Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book Cover Magic

There are so many things to consider when an author contemplates having her first book published, but one item is essential. An eye-catching cover will draw the reader in and capture the spirit of the poems or story within. Terri Guiliano Long, in an article for writes, “A book’s cover is the first thing a potential reader sees and it can make a lasting impression.”

After the initial excitement over having my book of poems accepted for publication, I downloaded the contract from my publisher. After perusing the four pages of small print, I noticed that I could supply my own cover art. I immediately thought of my sister-in-law, Liz, for this project. She is an artist and crafter from Lowell, Massachusetts. I e-mailed her with my request and she accepted.

Now, I knew my cover was in good hands. Over the next few months, Liz and I kept in touch. I knew she would be working with a photo of the Incredible Barn, my parents’ antique and book shop. Her intent was to do a sketch of the photo which also depicted my parents standing in front of their shop. I liked her idea and trusted her to capture the spirit of my childhood home.

As the summer approached, I asked Liz if she would like to read my title poem. She said it wasn’t necessary. A few weeks later, she said she would like to see it and I promptly sent it off to her. In her blog, Mill Girl, Liz recounts what happened next: 

“Well. The title poem is not about the kind of dream I had assumed. It was not ‘dreamy’ and ‘nostalgic. It was powerful, intense, and dark. The dream was more like a nightmare. My heart skidded to a lurching stop. I immediately realized I was completely wrong about the art I had planned to produce. I realized I should read the whole book and start from scratch.”

I sent her my manuscript and waited. Liz chose a quiet day to sit with my book and read each poem twice. My book contains fifty five poems with seven sections. These include poems about my childhood, love and relationships, mothering, travel and nature poems, and a section of fairy tale poems.

After this careful reading, Liz decided to change her approach to how she would create the cover art. It would be done in mixed media collage, a genre she was not familiar with. She took on the project with a spirit of adventure and the joy of creating something new.

Finally, it was time for me to click on the link Liz had e-mailed to me. I was in my office at the Cape Cod Times when I looked for the first time at the beautiful cover she had created. I was overwhelmed with its beauty, power and originality. In Melanie Lauwers column “Cape Cod Book Scene,” she writes of my book: “Liz Smith’s intriguing cover hints at poems of nature and the past and the way human lives are stitched together.”

 The cover depicts a bed with trees for posts and vintage fabric stitched into a cozy coverlet. There are birds overhead and a clock depicting time passing. A map of Moldova and the photo (by brother Dell) of a mannequin. The open window shows a painting by my dad and a stack of books by the bed was painted by Liz’s mom, Marilyn. The cover art is intimate and personal to many of the poems in my book. It is everything I could have wanted and more.

To read Liz’s account of creating my cover, please check out her blog.


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