Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Pulpwood Queen talks about Judging a Book by it's Cover and a Cover by it's Book!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  What does the first picture say to you?  That photo was of me in the 5th grade.  How about the second image which is the book cover of my book, "The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life"?  That's me front and center, well a couple of years ago when I was blonde, but me.  So which is the real me?  Guess what?  I am both of them but each image sends a message to the potential reader, which book would you want to read?

I was an art/geology major in college so I see everything very visually. I do judge a book by it’s cover and in fact, I pick up a book because that cover speaks to me, in such a way, I am inspired to see what the copy says on the book jacket.  Often times, I read the first few pages but this is what really gets me to purchase the book, the story.  But the cover is what entices me to pick it up in the first place, right?   Confused? Continue.

So when it came to viewing the first version of my book cover I waited anxiously with bated breath! Since my whole life revolves around the book, my book cover had to speak of the "real" me.  You can imagine my surprise and dismay when my first book cover arrived in my email box.  I opened the file and lo and behold, oh no they didn't.  You see the first book cover they sent me was orange with tiger stripes.  I had three old hags sitting under hair dryers gossiping over some trashy magazine.  Their hair styles were out of date, 1940's do's and the only thing that could have been worse is if they had been smoking.

You see in my book I clearly had stated that the Official look of my book club, The Pulpwood Queens' was Hot Pink with Leopard Print!  The artist who did my cover had obviously NOT read my book.  I actually called my literary agent to tell them that this would not do as I was afraid I would lose it on the phone.  My publisher decided to redo the cover.  The next photo was a photo of me from the eyeballs up peering out from behind a book in front of a bookshelf.  The only problem was the Red Hat Club author had the very same cover on her book and two more romance books too!  Nix that cover.  So I politely sent to my literary agent what I dreamed my cover should be.

First, I wanted the photo to be shot on the banks of Big Cypress Bayou here in East Texas where I live, with the Spanish moss dripping down, perhaps at twilight with the fog rolling in.  I wanted to place the Art Deco dresser of my girlfriend and Pulpwood Queen Joyce Jackson Futch right before the water's edge. (The chapter of my book that sold it to my editor was the chapter on Joyce that began with me the first time doing her hair, as her hair had just grown back from chemo therapy, to the last time I did her hair at Home Sweet Home Funeral Home.)  I had purchased her dresser at her estate sale after she had died as I wanted something very personal to remember her by.  This was the dresser where she put on her makeup everyday.

On the dresser was to be stacked NOT beauty products but all my Pulpwood Queen Book Club Selections with more of the books spilling onto the ground..  I would be sitting at the dresser with my back to the viewer but my face visible in the mirror.  In  other words, beauty is in the books and I was a reflection that knowledge.

Behind me coming up out of the water all dressed in white baptismal gowns would be my Pulpwood Queens each carrying their favorite book!  The message?  Baptise me in the name of Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost for true beauty comes from "within" and within we are all unique, beautiful, and readers.

Perhaps the cover would be all in black and white with perhaps, a touch of pink in a ribbon binding the books.  I wanted the book to reflect that from the "good book" to good books, you can find your purpose in life by being a reader.

My literary agent helped me to send this suggestion off to my publisher.  I was convinced they would love this artistic and unique take on my life saved by books, running the only Hair Salon/Book Store in the country and the largest "meeting and discussing" book club in the world.  I was wrong.  They dismissed my idea and forged on to capture that Hot Pink cover you see above.

Bookstore owners and booksellers have told me they hated that cover.  In fact, some almost dismissed me as they thought my book was perhaps just another Ya-Ya or Sweet Potato knock-off. No one likes a knock off.

People who bought my book have emailed me that they did so as my book looked like it would be a fun read.  The cover made them laugh out loud!

Personally, I don't like the cover.  I think I look crazy then again, perhaps indeed I am.  I just happen to really think that what most people perceive me as being is a party about to happen.  Don't I make reading Big Time Fun!

Indeed, I do, that is my intent but at the same time this all comes from a very small place from a very quiet, shy tomboy who grew up in a small town in Kansas, who always had her nose either stuck in a book or her head stuck up in the clouds.  I had big dreams and still do.

My personal thought on all of this is, I think an author should have more say in the cover.  I also think the author should have more say in the film.  I think the author ishould have more say period as they are the creator of the story, they are THE AUTHOR!  We should have more say in everything pertaining to the books we work and slave over until our babies are born.  But my baby is now two years old and as author, Mark Childress told me, turn that baby over to God.  I did indeed but I never give up hope that my next book, which I now call, "Kat on a Hot Tin Roof, RUSTED!  The Pulpwood Queens' Guide to Reading and Writing for a Higher Purpose", will have the cover I have envisioned in my head.  Of me, sitting up on the tin roof of my Hair Salon/Book Store, reading with my READheaded hair bent into the book while all my book club members are holding up their favorite books to me for all the world to see.

What a Wonderful World It Would be Indeed, if we had a say in our own book covers!  And seriously, perhaps then people would buy more books!  Letting someone else design my book cover is kind of like letting a stranger dress me in the morning.  Sorry, but that just will not do!

Besides, it's as I always say anyhoo, "Who Made Up That Rule?"  If you have big dreams, really big dreams, make up your own rules!  I guess that is why I call myself The Pulpwood Queen!  The ONLY rule I have is "where tiaras are mandatory and reading good books is the RULE"!  Won't you join me!

Tiara wearing, Beauty and the Book sharing,
Kathy L. Patrick
Author of "The Pulpwood Queens' Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life", Grand Central Publishing
Founder of the Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Clubs
P.S. Stay tuned too for our Book and Author Summer Concert Series here in the Pulpwood Kingdom  in the piney woods of East Texas featuring authors, Charles Martin, Ad Hudler,  David Marian Wilkinson and our Official band, Destiny Duke and the Hazzards!


Anonymous said...

I think the cover looks interesting - I would have picked it up to find out more and it certainly would stand out on a bookshelf.
Thanks for sharing the evolution of this cover. It is interesting to find out how books end up with the covers they have.

Echo Garrett said...

The cover you describe sounds so much more intriguing. You know how I feel about covers. I guess that's part of the reason our book is self-published. Our vision certainly didn't fit the mold (or the business model) of mainstream publishers. My copy of your book just came yesterday. Can't wait to read it.

Ad Hudler said...

You were a GEOLOGY major!?!? Let's talk about that some time.

Anonymous said...

I love the cover. It looks like a party in a book. It is reminiscent of SPQ, which isn't a bad thing consdering they were really successful. The cover seems to say this book is funny, Southern and you better pick it up, honey chile.

Faith, Folklore, and Friends said...

All of my reading/writing friends seem to be surprised when they learn I actually teach GEOLOGY! Wanna talk rocks?

Unknown said...

It's an eye-catcher, that's for sure. But I agree, covers are that all-important first impression.

Laura S. said...

It's interesting hearing how book covers are born!

I don't judge books by their covers, though. There are too many excellent stories out there trapped between lackluster covers. The title and back cover blurb are the 2 things that help me make my decision to buy a book!

needie said...

I realize that the cover may be important to people but I do my best to NOT judge a book by the cover. Because if you allow the face to determine the book's fate -- you may be missing out on a fantastic story -- maybe even the best story of your life. But I do agree that your vision for the cover sounds very appealing and I hope that you get to select the cover or at least have more say for your second, third and fourth ...books. But YOUR words are what count -- the insides and those you get to keep as your own. (I hope!) anita :)

M.L. Malcolm said...

Kathy,you've got a good agent if she was willing to fight that battle twice for you. That first cover sounded DREADFUL. I have been really blessed at Harper. They came up with a beautiful cover that uses a picture which has a special relationship to the story in an almost Twilight-zone way. And people DO pick up books because they find the cover intriguing, so we have to live with that. Can't wait to read book number 2!

Unknown said...

I judge wines by their "covers" (labels) and often do with books, as well. I think it is important to have a catchy cover as a hook.

A Good Blog Is Hard to Find said...

Thanks everybody for the terrific comments and yes, I still collect rocks, ahhahhahha! In fact the coffee table in my great room is a slab of limestone from the Eureka Lake spillway in my hometown in Kansas. Isn't interesting that I was a geology/art major and now run a Hair Salon/Book Store, hahahahaha! I am one of those many faceted pegs that really don't fit into any of the standard holes!
So now I'm back to the task of my NEXT book, thanks for joining me on my reading and writing life. To me that is the perfect road to travel to success! Since you all are readers my guess is that you would tend to agree, hahahhaha!
Tiara wearing, Beauty and the Book sharing,

River Jordan said...


I love the first picture of you. It is how I have felt on the inside most of my life!

And I love this part of this blog -

Confused? Continue.

What sage words for life at large!

Much love -


Niles Reddick said...

I LOVE your cover, and you were fortunate to have a good agent to work with. If you've never met her, Maggie Vaughan, poet laureate of TN, is a character, and she wrote a poem about rocks (taking Geology). You'd like it. She's a trip.