Getting Warmer’s Cover Story
An author friend was recently bemoaning her publisher’s inability to come up with a great design for her next book and asked how my books always get such great covers right off the bat. The answer: they don’t. At least not all of the time.
In a few days, Getting Warmer will be re-released with a brand new cover. My publisher, Berkley (which is part of Penguin), has an incredibly talented art department, and I’ve loved all of my book covers immediately, on the first try. Except for one.
In brief, Getting Warmer tells the story of a stressed-out high school English teacher in Scottsdale, Arizona. To let off steam, she and her teacher pals go out for margaritas after work — and occasionally tell tall tales to bar patrons who become overly friendly. It’s all in fun until Natalie falls for a man who thinks she’s someone else.
Got that? Okay. It took a long time to come up with the title for this book. My working title (what I had on the manuscript as I wrote) was Please Excuse Me, I’m Not Quite Myself Today. Yes, I know. Awful. My editor had another idea: Lying in Bed. She loved it. I hated it. She gave it to the art department so I could see just how cute it would be. This is what they came up with:
What do you think? Do you love it? Well, I don’t care what you think! It’s my book and I hated it!!!!! (So maybe the cover isn’t the only thing with issues.) The book is about a teacher who is so overworked that she barely finds time to sleep. And, yeah, okay, she does see a little action about two thirds of the way through, but it is off screen and completely tasteful. This looked so . . . racy.
So I discussed my concerns with my editor. Okay, maybe I had my agent do it (which she managed without exclamation points). My editor was disappointed that I didn’t like the cover but agreed to send it back to the art department with my new (if kind of lame) title and this is what we wound up with:
Pretty cute, huh? It doesn’t exactly say “overworked teacher in Arizona” — especially since my character has short hair … and never puts on a bikini … but whatever. A cover is a marketing tool: it needs to attract readers, not necessarily provide some kind of literal representation — and the publisher worried that a Southwestern design would make the book look like a genre western.
Getting Warmer sold pretty well at first, but after a couple of years, the numbers had dropped off so much that I got the dreaded remainder letter informing me that the remaining copies would be sold off at steep discount.
Last year I got good news: Berkley would be publishing Getting Warmer (along with my first book, Been There, Done That) in mass market paperback — those fat little books that you see in grocery stores and airports (and which, according to this New York Times article, are a dying breed). Naturally, I was excited to see the new design!
Oh my gosh, this is such a cute cover . . . for a book set in Massachusetts or Michigan or someplace where it gets cold. But — wait a minute. Getting Warmer is set in Scottsdale. In August. Have you ever been to Scottsdale in August? No, of course you haven’t. Because it’s like fifteen thousand degrees outside. No one spends August in Scottsdale unless they have to, and no one at all wears sweaters.
Soooo . . . it was on to round two (or round four, depending on your perspective). And just like that, we were back to the bed theme. Which made no sense. But I almost gave this one my okay because I didn’t want to get a reputation for being difficult and because . . . well, at least the model — there is a woman attached to those legs, right? — was wearing something a teacher might wear. Kind of.
It was bizarre. My agent agreed. We went back to my editor (really, really nicely) and asked if they could, um, maybe like give it another try . . .? Pretty please?
This is probably the point when the art department hung a Carol Snow dartboard. In all fairness, my title didn’t give them a lot to work with, and it’s hard to portray either teacher or Arizona without looking cheesy. What were they supposed to do: a cactus and an apple?
So, what do you think? Did I make the right call?
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