The Crazy School, which I now hear is due out next winter.

What covers have you guys found most striking, in good and bad ways? I still remember a garish bodice-y bit of art on a paperback of Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose, which was horribly "Fabio ravishes Scarlett O'Hara on a big rock somewhere outside Barstow" looking.

p.s. Here's the large-print cover, which came out a couple of weeks ago:


  1. Love the CD cover. And the Australian. Very kewl!

    Bookslut has a monthly column called "Judging a book by its cover." Tres entertaining.

    One of my favorite paperback covers is of Francine Prose's Blue Angel. It's a photo of a prim schoolgirl writing on a blackboard while a stern schoolmaster watches her. Her other hand is behind her back lifting her skirt, but most of her heinie is hidden by the type. It's one of those double-take covers that perfectly fits the novel.

    I'm jealous of your copy of Strumwelpeter. I tried to find a copy of the book for my grandfather before he died four years ago, but to no avail. The book was a favorite in my grandparents' house. I had nightmares about the Scissor Man for years!

  2. So what does the paperback cover look like??

    I love Louise's FORCING AMARYLLIS cover. It's one of my favorites. I also like Chris Grabenstein's covers, all cotton candy pink and taffy green. And Lori Armstrong's fantastic cover of HALLOWED GROUND has caught the eye of a lot of people who have seen me reading it this past week.

  3. I'm a fan of the the Hard Case Crime covers, like that done for Allan Guthrie's KISS HER GOODBYE. Hard, buxom women and chisel-jawed men. Kind of fits in with my love of gladiator movies, I guess.

  4. I'm going to try to go scan the paperback cover at my sister's house in a minute, if she's back from her walk.

    Karen, I totally agree about Louise's cover for FORCING AMARYLLIS--one of my faves. And I adore yours for SACRED COWS, too.

    Edgy M, so sorry you couldn't find a copy of that book for your grandfather. I got my first one from a family whose daughter's used to babysit for us, years ago, but lost it during some subsequent move.

  5. Hi Cornelia:
    Love all of your covers that you posted. Especially liked the orangey black one from the cd/MP3 one. Love that type of ride too! I think your designer was right: the crimson title stands out better against the blue of the Hardcover. Makes it pop, so to speak. My husband and I have these discussions all of the time about his cover work and artwork in general. Blood red might have worked just as well, but would have been overly stark. The crimson is a nice compromise. Not 'Barbie' at all. :-D
    I've been recently admiring a couple of old editions of Ngaio Marsh's covers - photographic ones from early 70s. Funny how things cycle around again - using photos and still life setups for crime novels. Still cool!


  6. Boy, Cornelia, this is a really tough question. I think covers must be like art, you buy what you buy because of your personal esthetic. Mostly my book-buying decisions have nothing to do with the cover. I buy because I know about the book or the author and want to read it/them. But if you ever figure it out, let me know.

  7. It's not a book cover, but I absolutely loved the poster ACT did for their production of A Moon For the Misbegotten (couldn't find an image but there's a pdf of the program here). It just captured the who sense and mood of the play so perfectly for me.

  8. Loved the FOD cover, can hardly wait to see what they do with Crazy School.

    I like covers that tell you something about the story, or about the characters. For example, the paperback versions of many of Robert Crais's Elvis Cole books have a Mickey Mouse or Disney theme, because Elvis is a huge Mickey Mouse fan.

    Like you, I don't care for bodice-y covers that look like Regency Romance Rakes Gone Wild.

  9. All very cool covers. You've obviously given them great material to work with. But . . . is is just me, or is it weird that the smallest cover print appears to be on the large print edition? Hmmmm. Somebody's got a funny sense of humor working there!

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  11. Each one of these covers looked like the best cover to me as I scrolled down which means they were all good. But I think in the end the audio version with the things swinging out on strings is the my fave. It will be cool to see the other foreign covers.

    Scott Westerfeld, one of my favorite YA authors, ( always runs his foreign language jacket copy through Babelfish with hilarious results. You will have to try it.

    How cool is that, that we are comparing covers for your first novel and that the second is coming out this winter???

  12. I vote for the swirling swings cover as fave - it's ominous with that setting sun on the carnival. Or maybe I'm getting that since the last time I went on one of those - which used to be second only to the alpine-themed spinning carriages that made you squoosh your seat-mate - I almost puked and died.

    What do they say about hormones, vertigo and turning 35?

    Anyway, for me, I particularly like covers that take the apparently innocuous and make it scary in a way you've never consciously thought of before. Like the swing ride, like the ferris wheel. Tilt them, show them in full spin, and against a forbidding sky, and you can't help but tap into that deepest part of you that knows that things aren't quite in control, knows that depraved events take place at the carnival as the sun sets, knows that you shouldn't have eaten that whole funnel cake, at least not with the canned apple pie filling on it...

  13. I'm partial to the Swing, particulary because I had just been to a big county fair and ridden the Swing at the same time I was reading the book. Very cool. I've worked on many book covers, albiet for cookbooks, but it's never an easy choice. I think you're in good hands. I'm curious, will you be getting a tagline now i.e. "A Madeline Dare Mystery" or something like that?
    Jessica (sorry I've been out of touch...)

  14. All great covers. I, too, lean toward the orange audio cover. As for thoughts on covers in general, I'm with Patty.

    Just keep the books coming, please.

    Tom, T.O.