So here is my long anticipated book cover. I hope you like it. I must say I do like it, despite my having some thematic arguments against the Taj Mahal style windows. I think in the end, the image is quite lovely. For a long while, it had a different font, multicolored block print; and a Bollywood looking woman where the sari now is. I took HUGE issue with the Bollywood woman, and large, if not huge, issue with the mulitcolor pastel font. And Thomas Dunne did change it and I am grateful. I quite like the fonts and colors for the title and my name now. Especially my name. AND I like the lower case letters. I think they look more magical and interesting. This was the original cover:
Note the Bollywood girl, her silly, red costume jewelry, her simpering expression and her purple eyeshadow. She begged the shopper to ask, "I wonder which of these five daughters is the stupid one..."
Of late, all my angst over this subject has really made me consider what makes a compelling book cover. There are absolutely some covers that beg you to pick up the book and read it. Frankly, I don't think this one does that at all, though it is beautiful. I can't say that I would not pick up this book based on its cover, but I do think that my novel is full of mysteries and images that begged to be depicted, which weren't depicted. But that is the question: is it better to make a cover that depicts images described within, or is the magic something entirely different?
I wonder what it is that makes the perfect book cover...
Like this one for Zadie Smith's White Teeth: It is not a particularly interesting cover, though it is among my favorite books. It's another one with so many themes within that would have been great to see on the cover, but none of them is there. And I really don't remember how I came across this book. Perhaps it was just recommended to me, or perhaps it was the jacket flap description, because it couldn't have been the cover. Which in the end makes the point of not judging the book by its cover. But then...there are many books I absolutely did buy because of the cover. But I can't remember a single one. Right now, I am sitting here thinking of my all time favorite books: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, A Prayer for Owen Meany (which has an armadillo on the cover, which totally makes sense, but is absolutely the opposite of a compelling image) by John Irving...even if I think back to my younger days (John Irving does belong to my younger days) when I would be much more likely to judge a book by its cover, I don't know which of those books I loved I bought for their covers. Isabel Allende's earlier works, Amy Tan's earlier work, Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible. None of their covers make me gasp.
Okay, I just went in to find a picture of The Confederacy of Dunces to illustrate my point, but the covers are WONDERFUL. There are tons, and I have no idea where my copy is so I can't tell you that I didn't buy it because of its cover. I really don't remember. But here is a great cover for a great book: This book was published in 1980, 11 years after the author committed suicide, and it won the Pulitzer Prize and has been through many printings. I know I read it in high school. I imagine that back then, it would have been the cover and what was written on the back of the book that moved me.
I have noticed as I have gotten older a distinct shift in my reading from popular to more exclusively literary fiction, so one might think then that the cover would matter less. Readers of exclusively literary fiction tend to be more compelled by the jackets descriptions and the reviews, by the awards etc. Like I always buy the Booker Prize winning books and always the Pulitzers, and rarely are those marked by the complete fabulousness of their covers (except this Confederacy of Dunces maybe?--though mine was probably from the library cast off sale) but there is something magical about that glowing golden medal there on the cover. A Newberry, a National Book Award...check it out:
I don't know how people resist. So that is the next goal. To get a book cover, inspired or not, that sports one of those beautiful golden medals, and to let that medal be inspiration enough for someone to pick up the book and read it.
If you have any favorite book covers, let me know and I will post them here. I'd love your opinions on what makes a great cover.
Peace, and as always, Send the muse!!