Yes, it’s finally here. The cover for The Great Central Fair novella.
Covers make me crazy, because despite the old adage, "Don't judge a book by the cover," the current trend is to do just that. In some ways, I wish we lived back in the nineteenth century when those who could read were prose-driven rather than image driven. But if that were the case, I'd be taking a bath only once a week, so I guess things all work out.
My point is over the years I have learned that covers demand something to catch the reader’s eye. I’m getting better at doing that. However, some novels these days feature photos of the characters on the cover and, frankly, I am uncomfortable with that. Excepting The Great Central Fair, none of my covers show my characters’ faces. Even on the latest cover, the faces are not detailed.
As far as I’m concerned, the reader’s imagination is important. I don't usually reveal who my characters are modeled after. Except for one character that is, because it is so much fun. After I wrote Saint Maggie, I changed the way I envisioned Eli Smith and how it happened is no closely-guarded secret. When writing Walk by Faith I needed a portly guy with edge. I thought, with no small desperation, "What am I going to do? Use Jack Black?" And, yes, he drew the short straw. Congrats, Jack!
However, later I revealed my vision of who Eli looked like to some of my reader friends and they in turn told me that Eli looks completely different to them (except for the being portly, having dark hair and eyes, which is his description in the book). One reader said that to her Eli resembles a client who comes into the optometrist’s office where she works. I have heard similar stories from other readers.
However, I do cast my characters in my mind's eye. Some look like actors, like Jack Black, and others look like people I know or have known. Some, like Carson, are even composites of two people. But I prefer not to talk about whom or put up images that literally show the characters' appearance. When you read the stories, you will fashion your own images.
However, that doesn't mean it isn't fun to watch people’s reaction when I say Eli looks like Jack Black. I have heard everything from “ewww” to “rock on, sister.” And, it goes without saying, that I would love to have Mr. Black play Eli in a Saint Maggie movie. But the chances of a movie option are small. So small, in fact, that I need a microscope to see them!
So here's how I created The Great Central Fair's cover.
I loved the vintage image of the kissing couple. I purchased it from iStockPhoto.com. If you're planning on writing a novel, you most likely will have to purchase an image or images. Remember: you’d better not use one that is copyright protected or you’ll end up in court. I have purchased images and used copyright-free images in covers. For Seeing the Elephant, I asked my sister to draw an imaginary Kirkbride mental hospital for the cover. She did a beautiful, slightly creepy pen-and-ink sketch. I love it! I wish she'd go back to doing architectural sketches and other artwork. She's so talented.
For the new novella, I needed to crop the original kissing couple image. I wanted only the couple kissing and the young woman nearby to be the focus. So, I cut out the group of people across the street. They were watching the encounter, and I felt they took the viewer’s eyes away from the couple. (Plus, they were total voyeurs. Sheesh! Had they never seen a public kiss? I get the whole Victorian propriety thing, but really...)
As you may have seen, if you looked at yesterday's post, the original background for the cover was blue. The trouble was that blue background bothered me, even though it was approved by Dan Bush and beta reader Laura Wimbrow. (By the way, I taught Laura's high school Sunday school class back in the day when I worked in Maryland. Hi, Laura!).
Anyway, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that the cover needed something more. Earlier, I had downloaded an image of the 1864 Philadelphia Sanitary Fair’s exterior from the Library of Congress. The copyright information from the L.O.C. said their research could find no individual or organization holding a copyright and it was free to use. To be safe and clear, I always credit where images come from.
I cropped the fair image and put it in as the background. And booyah! The completed cover combined with the font style and size telegraphed the story’s content: It’s about a fair and some romance set in the days when women wore long skirts and men kept their hands at their sides when kissing a young lady in public.
Seriously, though, I think the cover might invite a potential reader to find out what the Great Central Fair is and read a romance story. In short, I am pleased with this cover. In fact, I’m well-chuffed, as one of my Irish friends says. And I hope you like it, too.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder