A Tale of Two Book Covers

A couple of months ago, my writing group and I went to a literary trivia pub night hosted by WBUR (we came in second!). One of the best questions, in my opinion, was a matching game; we were given a sheet of US book covers, then a sheet of corresponding UK covers--all without titles--and had to find the ones that went together.

Well, now I get to do that with my own book. Here's Fräulein M.'s British twin, The Cigarette Girl!

Isn't it great? If you've read the book, who do you think that blonde woman is? I have a specific character in mind, and it might not be who you think. Would love to hear your thoughts, readers. 

(The Cigarette Girl will be released on February 23 as an ebook from HQ Stories, a division of HarperCollins UK. It's available for pre-order now wherever ebooks are sold, and it's on NetGalley!)

Back to the dueling covers and the book cover process in general. The good people at Tyrus gave me a lot of input on my cover. First, I made a Pinterest board, which you can see here (https://www.pinterest.com/carocour/fraulein-m-cover-inspiration/), highlighting book covers I love and other inspiration images. It's actually a good place to check out some of the visuals that helped inspire the book, such as this photograph Marianne Breslauer took of Annemarie Schwarzenbach:

The above is how I pictured Berni, one of my main characters, would dress and style her hair.

Also, this was one of my favorite book covers from the last several years, for Amy Stewart's Girl Waits With Gun:

After I made my Pinterest board, the artists at Tyrus's then-parent company, F+W, got to work, and during the process they sent images and fonts and cover concepts for my consideration, giving me quite a bit of veto power. The end result felt like something we made together, which was unexpected and felt very nice. 

My experience with my UK book cover has been quite different--the new title and the cover were both entirely brainchildren of my editors there--they came to me for approval, but both were a surprise. And you know what? That feels okay, too! Opening the email with my new cover in it was like receiving a present. It was really interesting to see what a different team of people in a different part of the world wanted to wrap around the same story. Also, perhaps because I'd already had such input in my first cover, I was willing to take a back seat here and wait for the finished product.  

One thing I'm happy about, regarding both covers, is the fact that you can see the cover ladies' faces. A few years ago, I read a piece in the New York Times ("Show Some Spine," June 23, 2013, which happened to be my thirtieth birthday) about the plethora of books featuring a woman's back on the cover--"probably the largest swath of skin," the author posited, "that can be exposed without setting off the censors."

It may also be true that a faceless--or, often, headless--cover model allows for a bit of mystery and eliminates the possibility that the author or fans will feel the designers didn't get the character right. But I've never been a big fan of faceless women on books, the same way I'm not crazy about the blank-eyed look a lot of background dancers take on in male music videos. Let a woman smile, wink, laugh at the camera, and she has agency. She becomes human.

Hence, my US book's cover. POW! She's looking right at you. 

It's funny, the Times piece goes on to say that "if feminists were scrutinizing book covers, I imagine it’s stilettos, shiny lips and fishnet stockings that they would object to." I believe our Fräulein all three of those boxes here. (She may be wearing fishnets, hard to tell.) It goes to show how subjective this sort of thing is; to me, it's her gaze that matters most.

To me, she's saying, "I just spent a long night selling champagne and cigarettes in this cabaret, and I need to put my feet up to rest. What's it to you?"

What about you--do you like book covers without faces on them, for the mystery? Do you, like me, prefer to look into a character's eyes? Do book covers matter to you, or is it all about jacket copy? Penny (tuppence?) for your thoughts...