Wednesday, September 19, 2007

That About Covers It Part 1

Before we get into the topic of this blog entry, I wanted to say something about the new look. I've finally upgraded my Blogger template, which now makes adding links a snap. Check to see if you're listed in the links. If you're not, contact me and I'll add you.

Also, I'm putting together a list of all the cool folks who reviewed Dirty Martini, to thank them in the acknowledgements of my next book, and to send them free stuff. If you reviewed me, please drop me a line with your name and address. Thanks, big time. You rock.

Now let's talk cover art.

It is well known in the publishing biz that even huge bestselling authors don't get cover approval in their contracts. Usually, there's a clause that says the author has "cover consulting" which means the publisher makes a cover, the author complains that it is absolutely wrong, and the publisher uses it anyway.

This isn't always the case. Sometimes the author makes some suggestions, and the publisher makes the requested changes.

If you hate your cover, there are some things to keep in mind.

1. Remember that your publisher paid someone to create this, usually based on concepts or ideas that orginated in a meeting. That means a lot of people may have had hands in the design. Screaming how much it sucks won't win you any popularity contests.

2. Your agent is your buffer. Use her. Let her express your unhappiness, so you don't come off looking like an ungrateful prick. Don't respond or reply until you've conferred with your agent and decided on a game plan.

3. Make sure you point out the things that you like about the cover. Even if it's the font, or the way all four corners are perfect 90 degree angles. Say something positive before you start criticizing.

4. Explain why the cover doesn't work for you. Break it down, point by point, and go into some detail why it isn't going to have the desired effect on buyers. Save the passion for the conversation with your agent. Be clinical and intelligent.

5. Offer solutions. Easier solutions will be easier to change than complete overhauls. Overhauls take time and more money. Quick fixes are more apt to be obliged.

6. Be grateful, even if they don't listen to anything you say. Your publisher is your most powerful ally. Don't make them an enemy by being a snotty jerk.

That said, I recently got my cover art for Fuzzy Navel.

I have four minor issues with this cover. Three of those issues have to do with continuity, comparing this to my previous covers. One is something I simply don't like, because it looks odd.

Can you spot my four issues? You can click on it to make it bigger and see more detail. The first person to correctly identify all four gets an advance reading copy when they are printed up.

I'll reveal the answers on Monday, and also reveal how my publisher responded to my suggestions.


  1. Anonymous7:15 AM

    A brain teaser is always a good way to start out the day. For continuity I'll say:

    1) No author quotes as on previous books.

    2) No new background color. Blue was used on Bloody Mary.

    3) The "Anthony, Macavity and Gumshoe Finalist for WHISKEY SOUR" blurb was left off.

    Odd is in the eye of the beholder, but what stuck out to me was the gun on the end of the swizzle stick.

    Nits and picks aside, I think the illustrator did a good job and predict the cover will grab the attention of bookstore browsers.


  2. 1. The lack of cover quote & the award info (Anthony, Macavity & Gumshoe Finalist etc. etc. etc.)

    2. The title & series information section: The bar design of "A JACQUELINE 'JACK' DANIELS MYSTERY". Your last two books had it in a circle, while the first two books in the series had it in a bar. It seems to revert back to your older book look.

    Also your title looks a bit off. All your previous book covers had two lines, with the top & bottom lines being the same length (DIRTY MARTINI, BLOODY MARY, WHISKEY SOUR) OR with the bottom line being longer & bigger (RUSTY NAIL). Fussy Naval does not.

    3. The size of the drink. It's my personal preference, but maybe yours too -- I think it's too big and covers too much of the title.

    4. The background color -- all your previous titles had some very vivid colors. Even though it had some shading, it was mostly horizontal (for example, top & bottom is darker than the middle, but it's all one color-tone, such as green or blue -- refer to RUSTY NAIL & BLOODY MARY). With FUZZY NAVEL, there's a lot of white in the background, which really stands out compared to your previous bookcovers.

  3. BTW -- I'll also add that none of your previous book covers had a drink so big that it covered a big chunk of the title.

  4. 1. The background color is less vivid and shaded, which while very cool, changes the look a bit.
    2. Perhaps my eyes are going, but the abandoned piece of fruit or body part or whatever, is distracting to me.
    3. Finalist mention not included
    4. The series mention is in a bar instead of a circle.
    I agree that overall the cover is cool, although personally for such a fun drink I would have gone with a brighter color.

  5. 1. no skull as on other books
    2. no mention of the award noms
    3. the background is darker at the bottom than at the top; not just one background color
    4. the drink covers up too much of the letters in the title

    Those are the only differences I see between this cover and your others. It is completely consistent with your look. You have a "brand." My new cover, however, couldn't be more different than my previous two books, although I really like it. But it's changing my "look."

  6. 1) No skull

    2) No blurb

    3) The background should be mostly one color

    4) The pistol on the swizzle stick is a tad too much, IMO.

  7. Ummm... I hate to be on the side of the publishing company, but I really like the cover. It will catch a lot of attention and grab new readers. I am ready to buy it now. ;-)

  8. KH: 2 out of 4 correct

    Angelle: 1 out of 4

    Randomranter: 0 out of 4

    Karen: 1 out of 4

    Jude: 2 out of 4

    Cynthia: I like it too. Except for 4 things...

  9. Aren't fuzzy navels orange? Like, orange orange, and not red orange/translucent?

  10. Anonymous11:07 AM

    A funny navel has OJ, right? Unless they changed the way they made them from when I was a bartender

    the missing skull

    the pistol

    the blue doesn't work with the rest of the books but I do like it

    the size of the drink overpowers things


  11. Anonymous11:08 AM

    *The drink glass covers part of the word “Navel”
    *They don’t mention Whiskey Sour
    *The backlit fade is different than the other covers
    *They can’t seem to decide whether to call it a Jack Daniels Mystery or a Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels Mystery” or a Jacqueline Daniels Mystery
    Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day!

  12. romblog: my publishers usually gets the drink glass and color wrong, but that never bugged me so that's not one of the issues I'm concerned with.

    Anon: 2 out of 4

    Marti: 0 out of 4

    Remember those logic puzzles in crossword magazines? "Bob gave three of his fish to Jim, ond one to the man with the red tie who isn't Bert..."

  13. 1. The first word of the title is usually less dominant. NAVEL should be bigger than FUZZY and fill the width of the cover.

    2. The background gradient is usually softer and centered around the drink as if it were glowing. And there isn't usually a noticeable foreground.

    3. The gun on the stick and the bullet behind the glass are new. Usually a skull is part of the drink motif.

    4. The Jack Daniels series tag is larger than usual.

  14. Anonymous12:26 PM

    Joe: I think the cover could be punched up a little as follows: (1) the letter shading is too close to the background color (change first or second shading color; (2) JA Konrath in all white is bland since there isn't enough contrast with the background to make it stand out (add color); (3) use same font for "author of" and "a jacqueline . . ."; (4) the white background at the edge doesn't add anything and makes the cover less intense (use same background color throughout). What I really like about the cover is (1) bullet; (2) gun; and (3) blue/orange color combo (they're compliments on the color wheel and go together). I don't think that the presence of absence of a quote on the front means much.

    It's a "cartoon" kind of a cover, similar to many others, which is fine. I personally think that the additional of a human (face, figure, etc.) tends to evoke more emotion and excitement.

  15. The thing that bothers me most is that weird curve shape they used for your name; it reminds me of posters I made in Junior High for our theatrical productions.

    Other than that, the glass obscures navel a BIT too much. The gun is so small I almost missed it. And the dark surface area makes the cover sink a little.

  16. Here's my guess Joe!

    1. says 2 books instead of just the previous book but doesn't include all previous books

    2. uses 3 colors instead of just 1 or two.

    3. In the same vein as #2, the book should only have the 1 color throughout with a lightening of the color on the edges of the bottom of the cover. There should not be a noticable 'break' between colors.

    4. There isn't a #4 but the other minor thing that may bother you is that the bullet next to the drink doesn't have anything to do with a fuzzy navel where previous books the image may be from an ice cube or from olives that are actually a part of the drink. If that isn't a bullet, I don't know what it is or how it relates to the book.

  17. My guess for the fourth issue is the gun-pic, but I see it has already been submitted... I'll have to look harder. :D

  18. Revised guess:

    1. No skull

    2. Gun on end of stick

    3. Water ooze actually covers the blue around the letters (before it was transparent over the letter like Dirty Martini)

    4. a cherry doesn't belong as a main part of the drink

  19. Anonymous2:23 PM

    I'm sorry I can't point out the flaws. I rather like it. When I went looking for Whiskey Sour (and Borders) I was a little "eh" to see it was neon. Then when I went looking for Rusty Nail at Books-A-Million (who has more books face out than borders did, but a smaller selection, they didn't have Rusty Nail) I saw that a lot of the books in the mystery section had neon covers. I think the darker blue will stick out more on the shelf.

  20. Keen eyes and good suggestions, folks!

    j: 1 (or maybe 2) out of 4

    jim: 0 out of 4

    mat: 0 out of 4 first try, 2 out of 4 second try.

    James: ;^)

    Michele: I like it too, except for 4 problems.

  21. I don't like the way they have your name. Looks like a smile - not good for a thriller, eh?

    The font looks too hard-edged and doesn't seem to jive with the other books - navel looks small compared to fuzzy

    The drink needs to be bigger

    I don't like where they put 'a jaqueline 'jack' daniels story'. Looks weird in the middle like that.

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. Never mind, the smiley name is on the other book too.

    But this one has the diagonal fading color background, and that's a little distracting. So change me out the smiley name for the background.

  24. Anonymous6:20 PM

    No skull, no blurb, repetitive use of blue from BM and that gun looks like something I'd take spearfishing.

  25. hmmmm, lets see...
    the drink blocks part of the name (aren't fuzzy navels peach schnapps and oj?)
    kudos were left off as well as all the other book titles?
    i don't see a skull, wheres the skull?
    not bright like the others

  26. independent: 1 out of 4

    Jeff: 3 out of 4

    AW: 1 out of 4

    And if you guys like my books, go read Jeff Shelby. Killer Swell and Wicked Break are great; funny, action-packed, intense. But don't tell him I said that; his head is already too big.

  27. is that thecorrect cartridge for tha gun? or is the size just off? looks like the wrong gun anyway. jack should carry a sigsaucer or baretta as do most coppers.

  28. Jack carries a .38 Colt Detective Special.

    If you've ever fired semi-autos, they can jam. A revolver doesn't jam.

  29. Anonymous8:36 PM

    Revised guess:

    1) No skull.

    2) No blurb.

    3) Diagonal fading color background.

    4) Gun on swizzle stick.


  30. Anonymous8:54 PM

    1. My head really is huge. It's hard to find Santa hats that fit come holiday time.

    2. I retract the repetitive use of blue and substitute the fact that they've got two of your previous titles listed beneath your name. Previous books - only one title listed.

    3. That "gun" still looks like something I would try and kill Shamu with.

    4. I have no idea why I'm playing. I'm gonna buy the damn book anyway.

  31. No skull, no blurb, the gun and the cherry

  32. 3rd try:

    1. No skull

    2. No blurb

    3. Like Jeff Shelby said, repetitive use of blue from Bloody Mary. As well as it fading into white...

    4. The orange doesn't actually look like it is attached to the glass. It almost looks like it is behind the glass but still in front of the title. I mean wouldn't there be a small break right near the glass edge going all the way up to the center of the orange?

  33. 1. The skull is missing. (Why didn't they shape the cherry into a skull? or maybe one of the puddles?)
    2. no blurbs.
    3. the swizzle stick/gun looks weird. Particularly because it seems the cherry stem is part of it.
    4. The little drift of blood from the cherry is a bit odd too. (Really, there's just too much happening in that glass with the cherry, the orange, the ice, the swizzle stick, the blood and the color of the drink.)

    5. (so, sue me) Your other covers were bright and vivid. On my screen at least, this shade of blue seems sombre, dark and cold.

    Okay, that was me nitpicking cause i really want that arc! lol. I like the cover.

  34. Okay, then...(which one of the four was right? Hmmm....looking over the previous answers to see which had similar things with similar amounts of right answers..)

    1. No skull
    2. Navel is too small
    3. Don't you have THREE other books? there's only two listed here.
    4. Gun

  35. Hey Joe,
    Like the new blog look. More readable!

    As for your new cover, I can't figure it out, but they really messed up by leaving off the skull since it has become your symbol and it has been so clever in past.

    The only thing I'm not crazy about is the gradiated color. Seems drab compared to the neon colors of your previous books.

  36. Okay, so I'll try again.

    No skull.

    Repetitive blue from Bloody Mary.

    No blurb.

    "Navel" should be bigger than "Fuzzy."

  37. What bothers me most about the cover: The title is partly obscured by the drink. So it's hard to read at a glance.

    I worked for a bookstore for years (excellent training for a writer) and the main selling point of a book in my experience? Clear, easy readable title and author's name!

    The cover can even be plain and simple (as long as the colors are pleasing--for awhile everything was in tones of brown, black and dark red, ick)but customers are looking for titles and authors' names.

    This even goes for an unknown, newbie, whatever. I don't know why.

  38. KH: 2 out of 4

    Jeff: you lost one

    colorful: 2 out of 4

    mat: 2 out of 4

    vanessa: 2 out of 4

    ibr: 3 out of 4

    karen: 3 out of 4

    conda: I agree, but you have to be more specific

  39. Okay, specifically--the drink comes up too high and obscures too much of two letters--the "a" and the "v." And to my eyes it is also too off center by a twitch.(I know why they did that, I have a friend who is a graphic designer, off center lends interest.)

    If you compare it to the cover of Dirty Martini, you'll see the difference. The "Dirty Martini" is easily readable.

    Seems like little stuff, but as a prior bookseller let me tell you, it's amazing what a difference a good cover can make. It's worth the messing with, working with the publisher and your agent.

    So thanks for bringing the subject up, Joe!

  40. Anonymous5:01 PM

    Now this thing is rejecting my comments! (Or they'll all appear in a row, showing my eagerness to win a book I'm going to buy. This might also reveal my level of boredom.)

    No skull, no blurb, the repetitive blue and Navel should be larger than Fuzzy.

    And I think you actually like the speargun.

  41. Anonymous5:55 PM

    Trying again:

    1) No skull
    2) Navel is too small
    3) Repetitive use of blue
    4) Gun


  42. Three things about continuity...

    1.The background not being solid like the other three books.
    2.No skull
    3.The lettering is off - Navel is too small

    And the one thing that's weird..
    4. The gun

    (If that's not the weird thing, then it's that overly large orange slice, which may be cleared up by enlarging "navel". Actually it looks to big for the glass, but that might just be me.)

  43. Anonymous6:32 PM

    1. fuzzy should be smaller, navel should be larger

    2. get rid of the bullet

    3. need blurbs

    4. need awards

  44. skull.

    2. no blurb. have 3 books out, but they've only noted 2 of your previous releases.

    4.Navel is too small.

    You're ,making me sweat for this Joe!

  45. Re-do?

    1. No skull.

    2. No blurb.

    3. Blue used again.

    4. Navel is too small.

  46. Anonymous10:13 PM

    1. No skull
    2. No blurb
    3. Repetitive use of blue.
    4. That drink is NOT a fuzzy navel.


  47. Anonymous11:17 PM

    No skull. No blurb. The gun is odd. Navel is too small/obscure.

  48. 1. No skull

    2. No blurb

    3. The gun on the swizzle stick

    4. The glass, orange, and gun block a significant portion of "AVE" of Navel... enough of a distraction to make the title hard to read from a distance.

  49. I like the cover. Blue is my favorite color. I think the gun and the bullet are clever.

    Blurb, smerb. I already like Joe's stuff. :>)

    I'm sure there's room for improvement, but I like the cover the way it is.

  50. Wow, you've got a long links list! I'm going to have fun working my way through them.

    Feel free to add me (Quilling Time), I'll be your only entry under the letter Q! I'm an unpublished writer, aiming to be published as soon as I have a decent manuscript to show for all of my hours slogging away.

    Thanks for all the advice etc!

    Sorry, cant spot any of the 'issues' you have with your new cover.

  51. Anonymous3:11 PM

    Take heart. I think it looks great.


  52.'s not so much the gun or the bullet, but that you have a teeny gun for the swizzle stick and a full size bullet. They don't go together.

    That struck me as odd when I looked at it again.

  53. Anonymous7:51 PM

    1. No skull

    2. Fuzzy bigger than navel

    3. Repeat use of blue

    4. Gun on swizzle stick looks like a harpoon

  54. Hi Joe,

    After staring at the cover of Dirty Martini and Rusty Nail for a while (can't figure out who has my Whiskey Sour and Bloody Mary) I have decided to give up other than to say: "Bring back the skull!'

    I know how important cover art is as I just got a picture of the cover of Murder New York Style, the anthology holding my first short story and I was thrilled to see it and to post it in a blog message.

    BTW, never did tell you how proud and pleased I am to be in the "Huge thanks to the following:" on page 292 of Dirty Martini.

    We have Newbie's Guide on the Women Of Mystery blog site. I will email to ask you to return the favor.



  55. KH was the first one to get all four. See the follow up blog post for details, and thanks everyone for their suggestions. Here are my thoughts on those:

    I didn't have a problem with the tro-tone fading background because I thought it looked cool, even though it didn't match the other books.

    The cover blurb won't come until after I've sent it to someone and gotten a quote, so the omission isn't a problem--it's coming later.

    I liked the bullet, and I don't think the V is blocked enough to make it hard to read.

    The drink doesn't look like a fuzzy navel, Bloody Mary and Whiskey Sour also had incorrect glassware. Doesn't bug me. However, Tim Dorsey's latets book, Hurrican Punch, got the glass right. Search for it on Amazon and see if his cover looks familiar...

  56. Hi! I just started reading your blog thanks to a link from Therese Fowler's blog. I'm really enjoying it so far. This post was about linking to your page, so if you'd like to link me, please do!

  57. Hi,

    I apologize for the late post, but I was reading through your blog and just happened to see your offer to exchange links and wanted to comment.

    I've added you to my blogroll, so if you'd like to add me to yours, please feel free to do so.

    Oh, and congrats on getting your blog listed on The Writer's Perspective!