Judging A Book By Its Cover

This is part of the Bittersweet Book Launch case study, where Dan Blank and Miranda Beverly-Whittemore share the yearlong process of launching her novel. You can view all posts here.

by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

I have writer friends who have very clear ideas about what they want their book covers to look like. But I hardly ever do. This might sound strange to hear, but when I write a whole world to life, I have a very hard time imagining an image that could encompass and point to and expand the world of that book. So in the weeks leading up to getting Bittersweet’s cover from Crown, I spent a lot of time kind of racking my brains about what I wanted the cover to evoke, and coming up with vague terms: mysterious, lurking, scary, beautiful, lush.

Winloch, the summer estate where most of the book takes place, is a primarily wooded, beautiful tract of land right on Lake Champlain, so I imagined a cover would probably incorporate that landscape. But beyond that, I couldn’t see it.

I’ll tell you what I was scared of: a faceless picture of two pretty girls with their feet hanging off a dock. I find it’s easy to slap a cover on any such book that happens to be written by a young-ish woman (I’m still young, right? RIGHT?) and features a young female character, but I was hoping for something, well, more universal. Not because I don’t think women’s fiction is fantastic, but because that’s not what Bittersweet is, and I worried about how easy it is to be slipped into a category simply because of what a book seems, in description, to be.

When it boiled down to it, I wanted a cover that would announce, regardless of my gender, or the main characters’, “This book is big.”


And I definitely got it! I couldn’t be more thrilled with how this book looks, even though I never could have dreamed up this look on my own. Still, the instant I saw it, my breath caught and I thought, “that’s it!” It has that certain ineffable something I dreamed my cover would have but couldn’t name.

I love this series in the New York Times that traces book covers through their various drafts. And I’m so in love with Victor LaValle’s paperback cover for The Devil in Silver that it almost makes me drool.


What book covers do you love? Why do they speak to you?