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So as you well know by now, I am obsessed by book covers. It’s all part of my obsession with books. Now I need your opinion on an upcoming cover. Just Breathe has a strong, sophisticated cover, clean and light, with a single evocative image:
Next hardcover is Lakeshore Christmas. Marketing-wise, this cover has a big job to do. It needs to straddle the line between a hardcover and the Lakeshore paperbacks. It needs to attract readers who have never heard of me but who might want to give it a try. It needs to be memorable. It currently looks like this:
The shot above is an early mockup that was sent. The title is wrong (no “A”) but the general idea is there. Next we saw the full jacket. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what I think of Barkis’s star turn:
There are a couple of tweaks. The title script is nicer, I think, though my agent wanted my name bigger. There’s a #1 in front of “New York Times” which makes me proud and could be a selling point. I don’t love the text at the very top and hope they’ll move that. It looks cluttered, and remember, we want this to appeal to people who haven’t yet discovered the series, so it’s not much of a hook and might be off-putting to people who don’t want to read a book out of order.
The Lakeshore Chronicles have a “look”–small-town charm in miniature. In that sense, this cover works. It’s a pretty image, too. Reminds me of those little collectible Christmas villages. No complaints about that. The question is, will it stand out? When you view Just Breathe from across the bookstore, the image grabs your attention. The Christmas cover…maybe not. My concern–the eye doesn’t know where to go. To the couple on the bench? The gazebo? There isn’t something strong, standing out. Up against all the other books on the shelf, it might end up looking like wallpaper. At this point, it probably can’t be radically changed, but there could be some tweaking. My thought is maybe they could bring up the light around part of the image–maybe the gazebo and tree?–to give book browsers something to focus on. Better yet, it needs to look like something they want to take home with them. C’mon, put on your art-director hat and chime in.
So in our interview, Deborah Bouziden asked a key question. My answer is short, because it’s not going to work for every writer.
DB: When creating your characters, how do you choose traits, personality, etc.? Are your characters given your traits, friends, relatives, or are they formed from observation? What traits must main characters have?
My characters come together like pieces of a crazy quilt. I pull together colorful bits and pieces (traits, issues, background) and assemble them into a person-like creation. The bits and pieces come from people I know, but once they’re assembled, they’re an original creation. At the outset, I focus a lot on the character’s history and the defining moments in her past that motivate her emotions and actions in the story. There are no consistent “must-have” traits for me other than being fascinating! I love the endless variety in people–and in characters.
Who are some of your favorite, most unforgettable characters in fiction?
It’s an art form, surely:
Sometimes, a perfect stranger sends you something like this in the mail…
We all know I love book cover art and the whole process of dressing up a novel to be released into the wild. With Fireside due to hit stores any day now, I can’t wait to see its smiling face! Here’s something interesting– another guy who likes book cover art has showcased his faves on his blog, Book Design Review with Joseph Sullivan. Check out his picks here. He has a very distinctive aesthetic that could NOT be more different from my own. Just goes to show you how subjective this all is.
What are some of your favorite book covers of 2008? Here are a few of mine:
The one on the left is a sci-fi bestseller by the Twilight author. The one on the right is the Bible. Go figure. Sometimes similar images seem to get into the zeitgeist. How many times before it’s declared a trend? Is this one called the “ominous, upward-looking eye” trend?
(Alison Kent has a good post on cover trends here.)
And finally, last but not least…It’s probably not polite to pick yourself, but this has nothing to do with me. My publisher found a fresh and eye-catching image for the book and I really love it. And it’s not just me. For the first time in 30-something covers, I’ve had readers contact me to ask where they can get a poster of the image! As my agent said, “It looks like a day at the beach.”
Here is the last-minute “I had no idea it was Christmas-smack me upside the head” gift guide that will also make you the favorite this year. Not that we’re competitive in this family, but come on. Here’s a project for those snowed-in, shopped-out days before Christmas. Go to Google Images or some other image-finding place and search out some shots of your mother’s favorite places. You get bonus points for finding favorite childhood places, and if they have a vintage look, all the better. Make some prints on good-quality paper and make a collage in a frame you have hanging around (pun intended).
If that’s not simple enough, check this out. You get a classy (but hilarious) calendar in your e-mail, for printing out on nice paper. There’s a design for girls and one for guys. “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
What are some of your favorite places? Send yourself a postcard.