Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Cover Story: Great, Good, Bad and Butt-Ugly

By Karin Gillespie

When I got my very first cover (to the left) I knew something wasn’t quite right. Then, when I started doing book signings, several people asked me if I’d written a book on gambling. I guess the cash register looked like a slot machine. Turned out the cover didn’t convey anything about the book. I call it my Thing cover because it reminds me of Thing on the "Adam’s Family."
The paperback was re-redesigned (below). Whenever you get a re-designed paperback it’s because everyone agrees that your hardcover cover sucked.
For the second book in the series, this was the first proposed cover.(above) I liked the dog because I think dogs on covers sell (if the dog is cute). But the dog is too small and the grandmother looks like her face is caving in.After it was rejected by my agent, I actually got some input. I said, “Why not have the girls wearing sunglasses and reading tabloids?” And voila, my wish was their command. (below) Incidentally it was the bestselling book of the series.

Then came cover three in the series. I initially thought it was cute, but now I realize that most people probably wouldn’t want to be seen reading a book with old women doing the bunny hop. (There is no bunny hop scene in the book.)

All of my large-print covers were unattractive but this one... Let's just say a picture is worth a thousand words and "butt-ugly" are two of them.(below)

Earthly Pleasures was my favorite cover. It takes place in heaven and I love the look of it.
Clickworthy Links

In addition to covers this cycle we’re also talking about Hollywood and I’ve got two fun links. One features a whole series of articles on Screenwriting Tricks for Authors by Alexandra Sokoloff. If you’re an outliner or wish you were an outliner, this is the link for you.
Also the following link is courtesy of Ellen Meister’s blog, her agent writes about what properties are hot in Hollywood.


  1. Great post, Karin! Covers! They can be such a pain for an author. I have always admired the cover of "Earthly Pleasures." But I have to say that I like that large-print cover of "A Dollar Short" and would have picked up that book over the other version. Oh, well. Covers are so subjective!

    For my debut novel, "Midori by Moonlight," about a naive Japanese woman who comes to the U.S. the first cover proposed was of a "dragon lady" type holding a cocktail (a "midori," I suppose). Luckily I had some say in the matter and got the cover changed to a younger, sweeter type holding a cupcake (she's a budding pastry chef). I liked this one much better and it fit the character.

    I love the cover of my second novel "Love in Translation" but months later a book came out called "Girl in Translation" with an almost identical cover. It was a disappointment, but perhaps I nabbed some extra sales over the confusion. :-)

  2. Wendy,

    I thought about you when I read Girl in Translation. I knew I'd seen a similar cover and I knew exactly where.


  3. Karin! I love your honesty about your covers. I have had a love-hate relationship with mine. Mostly, I tell my publishers what I think my covers should look like, and then they end up something else entirely. Sometimes to good effect and other times...sigh. My only cover I truly didn't like was my second series mystery, and it's the only book that's currently OOP. Surprise, surprise. EARTHLY PLEASURES is just gorgeous! It gives me pangs of jealousy, as do so many of the girlfriends' beautiful covers. Yes, I do have cover envy a lot around here. ;-)

  4. I have cover envy too, Susan. Melissa Senate's latest is making me crool.

  5. What a great post! And yes, love the honest assessment! Have to agree that the large type cover is gadzooks ugly. But your others are great ... and EARTHLY PLEASURES is drop dead gorgeous.

    I've been through the wringer on covers, too. With my latest, THE OTHER LIFE, my editor sent along a cover I flipped for. My agents loved it, too. Alas, the sales dept. said it wouldn't work, so back to the drawing board.

    The next cover my editor sent along made me cry. I just thought it was so wrong for the book, and I feared my opinion wouldn't count. I'm sure you know how it is--you put so much into your work and feel like it could get crushed by the wrong artwork.

    But then ... oh happy day! A third and final cover emerged and I fell madly and wildly in love. It surpassed anything I could have imagined. I sure hope readers and bookstores feel the same way!

    You can sneak a peek here:

  6. Ellen, your cover is bee-oo-tiful! No wonder you're so happy! It's got mood and emotion and a hint of hopefulness (with those raining daisies). Sigh. I feel pangs of cover envy coming on! ;-)

  7. SUCH a great post, Karin! It was so interesting to see all of the iterations of your covers. It really is so fascinating to see how covers truly are super-important.

  8. Thanks, Brenda. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Ellen, your cover ROCKS. I love it.

  9. I recently emailed Sokoloff to tell her how much I appreciate her blog. I'm writing my next book using an outline and this is my first time, so we shall see....

  10. Karin--you crack me up. The grandmother's face . . . old women doing the bunny hop . . . LOL. Love the Earthly Pleasures cover and the sunglasses one is fun, too! Enjoyed the post!

  11. Karin, thanks for always making me laugh. This is a great post!

  12. Alex is amazing, Carleen. Also helpful is a book By John Truby. I forget the title. Glad I made you smile Marian and Beth.

    Lauren, I 'd love to hear your cover story since you have so many:)