In today’s jmwwblog, Cris Mazza discusses the origins of the cover art of her new memoir, SOMETHING WRONG WITH HER as part of her virtual book tour.
The cover of SOMETHING WRONG WITH HER was changed after the original release date. Needless to say, this is a very unusual occurrence and not one that is usually advantageous to a book’s entrance into the world. In the case of this book, however, it’s part of the whole story. Since I couldn’t get the cover-change into the text of the book itself, I’m happy to have it play out here.
The original cover existed for a full year before the release date, residing on my publisher’s forthcoming-books page. When I first saw the concept, I liked it. The book’s interior format contains images from a handwritten 30-year-old journal. Designed by my publisher, Debra Di Blasi, the original cover had a page of that journal as a screened background, and utilized notebook paper “holes” as a motif (inside the book as well). Because there is a “real-time” aspect to the memoir—including revision comments in sidebars—we used my handwriting to edit the subtitle to highlight that motif. Because the content of the memoir includes female sexual dysfunction (the medical term), my publisher thought it would benefit marketability to include the controversial word “frigidity” on the cover, but in my handwriting as an author-edit because I had discussed the inflammatory nature of the word inside the book. The military-font “stamping” of the word “wrong” in the middle of the title seemed to suit the theme of women viewing themselves as inadequate, or just plain “wrong,” in the face of culture’s capricious standards. It was a piece of a phrase that appeared many times in the hand-written journal, and obviously also points to the topic of sexual dysfunction.
But something happened on the way to the printer.
Actually, with an interior format as complex as it was (and the sample page above is one of the simpler designs) the production of the book was taking longer than usual. Meanwhile, interviews with me were starting to appear when the original pub date came around, including some radio interviews on relationship-advice shows. But there was no book. The production dysfunction was beyond my publisher’s control: a new Adobe software had been introduced, replacing the one she’d been using, and the new program wasn’t ready for prime-time. At the same time that the government’s Affordable Healthcare website was crashing, the new bookmaking Adobe software was crashing during my book’s production. The healthcare website was fixed and running a full month before my book was able to be released.
In that amount of time, I had started working with a publicist. In a conference call with my publisher, the two of them discussed the cover. My publisher had already received some initial feedback that the cover was imposing, strident, that it announced negativity. Yet the memoir itself was imbued with a poignant story about reconnecting with a boy (now a man) from my past and the relationship with him that began to grow while I was writing the book. The development of that relationship is contained in the memoir—it’s the other “real-time” aspect of the book: as I dredge up and examine the memories, I am communicating with this man in e-mail. Those e-mails tell parts of the past story (from both perspectives) as well as the story of re-connecting. My publisher and the publicist both thought that the marketing—starting with the cover—should emphasize the reconnection story over the sexual dysfunction story.
Thus, Debra created a new cover and subtitle for the my book’s “second” release, 2 months after the original pub date.
The whole motif of the “notebook” (with the 3-punch holes) was replaced with a design that indicated nostalgia: a yearbook photo on a soft yearbook-like album cover. The photo itself (yes, me) was black-and-white, so the publisher colorized it, further giving it a wistful effect (yearbook photos from before my time used to be hand-colored by the photographer).
The motif of using my handwriting was continued, but the subtitle replaced with “A Real-Time Memoir,” to highlight the love-story aspect of the memoir.
Since the process of writing the book is part of what the book’s about (including how the love story impacted the writing), then the story of the cover-change both represents and broadens the book’s whole idea.
What these changes say about how a book attracts readers is now up to readers to make known to us. I’d love to include responses in the book itself, but production does have to stop somewhere. Maybe to-be-continued.