Last summer, Mindy Friddle kindly helped get the word out about my new books. This summer, she’s got a new book of her own out – Secret Keepers – about three generations of a family in a mill town in South Carolina. There’s Emma, the matriarch, who had to miss out on a longed-for trip to Europe due to her roguish husband’s untimely demise; Dora, a one-time hippie peacenik who’s now a devout church member and instructor of an aerobics group called Firm Believers at a Christian mall (where she tries hard – and usually fails – to resist retail therapy) and Kyle, the grandson, who devises a way to get out of Saving Souls to hang out with his wayward grandmother and mentally disturbed uncle.
Here, Mindy writes about how her fabulous book cover came to be:
As an author, I count myself lucky to have a publisher that solicited my ideas for both of my novels’ book covers. When it came time for the art department to put together some cover ideas, I was happy to send along images that I felt captured the feel of my novel. Of course, it was up to the graphic artist to design the covers–and the publisher has the final say–but I found St. Martin’s receptive and eager to consider my ideas—or photographs—in this case.
As booksellers will tell you, readers DO judge a book by its cover. Or, ahem, “dust jacket”—to use the formal term. So… should an author get involved with cover art? Only if she wants to. If you happen to have some passages or some images that you feel drawn to, or that you feel inspired your work, by all means share it!
For example, the cover for my first novel, THE GARDEN ANGEL, went through several different versions. My editor felt the idea of a porch was important—since it figures prominently in the novel—as well as a cemetery angel (the “garden angel” in the story). Easy, right? Well…not after you consider just how many styles of porches and cemetery angels there are out there; angels ranging from grief-stricken and morose, to pixie-ish and cherubic. After several versions, everyone agreed a photograph from a famous cemetery captured the nostalgic feel of the cemetery “garden” angel in the novel. (The publisher purchased the image.) The porch—that’s a different story.
In an early version, the porch appeared much too pristine, and resembled the sort of porch you’d encounter in Charleston, SC, and the southern coast. The Garden Angel is set in a mill town near mountains. So after they requested some examples of the “ruined finery” feel of the porch that figures prominently in THE GARDEN ANGEL, I sent a few snapshots I’d taken near my neighborhood—beautiful, elegiac but crumbling porches. And they ended up using one of the digital photographs I sent. I must say, that was really thrilling for me: to be part of the visual creative side of the book. The porch in my mind’s eye was there on the cover.
Just after SECRET KEEPERS was accepted—and we still had editing in front of us— I met with my editor and we talked about cover ideas. I’d brought a couple of pages from garden magazines that illustrated rescued heirloom gardens. I also brought along some pictures of vintage seed packets and catalogs. The first version of the book cover –a vintage seed packet illustration–was striking, but a little old-fashioned for the contemporary angle of the story. My editor asked that I send in more ideas. Although I don’t consider myself a photographer–have had absolutely no training– I love capturing images in my own garden and around town. Point and shoot! I was shocked when I opened up the jpg image of the new cover of SECRET KEEPERS to find they’d selected a photo I sent them. Those boot “planters” are still on my front porch. I’ve made even more of them—from all sorts of recycled boots—and I take a boot planter to every bookstore when I do signings and readings. I have more about the “cover story” of SECRET KEEPERS on my blog—as well as pictures of all the boot plants I’ve given to bookstores, and raffled off to readers. It’s been fun! I call it—in jest of course!—my Bootylicious Book Tour.