Backstory: The “orphaned” book
July 27, 2008
So did you like the movie?
Now, back to the backstory of The You I Never Knew. This series of posts started out as a reply to an e-mail from a fellow writer. By this point in our saga, the book has been written, sold and edited. Now it’s supposed to be published and become a bestseller, right?
Not so fast. One thing that happened to this book is it became “orphaned,” meaning the editor who acquired it moved on while the book was in production. It’s not a total disaster, but it’s usually not the best news for a book, either. Another editor adopts the project, and it’s a bit like she’s getting a foster child she didn’t ask for. In this case, it turned out to be a mixed blessing. They were right in the middle of designing the cover, and it looked like this:
Now, this is not a terrible cover. It’s a fine piece of original art and the design and layout are reminiscent of a Nicholas Sparks cover, so those are pluses. It also looks a bit like Annie Proulx’s Close Range. But does this mean the cover is right for this book? Probably not. First of all, this would be a paperback original, not a hardcover book, so the art needs to “pop” on the shelf in order to stand out. The colors of this cover are muted and the mood is chilly. It might work on a hardcover jacket, but it doesn’t look instantly warm and inviting, like a “feel-good” novel.
So the acquiring editor had left and the new one came into the middle of cover design, knowing nothing about me or the book. There was a bright spot, though. The new editor was the extremely smart Maggie Crawford. This is the kind of foster mother the book needed–an experienced editor who understood the market for this book. She’d worked with many bestselling authors and had a fine eye for marketing women’s fiction. She took on the cover art issue with aplomb, and came up with this.
It’s one of the least-relevant yet most commercial covers I’ve ever had. Here’s my analysis: At the time, I was not a name-brand author. Yet splashing my name on the cover in huge letters gave the illusion that this was a big book by a big author. The lettering itself–big, graceful block lettering–was reminiscent of the font used for blockbuster author Sandra Brown. Or for bestseller Marcia Muller: And of course, it capitalizes on the galloping popularity of the biggest novel of the ’90s, The Horse Whisperer.
So I’m back on track, right? My new editor rescued the novel from obscurity and now all I’d need to do is kick back and let the sales roll in. Oh, and I’d be working with Maggie on the next book, brainstorming the plot and building on the success of The You I Never Knew. Right? Right?
Tune in tomorrow for a continuation of the tour through Big Business Publishing….
(stay with me–like my books, this has a happy ending…)