Wednesday, May 27, 2009

That first cover

By David Heinzmann

Libby’s post a couple days ago seeking input on her next book cover had my full attention. As it happens, I’m eagerly and anxiously waiting to see my own cover, which the publisher’s designers are working on right now. I can’t wait. All the line editing is done, and I’ve seen the formatted pages of the book, but laying eyes on the cover will just make the whole process seem that much more real to me.

As I’ve noted before, A WORD TO THE WISE is my first book so this is all new and exciting.

At the Love is Murder conference in February I met a novelist who said tears came to his eyes when he saw his first book cover. In his mind, it was perfect. The designers had heeded his suggestions, and the cover distilled the central threads of the book into a single dark image. It was everything he had hoped for. He’d written several books that were never published, so that first one was a wonderfully cathartic experience.

I hope I’m so lucky. I helped pick the main image from a stock photo catalog, so if I’m disappointed I’ll have myself mostly to blame.

My protagonist, Augustine Flood, lives in a River North high rise with a nice view down on the Chicago River. The book is set in the middle of a brutal January, and Flood occasionally looks down at the jagged plates of ice filling in the river like puzzle pieces fitting together as it gets colder and colder.

Over the several winters that I’ve trudged across the Wabash and Michigan Avenue bridges on my way to the Tribune Tower, I’ve loved watching the river freeze over in pieces like that.

So we went looking for stock images of that ice on the river. There wasn’t much available, but I eventually stumbled on a twilight photo of the distant skyline taken from somewhere along the shore south of the Loop. Although it’s not the river, the foreground is full of those jagged shards of ice piling up in the shallows. With the arresting color and light in the photo, I was more than willing to compromise.

It’s wonderful to be dealing with these tasks because a year ago I had pretty much given up on seeing this book in print. My agent, Jeff, had been encouraging about the prospect of selling it after he read it—three years ago. He’d taken a pass on representing an earlier book I’d written, so his enthusiasm about this one had really gotten me excited. Early on we had some good nibbles, but nobody bit for real. And then the rejection emails started to stretch out over the months. Meanwhile, I was finishing a second Flood book, which I felt was better than the first. But what was I going to do with a second book in a series if the first was never published?

Then came Jeff’s email, out of the blue, while I was vacationing with my extended family in northern Wisconsin. Five Star wanted to publish A WORD TO THE WISE. Granted it was late and I’d had a few when the message came, but I had to read the note four or five times before it sunk in.

Then I woke everybody up in the cabin and had another drink.

Ten months later, here I am fretting over the cover. I’ll post it here as soon as it arrives.

And for the record, I liked 1A and 1B best among Libby’s potential covers.


Libby Hellmann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Libby Hellmann said...

Sorry about that.. I screwed something up and deleted the comment. Let's try this again.

There's nothing like the first time...:) Really,Dave. It's a special feeling. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. Bask in it. I know I'll be asking for a signed copy.

Speaking of ice.. I was driving up to Gunflint Lodge from Minneapolis in March. By the time we got to Duluth, the jagged peaks piled up on the shores of Lake Superior were sky blue. I'd never seen blue ice before. It was magnificent. I only hope it wasn't the result of industrial sludge

Kris said...

Thanks for the update on your upcoming book release. I always love reading stories set in Chicago. Can't wait to see the cover and read the story!

Anonymous said...

Now of course, we all want to see the cover! Are you going to post it when its finalized?