Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Adventures with Covers

I’ll give the ending first. All of my covers have turned out great. I consider my covers as one of my main tools for selling my books. My publishers hire people to do my covers, mostly with my input, and sometimes I get to approve the finished product—sometimes not.

There are funny stories behind my two of my covers. They might amuse you, so I’ll put them out there.

First, my first Imogene Duckworthy mystery, CHOKE. It was not the first novel I wrote, but it was the first one I got published. I was in such a tizzy about actually getting a novel published, that I fluffed a bit. I said I needed an orange truck on the cover. I thought that would be colorful and, I was thinking, it’s a big part of the plot. It would tie in to the story without giving anything away.

Keep in mind that, while the first one was getting situated to come out, I was writing the second one, SMOKE. Embarrassing discovery: there is an orange truck in the second novel. There is none in the first one. It’s easy to be confusing when you’re finalizing publication of one novel while you’re writing another one.

It wasn’t until the dang thing came out that I realized what I’d done. One of my friends, I think it was Janet Bolin, said maybe it could be a device—using an element of one book on the cover of the last one, staying one book ahead.

CHOKE eventually was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel, so everything turned out fine!

I MUST give credit to Karen Phillips for the covers of all three of the Imogene Duckworthy mysteries. I can’t recommend her highly enough if you’re self-publishing.

My second story also has a happy ending, but there was panic for a short time. I had finished the third Fat Cat book, FAT CAT TAKES THE CAKE, for Berkley Prime Crime, handed it in, and was busy sketching out plots for the next three books. (That’s a sad story that’s been told elsewhere)

My agent sent me a preliminary copy of the cover. I was shocked at the title AND the cover. I asked her if it matters that there is no cake in the book. She thought it would be okay, but I didn’t. I quickly rewrote some passages and was, fortunately, able to make cake a major part of the plot by changing just a few things. I like all three of the Fat Cat covers, but I think this one gets the most notice.

Do you have any interesting cover stories? No, not that kind, just stories about your covers? (You’re safe with me, I’ll never blow your cover.)


  1. I love your cover stories. I used to assume authors always had a say. I think they should have a say in the cover. I remember reading many times from reviewers that the artist clearly didn’t read the book because no such scene as was depicted was in the novel.

    As you may recall, I read science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively till about 1995. I had a huge stable of favorite authors, and cover artists. There were cases where I loved the art of Darrel K Sweet, George Barr and the Brothers Hildebrant so much I’d buy another copy of a book I already had to get the new cover.

  2. Some authors do have horror stories about their covers. I'm glad I've never had real problems, just small ones! I'm jealous of science fiction and fantasy covers--they have a lot to work with and great subjects for imagination.

  3. I like all your covers, and I agree about Karen Phillips. I've recommended her. I do my own covers, and the one I thought was the most creative is the one that has had the least impact. You just never know.

  4. I wish I had the talent to do covers! I'm jealous, Polly. I like your covers, too. If I start writing darker, can I hire you? I know you need more to do.

  5. An agent asked me recently what I wanted in a publisher. I thought for a moment and then decided that the most important thing to me was input to the cover design. I've seen some covers that if they had been on my book I would have been heartbroken.

  6. I agree! It's our front line sales tool.

  7. Kaye,
    I agree that covers are important. I love the covers of my new Haunted Library series. More importantly, readers love them too. One woman in town bought my book because of the cover. Since I'd written it under Allison Brook, she hadn't realized that I was the author until she saw my photo.

  8. That's great! I like those covers, too. They're SO important.