Cover Girl

I often judge a book by its cover.  Doesn’t everybody?  We are a society obsessed with visual images.  They’re everywhere.  Television, movies, magazines, billboards, Smartphones, newspapers, t-shirts, graffiti.  Even the sleep mode of my e-reader uses a visual.  Images are appealing—they entice, excite, incite, soothe, disgust.  They demand attention.  It’s no wonder book covers provoke so much buzz and debate, both online and in person.

However, even though I consider myself a creative person, I know that my creativity does not extend very far to design.  The innovation and experimentation that must go into producing a book cover seems like magic to me.  So I await every book cover with thrilling anticipation and receive them with awe and delight.

My first novel, GILT, has gone through several design processes, and every single one gives me new insight into my own work.  I love seeing how my words and characters have inspired beauty and richness.  And I am amazed at being able to look at my work through the eyes of another.


Because I write about the Tudors, I fully expected the usual cover image of a beautiful Renaissance gown (possibly even two), worn by a girl with part or all of her head cut off by the top of the book.  It seems to be industry standard for the Tudors (who were, after all, famous for cutting off heads.)

But that didn’t happen.


GILT published in hardcover in May of 2012, and was decorated with a cover image not a gown, but an extreme close up of the face.  This cover is so different from anything I’d seen—either in adult historical fiction or YA lit.  I agreed with booksellers I met that this was a cover that would grab attention.  It didn’t matter to me that, although women occasionally painted their lips at the time, perhaps the lip color was anachronistic. (and I immediately went out and found a shade of lipstick to match.)

gilt pb

Design and marketing decided to go a slightly different direction with the paperback cover.  When this image first popped up in my inbox, my reaction was, “Did I write that?”  This image is so very sex-ay.  And here I thought I’d written a book about a dysfunctional friendship.  But like I said, it’s pretty enlightening to see your book through someone else’s eyes.


However, there were some quarters that felt the original paperback design would not be a good fit for the YA shelves.  So the designers went back to the drawing board and came up with a series design that I think is elegant, appealing and still visually very different from other books on the shelves.  To me, it begs to be picked up—like a gorgeous box on the shelf of an antique store.  And the embossed jewel and lettering just beg to be touched.  I’m delighted that this image stuck, and has been continued for all three books in the US.

Gilt UK

My publisher in the UK decided to take a different route.  I love this cover because it gives Kitty the spotlight, and even Kitty would agree that Cat usually takes that for herself.

I’m also absolutely thrilled that I get yet another cover for my novel.  It’s just been decided that GILT and TARNISH will be bound together  (with a teaser excerpt of BRAZEN) and published in paperback in March of 2014!  The omnibus will be titled COURTED and again, the cover is vibrant, eye-catching (and very different from all the others!)


What I love about all of these covers is that none of them screams historical.  There are no castles, no obviously Tudor gowns, no props.  And because the historical label can be a hard sell, I hope the covers draw a wider audience.

How about you?  What book covers speak to you?  Do you pick up or avoid books because they have certain images on the front?


About Katherine Longshore

Katherine Longshore is the author of GILT (Viking/Penguin May 2012), a story of friendship and betrayal set in the court of Henry VIII, and TARNISH (June 2013), the story of a young Anne Boleyn. You can learn more about her

4 thoughts on “Cover Girl

  1. Tammy Sparks says:

    I am very much infuenced by covers, both bad and good. And I think you’ve been very lucky, not only to have such gorgeous covers, but to have so MANY! I think I still prefer the original hardcover design of GILT, though:)

  2. While I was never thrilled with the close-up face, I LOVE the paperback covers of your US books and I love the one with the pearls too. I agree that using these images doesn’t immediately say “historical” yet still conveys the sense of depth, intrigue and mystery (and even historical distance) that your books are all about. Covers definitely have an influence on us, even if we don’t realize it.

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