Friday, February 22, 2008

Judge a book by its...cover?

First of all, I should say that I wouldn't want to be judged by my cover -- especially not today. I am at this moment supposed to be dressed for a morning event -- in the guise of my alter-writerly-ego N.E. Bode -- I'm wearing my 13-year-old daughter's sweater which fit with an awkward smushiness but was on a nearby chair when I was casting about in an attempt to get dressed and a pair of my husband's thin businessy mismatched socks back from the days -- seven years ago -- when he had a businessy job to go to. (He's been a stay at home dad for six years and now wears only baggy jeans and Red Sox t-shirts. It seems a good life, no?) My hair is straggly, still wet from a shower, and my make up resembles a face with make-up thrown at it from across a long room.

What does my cover say about me? I imagine the blurb of my novel appearance: "This book is messy, rushed. It's shooting for a youthful hipness, but comes up short, literally. It can't hide its tragic flaws even in a pair of imposing boutique cowboy boots. It's blurry and best read from across a long room." (I have hopes for the cowboy boots, but deep in my heart I know they will stink of a certain desperate compensation.)

Note: I'm posting a book jacket photo of a better day, a day with more effort and clarity, a day that required a good night sleep the night before. (And mainly because I like it when blogs come with photos and I don't know what else to post. )

Why the self-scrutiny? I've been looking at covers for my new novel MY HUSBAND'S SWEETHEARTS. Deeply engrossed, I find myself talking about fonts as if guests at a dinner party -- I find her a bit uppity. Isn't he stodgy? Do you think she's cloying? I'm up to my chin in it, once again. In other countries, book jackets aren't taken so seriously. There isn't a marketing discussion. There isn't study by the folks at the big chains. There isn't all of this pressure to find the cover that makes the right kind of statment -- conceptually as well as in all of its fonty and color-hue detail.

With different covers, I've learned different things. With Girl Talk, I learned that covers do sell books. With The Madam, I learned to always redesign if the major chains say redesign -- they're in the trenches, they know. With Lizzie Borden in Love, I learned that sometimes you have to just love the image yourself, truly. With Which Brings Me to You, that sometimes you just don't get top billing.

I wish I didn't get wrapped up in how my books get wrapped up, and yet I do, but I'm glad I don't get too wrapped up in how I'm wrapped up, because right now I'm out of time and I will, in fact, enter the world in this awful, awful outfit. Hopefully, we won't cross paths, but if we do, hopefully it will be from across a looooooong room.

-- Julianna Baggott, whose new book My Husband's Sweethearts will pub in August under the pen name Bridget Asher.

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