Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is She or Isn't She?

... only her editor knows for sure!

Yesterday Herself (my redoubtable editor) sent me preliminary cover art for the Miss Birdie book, The Day of Small Things!

I've been wondering what they would come up with as this book isn't part of the Elizabeth series -- and also because Jamie Warren Youll, the talented woman responsible for my previous covers, is no longer with Random House. Jamie always read (and said she enjoyed) the books before designing the cover and I think it showed.

But I was delighted with what Herself sent . . . as was my agent. It's a striking image -- a photo showing a young girl in a white old-fashioned dress, balancing barefoot atop a rail fence and looking at a misty pasture and deep woods beyond. You don't see her face but her long dark hair tumbles down her back.

As I said I loved it immediately. There was just one little problem. In the Birdie book, the young Birdie has pale blond hair -- moony . . . silvery-gold -- were two of the ways I'd described it.

But this cover was so compelling . . .

I immediately emailed Herself, pointing out the problem and offering to change the young Birdie to a brunette.

Herself responded by asking Art (a department, I believe, not a guy) if the image could be manipulated to make the hair blond.

But not too blond, I cautioned -- not golden blond!

Herself responded that they'd do the best they could but I might have to accept a compromise if I didn't want the figure on the cover to look like an old woman with long white hair.

Meanwhile I was skimming through my copy of the manuscript, trying to see just how much would have to be changed if Birdie went dark-haired. About six or seven references were all I found -- not bad.

I had a feeling that a blond girl on the cover wouldn't have near the impact that the dark-haired one had, that she wouldn't stand out against the muted background -- but I was certainly interested to see what Art came up with.

A few hours later Art emailed Herself to say that the change to blond looked too manipulated and Herself asked if I was willing to bring the text in line with the picture.

Out went the silvery-gold hair, in came a shining dark waterfall; out went pale, in came dark.

Herself said that this was the first time she'd asked an author to change the text to fit the art but she thought that it was worth it.

And so do I.

Of course I wanted to show you the cover but for various legal reasons I'm not allowed to just yet. But I really think it's a goodie.

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Victoria said...

I do think the dark hair would be much better against the white dress. The cover sounds like it's going to be beautiful. I have a friend who never reads the description of the book, she buys them if she likes the cover! I about fell over when she told me that. I wonder how big a part the cover plays in persuading someone to buy a book?

Martin H. said...


I too have a friend, herself a published author, who tends to be heavily influenced by the cover of a book.

I'm so glad that you're comfortable with the way the cover and text fit now.

Miss_Yves said...

Didn't this change in your text influence the personnality of your character?
How many descriptions had you to change ?

Pat in east TN said...

It's interesting to hear just what goes into finishing the cover of a book, and I agree with Victoria that dark hair/white dress is better and that the cover is going to be a beauty, BUT you tease us again Vicki and we still have many months of waiting!

Vicki Lane said...

The cover is MASSIVELY important! I know I've bought books because I was intrigued by the cover. But that's exactly why it's so important that the text live up to with the cover -- otherwise the reader may feel she/he's been duped.

A very good question, Miss Yves -- in many cases a person growing up blond might be different from one who grows up medium brown. We have a saying -- blonds have more fun;-)

But this character grew up very isolated in the backwoods and had little awareness of how she looked till a certain young man . . .

There were brief descriptions to be changed -- it didn't take but a few hours to scan through the manuscript (and how I hope I caught everything!!)

Sorry, Pat! But I was excited to see the book up on Amazon this morning -- still no cover image yet.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Wow, that is an amazing story. Changing the color of her hair would sound complicated if we were still using a typewriter, but thank goodness for computers and the "find" option. Many good wishes on your new book. I know it will be a hit regardless of what color the girl has.

I can't wait to see the cover. I'm learning from you how important it is.

NCmountainwoman said...

What a teaser! I'm looking forward to seeing the cover. I've enjoyed catching up on your blog. I especially loved Eddie and the warm spot. They always manage to find the most comfy place in the house. And, yes, cancel the spinner's class. LOL.

willow said...

I've always been partial to brunettes. Interesting process on this one, Vicki! Good choice.

Anonymous said...

If you ever see a picture of the wives of pro golfers, there's hardly a brunette in the bunch. Don't know what that says about pro golfers.

It's good that Birdie's a brunette and that you're happy with the cover art.

Lynne in GA

Tammy said...

Nothing aggravates me more than cover art that is out of line with the story. For instance say the key story is about a dark bay horse and the cover shows a palomino. Or the setting is totally wrong for the story or... SO I'm glad you let Herself and Art know about it. ;-) It sounds like a lovely cover and will be exciting to (finally--ha ha) see it. Also glad you were able to easily edit Birdie's hair color. Just as a side note, my Mom was born tow headed and stayed that way until she was five or six then her hair turned very black...

Star said...

How amazing. I don't know if I could live with that. Didn't the artist read the story first? If so, why didn't she take notice of your writing. I think I would be most offended if an artist wanted me to change the story. Talk about artistic license?
Blessings, Star

Vicki Lane said...

Thank goodness, indeed, for the computer, Sam!

Eddie's lurking on the stairs at this moment, Mountainwoman.

Willow -- me too, Willow, having been born dark-haired. That's why I made Birdie a blonde -- because I've had so many brunettes. It was a stretch for me to write her blonde and that's probably why it was so easy to change -- I wasn't emotionally invested in her hair color (and neither was she.)

Because trophy wives are mostly blonde, Lynne? Interesting observation.

I know several folks like that, Tammy -- the tow-heads that go dark. Yeah, it was extremely important to me that the cover match the story.

Ahh, Star -- publishing with a big house one is always aware of the fact that this is a Business. Unless one is a mega-best seller, there's no room for hurt feelings.

jennyfreckles said...

Yes, I think the cover really influences whether people buy a book or not - at least when browsing in a shop. Never heard of anyone rewriting a book to match the cover though! I wonder if blondes have different personalities from brunettes. I don't know, I've always been blonde.

Miss_Yves said...

I notice the word "brunette": an old french word of course,do you use it with the meaning of "petite brune" ?
We use the word "blonde", and nowadays there are many (stupid ) jokes about "les blondes" :they are seen as silly women ...

Vicki Lane said...

The question of different personalities for blonds and brunettes is tricky, Jenny Freckles. A lot had to do with how blonds are perceived by society (see Miss Yves comments below)-- and also, there's probably a difference in personality between natural blonds and those who become blonds through choice and chemistry. Dangerous waters and I don't want to go deeper.

Miss Yves -- the way I've always used the word 'brunette' is to mean a woman with brown or black hair -- and the brown could be fairly light, as long as it wasn't blond.

I use the word blonde too, but my US English spell check tells me there is no e on the end.

Pen N. Hand said...

I was around earlier, but I just remember something. Two people I went 1-12 with had black hair, but by the time they were 30 it had changed to a snow white. Both had deep Appalachian roots, but they were not kin to each other.
Could be a good idea to keep in mind for Miss Bertie.
Nash Black (Irene)

Merisi said...

All's well as long as the hair goes along!

Witty image! :-)))

I never buy a book by its cover, but it is a special satisfaction if a book I purchase has a beautiful design and cover. And it bothers me to no end when the cover does not fit the content of the book! So glad you were able to work together, to fit content and art!

Vicki Lane said...

Irene -- That could be the Scot-Irish heritage -- lots of early graying there -- including my family.

Merisi -- One book that I think really gained sales by its cover (and its title) was MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL.

Pat in east TN said...

I just went to Amazon and checked it out! I'm excited for you!!

Victoria said...

Hurrah! I just went over to Amazon and pre-ordered it. I CAN'T WAIT!!!

Of course, I'll have to...sigh.

Vicki Lane said...

Yes! There it is on Amazon! This morning it was ranked in the 6oo,ooo's and now -- probably thanks to Victoria -- it's at 152,645. (It doesn't take a lot to move the ratings briefly! Thanks, Victoria!

Carol@ Writers Porch/ Book House said...

Hey Vicki....
I pre-ordered @ Amazon! Gosh, it's a long wait! :(
I prefer the brunette also.
I caught up with you this morning.
That Eddie can make some scary poses! :)

Vagabonde said...

When seeing an interesting cover I have looked at a book before just because of it. I can see that it would make a big difference in the sale of a book. I have also not even picked up a book because the cover looked hideous. I think you acted wisely in this case.

Merisi said...

I was one of those people who bought that book at first sight! Imagine my sadness when I could not find it after my move? I don't know how that book disappeared, but I found I out that mistakenly several boxes of my art and art history books went to a charity book sale instead of into the overseas container!. I am very attached to my books and when the best disappear ....

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, Carole! It's exciting to see the Amazon numbers change!

It was an easy decision to make, Vagabonde!

How awful to lose books you love, Merisi! I always wander through used book store looking to replace books of mine that have disappeared or worn out.