Do you agonize over book covers? Have you ever been dazzled by the gorgeous dress of some headless woman or a hunky hero on horseback, and knowing nothing beyond the blurb, rushed headlong to buy the book? Or, have you looked at a cover and assumed that the dreadful imagery and the barely legible typeface meant the book couldn't be an interesting read?
I'm outing myself as an obsessive, cover snob. "Don't judge a book by its cover" - good advice, but impossible. Over decades of reading, I know the exact type of cover that will attract me. Readers have developed expectations based on the cover. The gorgeous dress on a headless woman has been a staple of historical fiction for years, allowing readers to identify the genre on sight alone even before they browse the content. A good book cover should do several things all at once. The author's name and title should be paramount. It should be appealing. Most importantly, it should convey key elements of the story; something about the setting, characters, key conflict or theme, or the genre. Even the color of the background can be useful to convey the mood.
For my upcoming novels, I'm working with cover artist Lance Ganey again. He did a brilliant job with my first novel, and even those who don't like it have loved the cover. I have very precise ideas in mind for the mood I want to convey. The setting is medieval Spain during its exotic Moorish period, and the themes are dark. While there are gorgeous stock photos out there, they were too modern to really convey story elements. I've decided to go with royalty-free art from the 19th century Orientalists. Most of the artists painted a very Westernized view of Ottoman life in Turkey and Algiers, but their work captures the right mood.
At the outset of Sultana, my heroine is a young princess surrounded by luxury, but her family is beset on all sides by their enemies. Her marriage has precipitated a thirteen-year civil war. I'm looking for an image that conveys a sense of her youth and station in life, but also has a sombre background hinting at the dangers surrounding her. I've sent a few high resolution images to Lance, including:
A Jewish Girl of Tangiers, Charles Landelle
In The Dressing Room, Ettore Simonetti
La Belle Orientale, Charles Louis Lucien Muller
La Jeune Mauresque, Frederick Arthur Bridgman
The Final Decision, Edouard Frederic Wilhelm Richter
A few favorites won't make the cut unless I locate a high resolution version:
After The Bath, Rudolf Ernst
An Oriental Beauty, Jean Francois Portaels
Guard of the Harem, Rudolf Ernst
Sigh. It's frustrating because some of these latter images are just perfect. Of the high resolution ones, I have a rough idea of which is not quite right, but I'm curious about what others think.
Tell me your choice for a potentail cover image of Sultana and why. Thanks for your help, and for stopping by the blog.