Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Misleading Covers

By Chester Campbell

My first Sleuthfest, Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter's annual crime writing soiree, featured Harlan Coben as the guest speaker. He was just coming into his own with his first standalone novel out. He gave his usual highly humorous presentation, but it contained a lot of good into for writers, too. One thing I remember was his complaint about a cover of one of his Myron Bolitar books that got it all wrong.

My memory is a little hazy after a decade of listening to countless speakers, but it may have been his second book in the series, Drop Shot. That story involves a tennis pro Myron is representing. Seems the cover included a basketball, which is what Myron played before being injured, but it didn't tell the real story of the book.

I've had a couple of experiences with that sort of thing. I love the covers, but they've been a bit misleading for some folks. The first was my initial foray into publishing, the first of my Greg McKenzie mystery series. The plot was built around an ancient Hebrew parchment, and the artist did a great job with the cover, as you can see here.

The only trouble was there's nothing to distinguish it as a mystery. Too many people glanced at it and figured the book was another story about the Dead Sea Scrolls.

I cured the problem in the second edition which kept the same basic design but added copy in the lower right that said "An International Thriller, Greg McKenzie Mystery No 1."

The second of my covers that can be misleading is the one for The Marathon Murders. However, it only misleads people who don't pay attention to both the front and back covers. I've had people glance at it during a signing and say something like, "Does it take place during a marathon?" Well, no. The story is built around the old Marathon Motor Works that produced the only automobile made completely in the South. It was in business in Nashville between 1910 and 1914, when it was forced into bankruptcy court.

The cover features artwork of a Marathon touring car similar to one that currently appears in the old showroom  of the company's headquarters building. Both the long-abandoned plant and office buildings have been restored to provide space for artists, photographers, and musicians, among others. The book cover shows a skeleton sitting in the car, which is where the victim of a 90-year-old cold case was found. Still-fresh memories of the 1904 St. Louis Olympics was credited with the impetus for naming the company and the automobile Marathon.

The Marathon Murders' ebook will be available free for the Kindle next Monday through Wednesday (February 25-27). You'll find it in the Kindle Store at this link.


Jean Henry Mead said...

I agree about misleading book covers, Chester. My GRAY WOLF MOUNTAIN probably leads readers to think that the book is about wolves, which turns most people off. Saving wolves is a minor theme but it's a murder mystery sprinkled with humor and a little romance. (I've enjoyed reading your books, especially DEAD SEA SCROLLS.)

Chester Campbell said...

Thanks, Jean. I can see how you'd have the same problem.

Chester Campbell said...

Thanks, Jean. I can see how you'd have the same problem.