Regardless of whether a book is published in physical or digital form, one thing is certain: It needs a great cover. I’m a book collector from way back, and I will say with no shame that I have purchased books based solely on their cover. There are unread books in my library that I show to people just to share my admiration for the care that the publisher and jacket artist put into their presentation. Yes, I have judged books by their covers. Of course, you can never determine from a book’s jacket art the quality of that book’s contents, but art can surely get a book into your hand, and—in my case—into a private library.
I’ve not only been a consumer of books but also a publisher and writer of books, and I have been extraordinarily fortunate to count a number of talented graphic designers among my greatest friends. Darin Sanders—of Sanders Design Group—is the art designer of three books that I’ve been involved with: Robert Devereaux’s erotic spellbinder Santa Steps Out, the weird-western anthology Skull Full of Spurs, and my own The Naked Dame and Under the Skin (as well as its forthcoming Into the Night). All these books have fabulous cover art. The first two books were limited-edition hardcovers that we published together as part of our small press, Dark Highway Press, about 10 years ago. That Spurs cover, with its Allen G. Douglas horror-western art, is simply one of the greatest-designed covers I’ve ever seen (it currently graces the library wall to my right, as I type), and the Santa cover, with its fun Alan M. Clark art, speaks of twisted fairy tales in just the right way. But it’s Darin’s art design for The Naked Dame that I’m really thankful for right now.
(Yet another great friend, Christopher Nowell, provided the jacket art to another, pseudonymous novel that I will release in ebook form at a later date.)
Particularly in the case of an ebook, you want cover art that catches the eye—even at thumbnail size. Some people are going to download The Naked Dame on their big, garish iPads, and some are going to download it onto their minuscule cell phones. In all cases, that cover is going to shine. As Darin designed the cover, he struck a wonderful balance between pulp tone and readability at the small size, the result being a striking cover at any size. That title just bursts off the cover, demanding that you take a chance on the book, right? It doesn’t hurt that there’s a naked dame on the cover of The Naked Dame. Yeah, you want to buy a copy. You are powerless under the influence of that cover. I mean, look at it!
So, let this post not only serve as an appreciation for the work of my partner in crime, Darin Sanders, but also as an appreciation for great graphic designers everywhere, including Chris Nowell, Kirk Whitham of Atomic Publishing, and Kate Brown, who is out there right now, eminently employable.