Saturday, January 8, 2011

Choose that Cover: Sultana

I haven't made up my mind as to the final choice of a cover image for Sultana. Would you like to help me? Here's why the choice is so hard:

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.


Judith Arnopp said...

hi Lisa
my favourites are
1. A jewish Girl in Tangiers
2. An Oriental Beauty
3. La jeune maresque

hope that helps. For me, the cover is the thing that draws me to pick a book from the shelf, then the blurb on the back has to be intriguing enough to get me to open my wallet :)

loved on falcons wings, i will get round to reviewing it soon, i promise.

good luck with it!

Lisa Yarde said...

Judith, you're a dear. Thanks for listing your favorites among the images; they happen to be mine, too. Thanks also for reading the book, I appreciate your thoughts on it.

Holly Ruggiero said...

Wow, I was totally going to write what Judith wrote. These images have more mystery in the faces and would grab my attention. And yes, it is sad but true the cover can make me pick up a book or pass it right by.

Michelle Gregory said...

the first one is the only one that appeals to me. she looks like a princess, but she also looks like she's thinking, and that she's vulnerable. it's the kind of picture that makes me wonder what her story is.

Lisa Yarde said...

Thanks, Holly and Michelle, I love the first one too for all the reasons you've each mentioned. You're really helping narrow down the choice for me.

Kristina Emmons said...

I like After the Bath best, but as you said, it may not do because of resolution issues. The other choices that strike me best are A Jewish Girl in Tangiers and La Jeune Maresque, in that order :)

Lisa Yarde said...

Thanks Kristina. You'll soon see the final version. Hint: mockup in the ARC is what I'm aiming for.

Moraima said...

Like "La Jeune Mauresque"

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