The cover of my new mystery, Death Will Extend Your Vacation, due out in April, is a collaboration between me and my publisher’s book designer.
I’ve been creating images to represent my books and stories since the first time I needed a provisional bookmark. They’ve also come in handy to circulate an anthologized story in standalone chapbook form. I’ve given out hundreds at library conventions (ALA and PLA) and many more at fan conventions where I’ve had a story nominated for an award. When the advent of e-books created an ongoing need for covers supplied by the author, I already had a running head start.
Let’s talk about that severed hand on the cover of Death Will Extend Your Vacation. (You did notice it, I hope.) This is not the hand’s first starring role.
When I first started sending out my work and hobnobbing with published writers, I heard a lot about how important a good cover was to sales of a book and therefore to an author’s career. I also heard about publishers who changed book titles and provided hideous covers over the author’s dead bodies. The most memorable of these was a woman whose publisher threw a Halloween reference into the title—no Halloween in the book—and smacked a grinning orange pumpkin on the front, to the author’s horror when she saw the book in print. I heard a senior editor at the same publisher’s describe their cozy line as books of which “you can put a puppy or kitten on the cover, even if there are no puppies or kittens in the book.”
I was lucky to have my first publisher assign its top art director to my first two books.
Now I have the rights back, I can’t use the original cover if I want to offer the book for e-readers. I don’t have a gun, so can’t shoot myself up a glass—and don’t really want to find out the hard way whether an imitating another image violates copyright. But I could lay a glass on its side with whiskey spilling out of it. Not real whiskey, since I couldn’t make it puddle. But maybe honey....