Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #7): Judging a Book by Its Cover

Okay, before we get started I want you to notice that I have a new meme for the book club.  I made a meme, all by my own self!  Up until now, I was using just that St. Francis de Sales quote about grace that I found online; but I decided that I needed something a little more personalized and more on point.  Something that would give newcomers to the blog a hint about what we discuss here on Tuesdays.  I spent about 45 minutes setting these items up on my dining room table and arranging them just so...and then this other way...and finally, like this.  And then I used the "paint" program on my computer to add text.  It's not the most professional-looking meme in all of blog land, but I'm satisfied with it.  (Should I send this image over to Instagram and incorporate some snazzy color and lighting effects?  Tell me what you think.)

Just as I hope this book club won't be judged by that amateurish meme, I hope my books won't be judged by their covers.  Or maybe I hope they will.  (That depends on whether people like them or not!)

Covers are important.  An appealing cover gets a would-be reader's attention.  I know that I myself have discovered more literary gems--some that I'd never even heard of before--at Barnes & Noble, just by randomly perusing the covers and picking up the ones that appeal to me.  If I like the cover design, I'll flip to the book's back cover; and if the synopsis and endorsements make it sound promising, I'll often buy it.

Here's an example of a book that I judged by its cover; and it turned out to be one of my favorite books ever:

For Finding Grace, I produced the cover artwork myself, with colored pencils and fine-tipped Sharpie markers.  My publisher asked me if I had an idea for the cover, and I told her I imagined a curly-haired girl shown only from the shoulders down, wearing a Peter Pan color and a Miraculous Medal.  I told her, in fact, that I had done up a rough sketch of this image, hoping she could reproduce something along the same lines.  She asked me to send her what I had, and when I emailed the JPG image to her, she told me she liked it--and that if the book was going to be targeted at young adults, she thought it would work very well.  So I did a better, more carefully rendered version of my original drawing.  When she sent me the final cover design, with the title scrolled across the top in that beautiful font she'd chosen, I loved it.

I have only gotten one negative comment about that cover, from Victoria Gisondi, who reviewed Finding Grace for CatholicFiction.net.  Victoria had many positive things to say about the novel, but of its cover she said:  My only aesthetic concern is the book cover which I fear would be passed over in a book store or library. A more modern cover, in the style of teen novels today, would better appeal to the book’s target audience. Perhaps a sharp-looking photograph of the same subject matter...would fare much better than the amateurish drawing that was used. (You can read the full review here.)

Another reader said that the pastel innocence of the cover artwork made her think it might be appropriate for her middle school-aged daughter, but when she read the book she realized that only an older teen would be ready for some of the difficult themes included in the story.

So although I'm rather fond of its cover, as far as Finding Grace goes I guess the jury is still out on whether or not it would have benefitted from a different sort of look.  However, I am convinced that the cover of Erin's Ring suits it to a T.
This time, instead of using one of my amateur drawings, publisher Cheryl Dickow chose the cover artwork from a pool of professional designs.  When she sent me the cover she'd created, it took my breath away.  I thought it was perfect.  Right away, I was reminded of a sweet love scene in the book, where Ann and Seamus are walking in downtown Dover, NH, on a snowy night in 1828.   In the book, Ann is even carrying a muff!  The less-than-perfect thing about this artwork is that the couple is dressed a bit too grandly for my poor Irish immigrants.  If the man was wearing a flat cap and tattered knickers, it might be better.  But later in the book (and later in the century) there is another pair of sweethearts in the story named Erin and Michael who are not at all poverty-stricken, and they might very well be dressed just so.

I love that this cover has so much green in it, like the Emerald Isle itself.  I love that although it evokes a long-ago era, it has a modern CGI (computer-generated-image) quality to it, which I believe is particularly attractive to discerning younger readers.

When I visited Queen of Angels Catholic school in May, to speak with a wonderful group of 4th-graders about Erin's Ring, several of the kids commented on the cover.  One of them asked me why I chose that particular image, and I told them that the publisher actually chose it, but that it is exactly what I would have chosen myself.  One asked me which scene in the book it's supposed to portray, and when I told them that I immediately thought of Ann and Seamus' big night when I saw it, several of the kids said that's the scene they thought of as well.  One boy commented that the artwork has the high-tech look of a Pixar animated movie.  I agreed, and in turn asked the class if they liked that about it--which they did.  Long story short, I think my publisher did a bang-up job of coming up with a cover that would resonate with the book's target audience.

Now I'll ask you: do you like the cover of Erin's Ring?  Do you find it eye-catching?  Do you think it represents the story well?  Do you like the CGI effect, or do you think a more traditional painted scene would have suited it better?

Okay then, meeting adjourned.  Until we meet again, may you be showered with many graces.


  1. Something I forgot to mention in the post: every beta reader who was sent a galley of the manuscript to endorse it pre-publication commented on how beautiful they thought the cover was. Not that I'm trying to influence your answer to the question I posed up there...I just thought I'd throw that out! ;)

  2. I love the covers of both of your books!

  3. I really love the cover of "Erin's Ring." Right away, you know that this book has a historical component, and the snow flying, the couple walking together, the way they are dressed...is just so cozy and heartwarming. Which matches the story! Love it.

    1. I agree--Cheryl did such a great job with that cover. It's cozy and heartwarming, as you said. And it lets the reader know there will be historical fiction involved.