What do I want in a book cover?
First of all, I want it to evoke the book without giving away the plot.
(Garment of Shadows: young woman in Western clothes gazes at a vaguely North African landscape: check.)
Then, it needs to catch the eyes from across a crowded bookstore—or as a 2” version on a screen.
(Rich glow of color; a bit of sharp contrast; legible font: check.)
It must reward a closer look (or click) by revealing some intriguing subtleties.
(Moroccan buildings; arabesque frame around the edges; pair of figures at the top—one of whom can only be Sherlock Holmes. Definitely a check.)
Those revealed subtleties must add up to a sense of the unexpected: a slight jolt of surprise is what makes the reader’s hand reach out and pick out the book from a display.
(Demure clothing at odds with the setting; crisp dark colors against hazy warmth; the figure’s stance suggesting that she feels out of place. Check.)
The cover can’t be green. The people who work in the sales department are clear on this: Green Covers Don’t Sell.
(Okay, orange is comfortably across the color wheel from green, so yes, a check here.) (And yes, this is a joke.)
Although if it is green, it has to be really, really green.
A touch of humor is great, whether the dust jacket encloses a comic or a solemn book, since people read for pleasure—even if it’s only the masochistic pleasure of a grim political tome.
(There’s something decidedly humorous about that paired silhouette at the top, showing Holmes and a woman facing off through a magnifying glass: her upraised chin shows that she is undaunted by his deerstalker. I may never have heard of Mary Russell, but that silhouette tells me there’s a quirky element here.)
Basically, I want my book’s cover to reach out and convince a mind-boggling variety of would-be readers that they will love this novel, that they will consider their hard-earned dollars well spent, if only they will open the cover and read the cover blurb…
Where they discover that the story is about a young English woman who is married to Sherlock Holmes, and how she finds herself standing in a Moroccan city, bewildered but undaunted.
A simple task, really.
Garment of Shadows: check.