A Tale of Two Covers

August 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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Anyone who follows the publishing business knows what turmoil the industry has been experiencing since the Dawn of the Digital Age changed all the rules and even the game itself.  Nowhere is that upheaval more likely to be felt than in the marketing of books.

I’ve been a frontline witness to this recently.  Last Spring I was sent the new cover for Wicked Company, the October Sourcebooks Landmark release of a novel that’s very dear to my heart because it’s about writers; specifically women writers struggling to make their way in the boistrous, bawdy 18th c. world of the famed Drury Lane and Covent Garden theaters.  Between 1660 and 1820, there were at least one hundred “petticoat playwrights” who saw their works mounted on the professional stage–many writing under their own names.  As an author rather obsessed with the question  “what were the women doing in history?”, to me, these amazing artists were perfect fodder for an historical novel.

Wicked Company OriginalThe cover on the left was sent for my approval last spring and I loved it.  The image was an adaptation of the famous Sir Joshua Reynolds portrait of perhaps the most celebrated 18th c. actress-manager in England, Sarah Siddons.  Huge in size and grand in scope, it currently hangs at the Huntington Art Gallery in San Marino, California, where I spent several years researching Wicked Company.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to publication day for the new edition:  some very key people in the process of getting the book to market had second thoughts about the cover, so back to the drawing boards they went to see if they could both capture the era, as well as reflect a less “static” feeling in presentation, as one book buyer put it.

The final cover is now this you see on the right:  showing a slightly mysterious image of an actress on stage in period dress, framed by red velvet drapes and also sporting the shield that has become a welcome “signature” for this series of my books.

I cannot deny the cover switch hasn’t required some adjustment, as I’d already put it on my new website and was quite pleased about the way it harmonized with the other Sourcebooks Landmark covers in the new series.  However,  I realize that those professionals who specialize in bringing historical novels to their audiences in this sometimes perplexing digital revolution may know much more about the business of “packaging” and “buyer appeal”  than I do, and are wise in the ways of trends in the evolving industry.

Thus, I remain grateful to the talented designers at my publishers who have now created two attractive covers for Wicked Company, and I leave it to the readers of this blog to decide which of the images attracts them the most to a book that was such a joy for this author to write. The cover on the right is the one that will appear in the bookstores, but you, faithful reader, now have the inside scoop on why you may have seen Sarah Siddons vanish back to the eighteenth century.

It’s a new world out there in publishing with  books now also available on Kindle, iPad, Nook, and Sony readers, as well as the old fashion volumes made from paper that  you can hold in your hands and turn the pages–while soaking in a bathtub!

Let me know what you think, both about the book’s cover and its contents…