When I was a kid, reading was my thing. I rollerskated a bit, and could occasionally be forced outside to “play,” but I was happier sitting somewhere with a book than doing anything else. But one thing about books confused me. When I went to the library or to a bookstore, I noticed book covers first. I noticed that I was drawn to some covers more than others. I noticed that not all covers were created equal.
I’d heard the phrase about not being able to judge a book by its cover—except that I could.
I felt so sorry for adults for believing that book covers didn’t matter. They so clearly did.
Luckily the book industry finally figured out that the aphorism, at least when it comes to actual books, is completely bogus.
Which is why I started worrying about the cover for The Black Hour before it was entirely normal to do so.
I have some background in graphic design and, though I don’t practice it much anymore, I used to make a living that way. I can still be called upon for quick projects if necessary, but I prefer to leave design to those who are truly talented at it.
But having some little bit of interest and maybe even a smidge of talent in design has left me, if nothing else, ridiculously picky.
When Seventh Street Books began to show interest in my book, I went straight to their website and checked out their wares. SSB is a small publisher, and small publishers have to overcome a few things that the big five don’t. But I was reassured by a couple of things I saw. First off, I recognized a couple of their books from their marketing efforts. Good news. And second? They had astounding covers.
In short order, one of SSB’s talented designers, Nicole Lecht, had designed a dark, brooding cover with a university-specific setting for my dark, brooding university-set mystery. I was pleased. My agent was pleased. My cover turned up on SSB’s quarterly catalog to their distributor. I had business cards made. I ordered fridge magnets, too.
I bought—nerd alert!—a skin for my cell phone with my cover on it.
I’ve heard the stories. Covers are not the purview of the author. Decisions get made without their input, and sometimes against it. I feel lucky to have had such a thoughtful design given to my book. See that little glare on the “O”? That is my Grinch heart growing three sizes for the love of this cover.
Someday soon, my book is going to be on the shelf at the library and at bookstores. When I think about that, really think about it, I get a little light headed. I feel like I’m ten again, on rollerskates, going a little too fast. I’ve wanted to write a book just about that long, actually—since I was a kid, reaching for Judy Blume, for E.L. Konigsberg, for Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark. Reaching for a book with an interesting cover, and hoping it’s as good as it looks.