My Books



“I actually could not put the book down. It is well written and kept my interest. I want more from this author.”
Reader review of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead on Amazon.com 

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Going for Cover

Despite the old aphorism, plenty of people apparently do judge books by their covers. Experts in marketing tell us that a book’s cover is one of the major determinants as to whether browsers will buy or move on. What exactly makes a good cover, though? That’s harder to nail down. Like so many things, I suppose it comes down to the eye of the beholder.


All the covers of my Dallas Green trilogy have featured photographs I took myself in the 1970s. Lautaro’s Spear has a photo I shot of Place de la Victoire in Bordeaux in 1973. On the back of that book is a photo that was not shot in the 1970s. It is the famous sign at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin.

In the case of the front of Searching of Cunégonde, I snapped the photo on the cover (seen to the left), looking past the Palais de Chaillot (where the Cinémathèque Française was then located) toward the Eiffel Tower, on a rainy autumn day in 1973. When coming up with a cover design, I actually tried in vain to find a different Paris photo than that one because the Eiffel Tower is such a Paris cliché. In the end, though, it turned out to be the best one I had to work with and certainly the one most relevant to the novel’s story. To the extent I have had feedback on it, people seem to like it.


On the back cover of Cunégonde (seen to the right), there is another photo. That one is of a fountain snapped at the Cerro Santa Lucía park in Santiago, Chile, in July of 1977. (The original photo can be seen below on the right.) Its inclusion in the ostensibly final Dallas Green book completes a somewhat circuitous circle. Attentive readers may recall that this fountain was described as being on a postcard sent to Dallas by his friend Antonio in the final chapter of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead. In Chapter 8 of Searching for Cunégonde, Dallas has a frisson of recognition upon realizing he is gazing at the very same fountain a decade later.

Because of its significance in the story, I originally selected that photo for the cover of Max & Carly. At that point my intention was to publish that book solely as an e–book, and that photo was indeed on the original front cover of the Kindle version. Looking back on it now, it is interesting but also kind of embarrassing.


Over the first couple of months after Max & Carly’s release, I learned, contrary to my original assumption, there actually was a demand for a paperback version, so I set about producing one. In the process, I also came to realize that my very Gothic-looking cover (seen to the left) was not at all suitable for a printing press. It was too dark and murky and a real problem for mixing ink in the real (non-digital) world. So I had to come up with a whole new cover.

The new design that I came up with was based on a photo I took in the extremely arid Atacama Desert around the same time I had shot the Cerro Santa Lucía photo. That was essentially a cheat since the Atacama Desert did not figure in Max & Carly. It was meant to stand in for the Sonoran Desert of northwest Mexico—a place where I have never taken any photos.


For consistency I also put the new cover on the e–book version. That meant the original dark, murky cover with the fountain was consigned to history—almost. Anyone who downloaded the Max & Carly e–book during the first several weeks after its release and who has never re-downloaded it since then would still have the original cover. Apart from that and in a couple of posts on this blog, however, there is only one way that cover still lives on.

Online sellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble had no problem with me uploading a new cover to an already existing and selling book. The Goodreads social-media book-lovers site, on the other hand, was not so flexible. Once you upload a cover for a specific version of a specific title to Goodreads, that’s it. There’s no changing it—ever.

So to this day, if you look up the e–book version of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead, on Goodreads, you will still see the original creepy cover. Kind of like an eerie old ghoul that refuses to die.

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