WE DO JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!
“Your book cover does not reflect the story. This story is edgy, sexy, sophisticated, scandalous. You need an image to convey that.”
These words from one of my biggest fans provided some of the most pointed analysis I’ve heard about my second novel.
So I pulled out all previous versions of Dark Secret.
• 2000 first edition hardcover features an ivy-covered staircase. Not edgy by any means!
• 2001 first edition paperback features a pretty purple design. I like this cover, but I want something new!
• 2008 second edition paperback features me in a white dress in the woods. Too innocent to be scandalous!
Working with the graphic designer, this edition's cover concept had me focusing on a Southern plantation-style house with a bride in the forefront.
“...edgy, sexy, sophisticated, scandalous…”
I went back to the drawing board. I wanted simple. Sophisticated. Intriguing.
I searched a stock photo database that Catherine and I subscribe to, and I found the photo of the woman in the white hat. The main character of Dark Secret is a white-looking woman who’s hiding the fact that her mother is black. She uses her body and her sexuality – as conveyed by the seductive red lips and the bare shoulders – to seduce her way into a wealthy white family, and try to stay there. The title, Dark Secret, above her, indicates that clearly she’s concealing something.
• 2017: third edition paperback features a hat-wearing, red-lipstick-sporting seductress. Sexy!
Once I made the decision, I sent the photo to the graphic designer, Dan Swanson of Van-garde Imagery, Inc. He quickly sent back drafts that we tweaked, and we had the cover done within 24 hours! The back cover text was already written, I had already selected the photo by photographer extraordinaire Clarence Tabb Jr., whom I’ve known for decades, and I already had the awesome quote from New York Times best-selling author Eileen Goudge. All the designer needed was the bar code and our logo for Two Sisters Writing & Publishing.
The bottom line is, we do judge a book by its cover, so when designing one, it’s important to select images that reflect the story and grab the reader’s attention so he or she will pick up the book and get lost in your story.
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Note: The graphic artists for my publisher, the Tor/Forge imprint of St. Martin’s Press, designed the first two covers. The second two covers have been my creation.
(c) 2017 Elizabeth Ann Atkins