Mystery Author: Strong Women, Great Stories

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I write three series: The Loser Mysteries, The Dead Detective Mysteries & the Simon & Elizabeth (Tudor) Mysteries as well as stand-alones that offer readers "Strong Women, Great Stories."
These days I also answer to Maggie Pill, who writes a cozy sleuth series. Maggie is a lot like Peg, just younger, cooler, and funnier.

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong


So here's the new cover: better, I say!


A few months ago my newest book, KIDNAP.org, was released. I had worked with the cover artist, who was very good about doing what I thought I wanted.
I wish she'd been a little bossier.
The author is usually asked what she pictures, and I had a vision. The only problem was, I'm not very good at vision. No artist's eye. No ability to see what the prospective reader will see--and deduce about the book.
I imagined how cool it would be to have all the main characters pictured in front of the house they end up living in. I included the van they use for kidnapping bad guys. I thought it gave a good sense of the story.
What I got was more Scooby Doo than kidnap capers.
Yeah, it's cute, but the spookiness of the house and the cartoonish characters say the wrong thing to readers. When I ask audiences for an impression of the book I get, "Young adult, right?"

Um, no. It's a caper novel, meaning the characters are technically criminals (think Ocean's Eleven) but in this case they're completely justified as well as hilariously unprepared for life on the run.

Of course I asked people to tell me what they thought before I finalized this cover, but here's where I went wrong a second time. I showed them what I thought I wanted and said, "What do you think?"
People are polite. They say what they suspect you want to hear. Everyone (except one brave, intrepid friend) said it was great (Thanks, LT--wish I'd listened to you!)

People who read the book love it. I got a radio interview with a nationally syndicated show and lots of good press after its release, but it didn't take me too many times watching people at book fairs pass over the book to realize the cover is wrong. People do judge a book by its cover, and if the cover isn't right, it takes someone you trust saying "Read this" to overcome that bad first impression.

So I'm changing it. One of the nice things about modern publishing is that mistakes can be ameliorated if not completely eradicated. Since you're reading my blog, you might already have the book with the cover above in your stacks. If you do, thank you, but from now on, KIDNAP.org will look different.

I've learned a couple of things in the process that I hope serve me well in the future:
     Picturing too many characters makes the cover uninviting.
     Cartoon people makes a book look less serious, more childish.
      Lots of people younger than I am (this book appeals to them for some reason) don't know what the black bars over the characters' eyes means, so it just seems weird.
     Dark background implies dark story.
     Friends won't tell you they hate your idea. It's easier to say, "Yeah, that's nice."  With the new cover, I've been consulting people with multiple ideas, giving them choices and asking why they like what they like. Of course they don't agree on everything, but it gives me a sense of what a first-time impression is. For example, I wanted to put the dog, Bennett, on the cover, but no matter where we put him, he gave the wrong impression. We aren't kidnapping dogs, but that's what people thought. Sadly, Bennett is no longer in the picture.

I could go on, but you get the drift. As soon as the cover artist finishes the new one, I'll post it here so you can tell me if you like it better. Fingers crossed!


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