Friday, May 2, 2008

Covers, Egyptian Style








Michelle Moran has an interesting thread over at Historical Fiction on the cover of her forthcoming novel, The Heretic Queen. The cover of her first novel, Nefertiti, featured a beautiful original illustration of Nefertiti's head and shoulders (no body on this one!). The cover of The Heretic Queen, in contrast, has no portrait at all; it features an illustration of a bird's wing from the tomb of the main character, Nefertari. You can read the story of the cover's genesis here, as well as the ensuing discussion. Michelle said she'll be glad to answer any questions you might have in the comments, below. Thanks, Michelle! Be sure to read Nefertiti in preparation for The Heretic Queen, which comes out this September.

15 comments:

Catherine Delors said...

Cool! More book cover discussions.

Congratulations, Michelle, for fighting for your ideas. I firmly believe it is part of the author's job to impose her vision of her book, including word count and cover art.

If I may ask, why did you not pick a portrait of Nefertari for the cover? Her tomb contains gorgeous images, and she has a very distinctive profile. It would also remain in the line of the Nefertiti cover.

When I was a kid, my Mom took me to the Ramses II exhibition in Paris, and I remember a 3D, full-size reproduction of her tomb. Amazing.

In any case, I would add some red to the cover of The Heretic Queen to make it more Egyptian. As it is, the dominant colors are blue and green, both "cold." For the hieroglyphics, why not include a "cartouche" (I don't know the English translation) with Nefertari's name?

Finally, I would be honored to have your opinion on the cover of my second novel.

http://blog.catherinedelors.com/2008/04/25/the-search-for-the-right-cover-for-for-the-king-is-on.aspx

Michelle Moran said...

Hi Catherine,

Wow, I would have loved to include a portrait of Nefertari. Unfortunately, I didn't have a choice. Most authors (probably 90%) don't have a choice in their covers at all. I was very, very lucky to have as much input as I did. Usually, editors choose what they want, and what vision they have for the book, then approach the art department, and the author isn't consulted until the very end.

As for the cartouche versus the phonetic hieroglyphics, I chose the phonetics because it would be easier to give people a key and run a contest. Much more difficult to give people a cartouche, since the hieroglyphic language is based on the phonetic value of the hieroglyph, with further information depicted by hieroglyphs acting as logograms. For example, an oval shape may be the letter "r", it may also be the word for "mouth". I know this is confusing, but suffice it to say -- it would have been much harder that way.

And yes, I fully agree about the colors. I would have loved red, but the original wing painted in Nefertari's tomb was blue and green!

Congratulations, btw, on your fantastic novel, which I've seen absolutely everywhere ;]

Michelle Moran said...

90% is my own estimate, btw! It's simply an estimate of my own author friends. With historical covers (only from what I've seen), many times editors will let the author choose because the author knows the portraiture of the period best. But with the ancient world, there is very little portraiture, so for novels like The Red Tent, or Queenmaker, the publisher goes ahead and makes a choice.

As for your covers, if I was book shopping, I would pick up number 2 or 6 in a heartbeat!!!

Catherine Delors said...

Thank you so much, Michelle, for your kind words of encouragement! I have been fascinated by Nefertari since childhood and look forward to reading The Heretic Queen. If you don't mind, I will link to this and the original discussion from my blog.

I know I was lucky for the cover of Mistress of the Revolution, and I keep my fingers crossed for For The King...

Julianne Douglas said...

Thanks, Michelle, for being available to answer questions. If anyone has questions for Michelle concerning her covers or her novels, please ask them here!

I think it would be interesting to see if the change in cover style affects the sale of the second book, although it will be impossible to judge. Most people, I would think, buy a second book on the basis of their enjoyment of the first, not by impulsively picking up an enticing cover in the bookstore. Do you think the cover of a second or subsequent novel carries as much weight as the cover of the debut in furthering an author's sales?

Michelle Moran said...

Although every cover is immensely important, I can't think that any cover is ever as important as the one for a debut (opinion subject to change when my second and third book come out!).

But I'm not sure that the difference in cover will matter much for my second book, since it says "Michelle Moran, author of the National Bestseller Nefertiti: A Novel" clearly on the front. Also, coop plays a huge role in getting covers in front of people's faces, whether or not they're recognizable. Coop, of course, is entirely dependent on whether the house has purchased it for you, and whether the bookstore has agreed to take the money. Crown has a wonderful relationship with booksellers, who trust their products and accept their coop requests (bookstores get so many requests that they can't take them all).

So just as important as the cover is coop. You can have the greatest cover in the world, but if the book is spine out versus face out, who will see it (unless it goes viral, like Eat Pray Love)? And at the end of the day, if a house finds that the cover hasn't gone over well with book reps (most importantly, from B&N), they will often change it for the paperback.

Julianne Douglas said...

Sorry, but I'm not familiar with the term "coop." I assume it means product placement in the store. Is it short for something? Do you say "coop" like where chickens live, or "co-op"? Please excuse my ignorance, as they say!

Michelle Moran said...

Oops - sorry! I have a post about it on my website here:

http://www.michellemoran.com/articles_writers.htm

It's short for cooperative advertising space, and yes, it's product placement. It's very expensive, and sometimes authors can give their houses money to buy it on their behalf if the publisher won't (rare, since most houses don't want to take money from authors, but it happens).

Julianne Douglas said...

Thanks! I'll go check out your post.

Julianne Douglas said...

Do check out Michelle's article on things about publishing you don't necessarily know at:

http://www.michellemoran.com/articles_writers.htm

There's a lot of really great information!

cindy said...

oooh, must put this on my wishlist. looks intriguing!

Michelle Moran said...

Thank you, Cindy. I really enjoy your artwork, by the way! And congratulations on finding an agent! That's a huge hurdle.

Julianne Douglas said...

I just finished reading Nefertiti twenty minutes ago and I must tell everyone I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!! If you haven't read it yet, run out and find a copy immediately. I haven't become so caught up in a book for a long time. I cannot wait until The Heretic Queen appears. I will buy it no matter what they stick on the cover! :)

Michelle Moran said...

Wow, thank you, Julianne! There's a Q&A on my website if you're interested in knowing what was fact versus fiction (something I love to find on author websites!).

http://www.michellemoran.com/nef_QA.htm

And I can only hope more people feel that way and will pick up the book despite the - um - interesting cover. [restraining myself since all comments make it back to the publisher eventually... nothing is ever private on the web!]

cindy said...

wow, michelle. i didn't even read the comments, didn't know the author was in the mix! i'm definitely buying the book by end of summer (my bday =) or better yet, someone else is buying it for me as a present! (i buy off of my wishlist so much, it's shameful, haha!) congrats to you on the publication of your book!

i can't wait to read it!

and jd, thanks for brining my attention to the book on your blog!!