Friday, August 17, 2012


LUCY BURDETTE:  Before I became a published author, the workings of publishing were all a mystery. Well. Hmmm. They still are in lots of ways. 

But now I know a few things, such as that somewhere about 9 or 10 months before the book is due out, there’s a cover conference, including folks from editorial, marketing, and art departments. I’m lucky with the Key West series to have an editor who asks if I have any ideas. And I’ve learned that it pays to have them! In fact for the book coming out next May, TOPPED CHEF (which is not my first choice of title but that’s another blog post), I sent them the link to the Pinterest board I’d developed for the book.

For DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, when my editor asked for suggestions, I mentioned the Audubon House in Key West, where a major cocktail party takes place on the first night of the Key West Loves Literature event. There are lovely gardens, including a decorative pool containing metal statues of wading birds. I could just imagine a body bobbing up through the lily pads. I told her I would love to see the cover involve this little dipping pool with the birds, one of which was the murder weapon….and maybe a little plate of chocolate-covered strawberries and lamb chop bones on the side?? So I sent in this terrific picture that my friend Angelo Pompano had taken when he visited KW.

Cats are very popular on cozy covers and so I also hoped they’d include the white cat who discovers an important clue to the murder. For inspiration, I sent this photo of a typical Key West white cat. (The red on his nose is from allergies.)

Here was the first sketch from the artists, who are an illustration team working under the name Griesbach/Martucci. I loved this draft! Although maybe the lamb chops looked a little misshapen...and my
editor thought it needed some opening up with a bit of beach, so the greenery wouldn't feel claustrophobic.

(First thought: but there is no beach near the Audubon House. Second thought, never mind reality, this is fiction!)

Here is the finished cover, which is probably my favorite of the ten books I have out so far. As my agent has said, the cover fairies have been busy...

How about you Jungle Red writers and readers? Have you had a cover that you thought was fabulous--or maybe a dud? Do you choose books by their covers? 

(And can't resist one small nudge--you can order these books right here


  1. Lucy, thank you for showing us some of the cover-planning part of the publishing process and the input that you're able to give. That's too many Ps, isn't it?

    The comment about its being fiction is something I often hear. Apparently it needs to be said a lot. Fiction is make-believe. It gets to be unreal. we like made-up stories. Otherwise we'd all be sitting around reading encyclopedias.

    And yes, do nudge. Nudge away. Nudging is why your readers and commenters are here. We don't come here for the gelato. We come to be nudged in the direction of books.

  2. I'm a foodie, okay, but in addition to that, the colors and shapes of the cover appeal to me. A lot.

  3. Thanks for the kind words Reine! One of the drawbacks of setting a book in a real place is having to remember that everything about it doesn't have to be real!

    and thanks Kathleen! Here's hoping it hops off the shelves!

  4. I love that cover, and hearing about the process. Looks like they lost the lamb chops, though, and I think the switch from full white wine to spilled red wine is much better.

    For my book coming out next month (whee!), they took absolutely none of my suggestions - for example, the final cover has the protag out running and finding a body, which is not how it happens in the book - but I think what they came up with works. I think...

    I love your Key West series and can't wait to read the new one!

  5. thanks Edith! Yay for your new book! I think in the end we have to hope that the publishers know what works best for marketing books--or that's what I tell myself. Otherwise, we're in trouble, right?

  6. I really like the cover - especially with the addition of the beach!

    But I'm still laughing about the gelato.

  7. SO fascinating!

    ANd it's wonderful that you get so much input!

    (Is it okay for me to day--they did ask what I wanted on the cover--I said--a woman in a red coat, and a bridge. But wow--there was that moment, you know? When you get the email. With the jpeg attachment. And you think--here we go--I'm going to click this button, and there'll be my cover. YOu almost don't want to do it.

    But I am SO happy with mine!

    And you know, Lucy and I share our pub date. Is that wonderful or what?

  8. ANd I'll be back later to tell you the story of my HORRIBLE cover that almost was used for FACE TIME. EEsh.

  9. Lucy,

    I love all those Florida colors. Great cover. Edith, congrats on your upcoming book!

  10. YES, Hank, yours is gorgeous and perfect! and would love to hear the bad cover story too...

    We're like twins, getting born on 9/4...well except for a few small things:)

  11. Lucy, I love this cover, too. So looking forward to the book!

    I guess you and I are lucky. I keep hearing from writers who really have no input on their covers and are unhappy with them. I had lots with my first gorgeous cover, and we've just gone through the process again for EVERY BROKEN TRUST--and once more I have a fantastic cover. (9 months before pub date, as you pointed out.)

    Oh, you and Hank launching on the same day. That makes it truly red-letter, doesn't it? You'll hear the squeals of delight going up from coast to coast!

    And some days captcha's in a really bad mood.

  12. It's a wonderfully bright and attractive cover, Lucy. I'm rooting for you to sell a million. (The link sent me to a Wordpress listing of your blog posts, though, not a sales outlet.)

  13. Thank you for showing us your preliminary cover, Roberta. Your designer really put a lot of imagery to work in that image.

    The spilled red wine suggests blood/murder. And I like how the insert of the beach image does double-duty, both to emphasize the beach culture AND as a space to put more info about your book.

    Very, very cool.

  14. This is so cool! You've actually been in your cover...

  15. I completely LOVE that cover, Lucy -- I'd read the book before I saw the cover, and even without the title I'd know that's the cover for DEATH IN FOUR COURSES. Love the colors, love the birds (we have life-sized bird sculptures like that in our library and I'm very partial to them).

    I just went through the cover design process for There Was an Old Woman. I hated the first design. Love the cover we've ended up with -- going for spooky.

  16. Lucy, LOVE the cover. I've read the galley without cover, and would have recognized the scene even without your name and the title. And your covers are so bright and appealing--you've got real winners in your design and illustration team. Oh, and btw, I LOVE the book, too, and we'll be talking more about it in a couple of weeks:-)

    Reine, still laughing about the gelato...

    I had some truly horrible covers in the early days. No consistency. No relation to the book...

    But--my current fab publisher used my photos for five covers and I LOVED them. Then for NO MARK UPON HER, they decided they wanted to go with a more abstract, "bigger book" look. I can't complain, because it seemed to work. Sort of like "if you build it, they will come." If you make a book "look" like a bestseller... I've seen the jpg for THE SOUND OF BROKEN GLASS, and it's stunning. But I do miss the photos with the sense of place a bit...

  17. P.S. Hallie, I want to see the cover for There Was an Old Woman!!!! I've read the galley (absolutely fab!) and I can't wait to see what they've done for it!!!

  18. Roberta, love it! And now that I know the cover story, reading the book will feel even more like a trip to Key West! (Maybe I should wait till chilly February to read it? Nah.)

  19. I'm keeping a pinterest board for the same reason! I hope I get asked.

    Love the cover...It looks like the Audubon House fountain has been put next to Salute!

  20. Lucy I like your cover. It makes me think of my honeymoon.

    I've been happy with all of my Magical Cats covers. The current book, Copycat Killing, shows the cats sitting on the library steps and it matchs the image I had in my head.

    I had no input on the cover for my YA that's out in September, but I love the finished product.

  21. I love the cover, Lucy, but I must admit that I don't initally pick up a book because of its cover . . . it's the author's name that draws me to the book.

  22. Oooh, love that original sketch. The cat is so catlike.

  23. Lucy/Roberta,

    I love both versions of your cover. The second is paricularly appealing to me because it combines two things I love: birds (I am a birdwatcher, particularly shore birds), and the beach - just gazing at the water has a calming effect on me. The colors on your cover are very inviting,too.

    Okay, I must admit that an appealing cover on a book by an author I am not familiar with will probably entice me to at least pick it up and look through it. That's how I first "met" some of my favorite authors. Once I am familiar with an author whose books I want to continue reading,the covers could be old brown paper grocery bags, as far as I'm concerned:-) I will read the book no matter WHAT the cover looks like!

  24. The latest Max Allan Collins/Mickey Spillane novel: Lady, Go Die takes place in the late 1940s and has a seemingly wonderful cover with the title displayed against a noirish cityscape. However, after closer inspection it’s very clear to notice 1970s style graffiti on the side of one of the buildings. I can’t believe that got past the art department. That totally ruined the cover for me.

    Robert D.

  25. Love all the comments!

    Jack, wordpress is trying to kill me--the same thing happens with my hub's website. It's a bad glitch that they don't seem to be fixing...

    Barb, don't be shy about mentioning to your editor that you have cover ideas. I don't know how Kensington works, but can't hurt to try.

    Deb R, love the comment about how the covers of authors you love could be paper bags:)

    Deb C--so interesting that they thought abstract would be a bigger book--it's all a mystery!

    Robert, see I probably wouldn't have noticed that--but someone should have!

  26. Hi Lucy....I just finished reading APPETITE FOR MURDER and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wrote a review on Amazon along those lines. My name on Amazon is "Ande", in case you wonder. This book was just plain fun and I'm looking forward to DEATH IN FOUR COURSES to see what you have Haley getting into. She's a free spirit, that's for sure. By the way, I'm having trouble finding any other way to contact you thru the Mystery Lover's Kitchen or this website. Do you have an email address you give to fans? Thanks for all the great hours of reading! Adrienne in Minnesota

  27. Whichever technique you use, you will have to download the the household described in distressing detail a font design that.