Linda Fairstein is a New York Times Bestselling author who Booklist recently called "a legal-thriller master" in a starred review of her latest, Night Watch (Alexandra Cooper Series #14). She thinks a lot about titles and cover concepts, and here's the story behind her latest:
"From the time that I start plotting my crime novels, I begin working on a title and the concept for the jacket art. Although I have no ability to draw or create that kind of art, I'm a reader who reacts very strongly to the image on the book jacket. I react when the marketing team at the publishing house sends me something to look at - most of the time, they 'get it' and the whole concept together - title, story line, and image - is a smart package to give to the prospective reader.
"When I was writing Night Watch, I fell far behind deadline because of my husband's critical illness. Everyone at Dutton was great and understood my situation, but of course that left them without a manuscript to dip into for ideas, so no help from me.
"When the jacket art was forwarded to me, in anticipation of needing it for the catalog, I was totally dismayed. It depicted a Manhattan skyline (my books are very much Manhattan-centric), shrouded in fog, which was supposed to suggest the mysterious nature of the story. To me, it was without any character and no suggestion that it was a crime novel.
"By this time, I was well into my writing so I had a much better sense of where the story was going than the poor artist did. So I asked my superb editor, Ben Sevier, if I could suggest an idea for the team to work up. We were pretty close to deadline, but Ben agreed to pass on my idea.
"A lot of Night Watch takes place in the criminal courthouse, so I thought the backdrop could be the powerful columns of courthouse steps (and no, the Manhattan Criminal Court has the least dramatic entrance - every TV show from Kojak on uses the NY State Civil Courthouse steps instead of the one in which my characters work).
"And then I asked that three human skulls be placed at the foot of the steps. I had an image of the skulls - which play a pivotal role in the story - which I sent along for consideration. I thought they added a very sinister note - murder, of course - and came right from the story I was telling. I think the Dutton team captured the perfect look for Night Watch - and as always, one more classy thing they do for each book is put an element of the art on the jacket's spine (since most of it's shelf life is lived with only the spine exposed). Murder, mystery, courtroom drama - it's all caught in this strong image on the Night Watch book jacket."
Thank you, Linda! I think the skulls are a perfect touch here, and I love that Dutton pays lots of attention to the spine, too. Smart.
What do you guys think of this cover?
Melissa Walker is the author of six Young Adult novels, the latest of which is Unbreak My Heart (pictured). Her author blog, where Cover Stories originated, is melissacwalker.com. Follow her on Twitter @melissacwalker.
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