Series Doesn’t Equal Set

This is the third in a short series of articles in which one author talks about the covers that have gone on her novels. If you haven’t, you might want to take a quick read through “Look at What They Wrapped Around My Baby!” and “When Right is Completely Wrong.”

This article is going to leave behind the “fluffy bunny” covers that plagued my early career, and take a look at some covers that came later. I’m going to start by responding to a reader’s request for my reaction to the covers for my novels Changer and Legends Walking. These are my two “athanor” novels, published in mass market paperback by Avon in 1998 and 1999.

Midwinter, the reader mentioned above, commented that she/he had liked these covers and wondered what my reaction had been. Basically, I can say that I liked both covers. In fact, the simple design used for the cover of Changer was one I adapted twice in polymer clay—once as a bolo tie which I wore to signings, and the other as a miniature book for my sister’s dollhouse.

The cover of Changer takes as its theme the largely southwestern setting of the novel. The colors are the yellow-golds and reddish-browns that dominate that landscape, highlighted with just a touch of blue. The title is nicely rendered in an artistic script done in a turquoise-blue that stands out well against the yellow-tan background.

The picture itself is a stylized pair of wings over mesas and an Indian pueblo. An additional graceful touch is that the leftmost wing, along with the mesas and scattered pueblos, wraps around the spine to the back of the book.

If I had a problem with this cover, my complaint was very minor. At signings, people tended to think Changer was a Tony Hillermanesque mystery. I had to talk fast and hard about the thriller/conspiracy elements—playing down the myth and legend that to me is the novel’s heart—in order to hold them.

By contrast, the cover of Legends Walking features a magnificent painting by Gregory Bridges. This painting shows a futuristic city overhung by rich storm clouds from which a whirlwind is descending. Great art. Great color. Minor quibble from the author is that the setting of this city is contemporary Africa, not the future.

My trouble with the cover of Legends Walking has more to do with wondering why Avon broke so completely with its approach for Changer. Nothing between the two covers is alike. Not the art. Not the style of type used for the title. (Legends Walking‘s title is in white in a different script). Even my original name for the bookChanger’s Daughter—was rejected by some anonymous higher-up. The futuristic city on Legends Walking‘s cover rejects any connection with the contemporary setting of Changer. It was as if every effort was made to keep readers of Changer from finding this stand-alone sequel.

This is a pity, since Changer did well and continues to be popular enough that used copies fetch a premium. Legends Walking was the first of my books to go to a second printing based on strong initial orders, but much of that printing never found its audience. To this day, I have people come to me to praise Changer, and then express surprise when I tell them about the existence of Legends Walking.
To me the presentation of Changer and Legends Walking is a strong example of why covers for a series need to be parts of a set. Even if the initial cover isn’t the best approach (and I think the the cover of Changer was very good, and the format could have been adapted), still, continuity is crucial.

Midwinter concludes by saying: “the cover art to Changer was why I finally grabbed the book after passing it three or four times in the store.” How many people who loved Changer walked right by Legends Walking because the series was not presented as a set?


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