We all have book covers that speak to us, to our visual senses, to our emotions, to our literary curiosity. Maybe it’s that dog on the cover. Maybe it’s the blood dripping from the knife. Maybe it’s that zombie or the half-naked man. Hey, I’m not judging your reading habits. We read what we like, and that’s the way it should be.
That old chestnut ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ doesn’t really apply to books.
Every reader looks first at a book’s cover then makes some conscious or unconscious decision to look inside for more, or move on.
As an author have you ever tried to consciously copy a cover? Is there a cover you wish you’d had for your novel? For the last five or six years I’ve been doing most of my own covers, finding stock photos, fiddling with PhotoShop, making messes but having fun. I got serious a couple years ago though, when the sequel to one of my best selling books was due to release. I hired a very talented cover artist who re-did my own attempts (for ‘Blackbird Fly’) and designed another one for the sequel, The Girl in the Empty Dress, that released last year.
I explained to the designer that I adored one book cover and could she do something similar. The book cover I loved was for ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette,’ a fun novel by Maria Semple. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41atnA%2B1%2BbL.jpg I’m a sucker for graphic images. Since the book sold so well it has been copied a lot and was the subject of an article on Salon about why books covers look alike. Ouch. My cover artist went her own direction, not doubt wisely. She did a lovely job and I was very pleased with her results.
Fast forward to my new project. In conjunction with Thalia Press five seasoned mystery authors (including me) wrote a crime novel. Together. Serially, sequentially, and with many delays, but eventually it all gelled. It’s a darkly comic send-up of a famous novel, not exactly a satire because we admired the original. And mostly we very much loved that book’s cover. The book is the iconic Eat Pray Love with its pasta, prayer beads, and flower petal design spelling out the simple title.
Our crime story isn’t as spiritual or life-affirming or nice as Elizabeth Gilbert’s. Let’s get that out right away. (And we do apologize, Ms. Gilbert.) We twisted her title and a couple plot points but what we’ve written is really a send-up of food mysteries, chick lit, and serial killer novels. The gist of it is this: a humiliated chef has revenge on her mind and takes an All-American journey to make those she despises pay in spectacular culinary fashion. It’s got humor, mayhem, food porn, reality TV, sexual pranks, and a whole lot more, wrapped up in one decidedly-uncozy novel. We’re calling it the first culinary thriller.
But back to that cover. How to portray the foodie-ness of the story without seeming too twee? As the resident PhotoShop journeyman I volunteered to play with some food and see what I could do. We voted (we are very democratic, we five) to have some kind of meat on the cover– bacon, sausages, hot dogs, whatever, to give it some hearty flavor. Then I tracked down some squid ink pasta, mentioned in the book, and black as… ink. For the final word on the cover I fudged and used a stock photo of chili peppers but added a little mystery flare of the bloody knife.
My photography skills were tested. Also my microwaving skills and my pasta handling skills. Luckily my design skills weren’t needed as we laid out the cover similarly to the paperback version of Eat Pray Love. (I hope it’s not a crime to copy a green border and a white background…) We added a fantastic quote we got from Charlaine Harris on the top and voilà. Stick a fork in it. It’s done.
Beat Slay Love launches October 1. I just hope I can find another cover to copy that’s as much fun as this one.
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The novel is available for pre-order on Amazon (where you can also find out who my co-authors are) and we’re encouraging those on Goodreads to add it to their ‘Want to Read’ shelf.
We’re also launching a Thunderclap campaign this week. (Thunderclap is a new crowdsharing promotion site where your friends can donate a status or tweet all at the same time, thereby making the skies roar with your message.) If you’d like to donate a tweet in exchange for a recipe book called Thalia Filbert’s Killer Cocktail Party, check us out here