Getting to Beekeeper

The other day I posted (over here)  an image of the original cover proposal for The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, thanking the publishing gods that it went away in favor of the one St Martins Press ended up with.  But a couple of you were curious about how that happened—so here’s that story.

I first saw that cover in early September, 1993.  I was a really, really new author, with one book—A Grave Talent—that sold a few thousand copies and would go on to be nominated, then win, the Edgar award.  But that wasn’t for months, and I was less than nothing in the world of publishing.

I went to New York City for the first time on Labor Day weekend.  I know, stupid, right?  Half of New Jersey was in the shuttle line.

But I got to Manhattan, and I made my way to the Flatiron Building to meet my editor, and she was charming up until the moment she handed me…that cover art.

“Isn’t it great?”  Um.  “We’re so pleased with it.”  Well.  “I think it’ll do great.”  Uh…

I took that cover back to my hotel and looked at it and wanted to cry.  Big he-man Holmes, little shadow of a Russell literally looking up to him.  Had no one read the book?  And that flocked wallpaper.

Remember: I am nothing in the publishing world.  I am ridiculously grateful that they have offered me contracts, and I don’t want to be difficult, but…

That cover.

So the next day I summon my nerve and phone my editor.  I take a deep breath, pulse racing, knowing I am about to send my career down the drain, and I say, “So.  Thanks for lunch.  It was lovely to meet you.  And about that cover.  You know, I don’t think it… says what you want the book to say.”

I waited for indignation, for a polite sneer, for irritation at my temerity in thinking I knew better…

Instead, what I heard was this:  “Hmm.  You may be right.”  And we ended up here:

With a shadowy Holmes & pipe and Russell the primary figure.

[And that editor?  My beloved Ruth Cavin, who will be honored at the 2020 Malice Domestic.]


  1. Zuleika on October 24, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Every time you mention the flocked wallpaper in that doomed cover, I’m reminded of a hilarious line from the recent BBC “Sherlock” (with Benedict Cumberbatch). Sherlock shoots up the wall in his flat. Mrs. Hudson objects, and Sherlock says “The wallpaper had it coming.” Yes, indeed.

    • Laurie King on October 24, 2019 at 4:07 pm


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