by Alana Cash
Now that most books are purchased online or in electronic format, the book cover isn’t as important as it was were when books were sold by display in the neighborhood bookstore. A book cover used to sell a book (people did judge books by their cover), but a thumbnail on a website isn’t going to do that. The synopsis, reviews, recommendations from friends, and possibly, the author’s reputation will draw the reader first, and then the cover. However, when I hold my book in my hand, I want to love looking at it. I already know what is inside and my cover needs to represent that to me.
I like to see photographs on book covers – small towns, empty fields, skylines – because they are evocative and create questions. . I want to know what’s happening there. Of course not all photographs work that way – if I see a man and woman kissing passionately, I pretty much get what the story is about. If I see a silhouette of a man and woman kissing, well, there’s mystery there.
I chose a photograph of a long, lonely stretch of road for the cover of HOW YOU LEAVE TEXAS. It’s what you see when you are driving west towards El Paso. That’s clear because the sun is setting and you are driving out of Texas into that sunset. But why?
Graphic artist (and musician) Suzanne Birrell put together the cover for HOW YOU LEAVE TEXAS. I sent her the photographs and text and a link to the fonts I wanted to use. I also gave her links to extra items – barbed wire, longhorns, and other Texas icons – and asked her to place them on the cover. Suzanne did exactly what I asked her to do, I got exactly what I asked for and I wasn’t happy. It was only when Suzanne edited out all the extraneous graphics, leaving a clean photo and titles, that the book cover was exactly what I wanted and I was really happy with it.
The back cover is a bit unique. The text is printed in the shape of a “T” – synopsis is the top of the “T,” my photograph is the middle/stem, and the bio is the foot. In the photograph I’m holding a monkey. I could have chosen a headshot, but I thought this picture was more evocative, and it has its own story. I was at a gypsy fair in England with my Scottish grandmother who had come for a visit. She took my brother and me to the fair and paid that photographer to take the picture, which he mailed to us later.
For my novel, TOM’S WIFE, I worked with Jackie Lindo. I sent Jackie the photograph of the dog and pine house that’s on the cover. I chose that particular photo because it evoked the sense of poverty and loneliness that Annie (the main character) lives with. I asked for the pine board graphic, colors, and a simple font, all representative of the Depression era and rural placement of the novel. The photograph on the back of the book – a little girl in a hat and gloves – is not me. I chose that photo to represent Annie who is married and pregnant at nineteen, a little girl trying to be a grownup.
I was deeply involved in the creation of both covers and I trusted myself to get what I want. But it isn’t necessary to get that involved if you can give some simple descriptors of what you want or four or five words that would describe your novel. Your designer will give you a cover and [should] work with you to make any changes you want.
HOW YOU LEAVE TEXAS is a volume of four unique stories about four young women who leave Midland, Austin, Fort Worth and Mayville, Texas for New York, California, Jakarta, and in one instance, jail. These young women seek escape from boredom and sorrow and find it. Told with humor and pathos, here are the synopses:
DAM BROKE – after high school graduation, two quirky best friends reveal big secrets.
“In sixth grade, I abandoned the reading glasses for a blond wig and a fake mole above my top lip. Mickey started wearing sunglasses indoors and carrying business cards.”
CAMILLE’S NET WORTH – on her 40th birthday, Camille’s life falls apart in uncontrolled demolition. Life improves when she gets a job creating art paper and returns to painting. But the plot twists and she ends up in jail, laughing.
“I’m not going to spend much time repeating myself,” Camille said, “I want you to remove whatever you want to keep from this house. You can store your stuff in a rental truck if you need to until you find a new home, but you will be gone from here by midnight and never return.”
“You can’t do that!”
“If you are not gone by midnight, I will set fire to the house.”
KRYSTAL’S WEDDING – Heading for New York, Krystal leaves behind her shoddy family in Midland, Texas. Ill-prepared for the culture shock and expense, she takes a few slippery steps before she finds true independence.
“Krystal’s family wasn’t an American success story. Mom felt like life had cheated her since Daddy never made any real money and spent most nights getting drunk at the Welcome Inn. Erin never finished beauty school and worked at a donut shop. Bethany worked as a bar-back at the Rusty Nail and was turning out like Daddy. Alcoholic, back-slapping, charming. Eddie Garthwaite, owner of Garthwaite Used Cars located on Interstate 20 between Midland and Odessa. Eddie Garthwaite who currently had his driver’s license suspended because of a DUI.”
FRYING YOUR BURGER – Nicky and her friends spend mornings slinging repartee in a coffee shop. While paying a traffic fine, she meets a director and soon finds herself a pawn for two directors trying to ruin each others careers.
“I went into the room marked Cashier and got into a long line. And there he was. Grinning that grin. He should have had a license for it. It was that bright. I stood next to him in my white t-shirt and white pants looking like someone straight out of the ‘hospital orderly fashion catalogue.’ It was all I had clean that day.”
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Genre – Women’s Fiction
Rating – PG13
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