What’s in a Book Cover?

Fling_fullcover_4-13-15 copyIn a recent interview, I was asked to discuss the cover art for Fling! and how it pertains to the story.

It gave me an opportunity to explore more deeply the role this particular cover has in embracing the novel’s contents.

I knew that I wanted to get the Venus of Willendorf image somewhere on the cover because her shape resembles Bubbles’ body (Bubbles is the irrepressible 90 year-old character that steals the story), and it has a central place inside the sphere.

I’m not sure what process Kelsey Rice, the designer, went through in coming up with the cover, but she captured the overall feeling of the book. The contents are somewhat offbeat and quirky. The cover mirrors those qualities. I also love the way Rice inserted text that hugs the partial sphere: “A madcap journey of an aging mother her adult daughter from cold Protestant Canada into the hallucinatory heart of Mexico’s magic.”

I also think the colors capture the feeling I wanted to convey about Mexico, including the mysterious, almost phantasmagoric quality of the country. The black surrounding the sphere has minute flashes of light that suggest the heavens and how we all emerge out of darkness, just as these characters do.

Launching a Book for Publication

Though I already experienced what it was like to publish a book when my poetry collection All This came out in 2011, each work offers its own peculiarities. Partly it’s the difference in publisher, so I have to learn what Fling’s producer wants of me. But it’s also the difference in genre. Fiction is another animal. While poetry has a more limited audience base, fiction appeals to a wide range of readers. Consequently, in some ways, the novel has to be packaged differently. What ends up on the cover needs to stimulate a potential reader’s imagination and to seduce him/her into buying the book.

Preparing a manuscript to be launched is a little like getting ready for trip into outer space. We don’t know till we take the journey what to expect. So much is out of our control and dependent on who is driving the process—the publisher/editor. In a way, the actual writing is the easiest part. We’re left alone in our solitude to create a world that never existed before. But it’s the second birth midwifed by the publisher that marks it as a bona fide book.

Kimberly Pennell of Pen-L Publishing has been shepherding me through this process. She sent me a mock up for a cover this week. I expressed my reservations about it and created one of my own, trying to convey in mine that it needed to be as colorful as the characters and the settings. I also wanted it to suggest a fling, something in motion, even an odyssey. I included some text that gives a little insight into the narrative: “a madcap journey of an aging mother and her adult daughter from cold protestant Canada into the hallucinogenic heart of Mexico’s magic.” These words come from a blurb that Lewis Buzbee wrote for the back of the book.

Kimberly picked up immediately on what I was hoping for to represent my novel’s contents and returned two possible covers, each of which I loved. I had to make the difficult choice of one, but I’m hoping I might be able to use the second one at some point for another novel. With a little tweaking the cover quickly was resolved.

Next was the “teaser” for the back of the book, a brief synopsis that will intrigue someone enough that s/he will buy it. This process took several emails back and forth until we were both satisfied with the results.

And so it goes on, this birthing of a creation that depends on so many variables for it to have a successful launch.