Thursday, April 21, 2016

Cover Stories

Since All Men Fear Me came out, people are always asking me about the man on the cover, but since the publisher chose the cover and I had no more to do with it than to say, "I like it", I could never tell them who he is, only that he is a perfect depiction of the villain in the book. However, thanks to a curious reader who actually queried my publisher about the cover photo*, I now know who the man is!

Here's what the cover artist revealed: "I acquired the actual photo (not a scan or reproduction) from a collector. It is an original 1900s mug shot one of about a dozen that I purchased. The collection is quite intriguing; each mug shot has a frontal face photo, a profile photo and on the back is the name of the arrested and a hand-written description of their crime! Although there were some murderers in the collection of mug shots, this man was arrested for being a 'disorderly person'. His alias was 'Jack the Hugger' and he was arrested in Jersey City, NJ in 1903."

Now there's a story. I imagine old Jack was just a bubble off plumb, and was arrested for walking around Jersey City giving random hugs to people whether they liked it or not. The saga of the man in the photo has caused me to ponder the history of the covers on my novels. When my first book came out in 2005, Amazon and the ebook were not the juggernauts they are today. Just in the past few years, cover artists have to take into consideration that most people will first see the book cover as a thumbnail online.

I was told that a book cover is like a movie poster. The whole point is to intrigue the potential reader. For my early novels in the Alafair Tucker series, the production supervisor asked me to send family photos for the cover artist to work with. So I provided the photo on novels one through four, which have rather busy covers and look a bit cut-and-paste to me.

By 2011, when the fifth novel, Crying Blood, came out, the internet was the thing, and nobody asked me to provide anything. The only input I had was when they sent me the mock-up and said, "here it is. Hope you like it." The cover artist had created a simple, colorful cover that looks good online or on a physical book. When All Men came out late last year, the cover was down to its bare essentials. The book is looking right at you. "Buy me," it says, "or you'll be sorry."

One of my favorites, the tornado book, 2014


*Here is what the curious reader said to the publisher: "he must have been a murderer! His face was so creepy that I had to turn the book face down on the coffee table when I wasn't reading it!" She then called back a little while later to clarify that she did not mean to insult the cover--in fact, quite the opposite; she thought it caught the spirit of the villain and the book perfectly!


Sybil Johnson said...

That's very interesting. I don't think I would have thought of querying a publisher about a book cover. Glad they did!

Donis Casey said...

I wish I had thought to do it, Sybil!

Donna S said...

This fellow really looks like a villain. I think it is a great cover.Love the story of how the reader found out about him.