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  • Writer's pictureWalker Buckalew

Cover Art: A Fearful Thing

Cover Art: A Fearful Thing

Before the proliferation of e-readers – and using them as convenient and inexpensive substitutes for actual books – the cover art business was an important way for some artists to supplement their income from their “real” work of painting. Hardcover books, then and now, had dust jackets: covers for those books comprised a vital component in the sales success of each book. An attractively done dust jacket was essential to attract readers, since most sales were the result of people spending unhurried time in book stores, browsing among the shelves.

It was a different era.

Today, with so many book sales online, the dust jacket business has waned in importance. Nevertheless, prefers to offer its novels in three formats: electronic, softcover, and hardcover (with dust jacket). All three versions show the same art on the cover, but the art now has less importance, since shoppers online can find out a great deal about a book without necessarily paying attention to the cover art.

For my Rebecca Series, comprising now a total of five novels for adults, we have used graphic artists, as distinct from illustrators, to create the covers. The cover of the latest novel, A Fearful Thing, shows images of the Washington Monument, a Lincoln Town Car with Soviet Union embassy flags flying from its front fenders, a Barrington Swords competition-grade throwing knife, and a dark, threatening image of a man’s eyes, his bushy eyebrows cascading down over the fearsome eyes themselves. Each of these images represents various features of the story, while the background shows ominous clouds and a driving rainstorm.

The total effect is indeed “a fearful thing” to behold.

As each one of these novels was being developed, the artist that we had selected would submit his or her work to us – to the editors and to me, the author – first, to see if we thought the art was on the right track, and, later in the process, to see if we had any requests for refinements in the images. In several cases with these graphic artists – we have used more than one over the years – the editors and I thought the early drafts were too cluttered, and we asked the artist to remove one of the images to provide a cleaner look. They were happy to comply, and each cover proved to be very successful.

Like all hardcover novels, my books’ dust jackets display not only the art work on the front cover, but also quotations from readers or critics on the back cover, a summary of the book on the inside front flap, and a short bio and a photo of the author on the inside back flap.

I have been interested to realize that, when the covers of these stories are reproduced on e-readers, the images tend to be even stronger than on the actual books. There are details on some of the covers that are actually easier to see on my e-reader than when I hold the books in my hands.

If you have a copy of any of my novels – the actual, physical book – and also a copy in your e-reader, hold the two up together and compare.

Interesting, isn’t it?

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