Tag Archives: book covers

Branded: The Cover-Up by Chuck Thurston

Many years ago, I ran across a graphic of an old English grave robber. He was holding a lantern and peering over the top of a tombstone. At the time, I was employed at IBM, and the company was busily working on the stated goal of putting a personal computer on every employee’s desk. PC’s weren’t a big part of the office landscape then, and the company knew that a rollout of that scope would not be without some issues: training, software, maintenance, security, connectivity, reluctance and resistance to use, etc. I saw the grave robber and his menacing grin as symbolic of all of these potential pitfalls and replaced the tombstone in the graphic with a computer of the era, and created a poster that I circulated among my department members.

grave robber

Fast-forward many years. I retired from IBM and busied myself with contract work and consulting in my old field. I started writing a column for a little North Carolina newspaper, The Transylvania Times (no kidding!), in Brevard, NC. Someone once made the mistake of saying something like, “Gee – you should put these stories in a book!” Only a fool ignores an incentive like that. I looked around for cover ideas and ran across my old grave robber graphic. Hmmm. These columns would be revealed –unearthed, as it were – to a much wider audience. I contacted Curt Thurston, my highly skilled professional graphics son, and wondered. Could you…would you? He could and did.

Scribbles Unearthed Cover


A star was born, but I had a lot more stories and it occurred to me that I now had a “brand” for a series of books. My fevered mind quickly formed an idea for a second collection and I sketched out an idea and sent it to Curt.

SSSD Cover

He feverishly sent me back his own rough sketch.

SSSD Graverobber with title

I could see immediately that it was superior to mine. I changed the subtitle, because I had cleverly thought of another use for that one in an as yet unwritten third collection. I gave Curt the go-ahead – and he made the final rendering.

SSSD cover front only

Now we are on what’s commonly called “a roll.” Sometime this fall, if I don’t spend too much time on other stuff, I’ll have a third book of stories to the publisher. I am hauling out the old grave robber for yet another go. Here’s my idea:

SSBR cover pencil draft

And Curt’s polished effort.

ssbr front cover


Look for it in an outhouse near you. Left, no doubt, by someone who’s call there was made more meaningful by a story or two, and who obligingly left it behind for subsequent visitors. It would be thoughtful of you to do the same.



Filed under writing

You Can/Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover, by Carole Howard

In a bookstore in Paris, all cluttered with tomes, I was looking for Madeline … for my granddaughter. (She doesn’t speak French, but she does speak Madeline.) After I found the book I wanted, I wandered around, as if the books might be an insight into aspects of French culture. And indeed they were.


I realized, with a shock, that the French really don’t judge a book by its cover.

Full disclosure: that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Truth is, there really are plenty of books with the same kind of eye-catching covers we have in the U.S. The ones in the photo are the old style (though a French friend tells me this kind of cover is coming back), when all the books had that same cream-colored cover. There might be an outline inside the edge, either red or blue, single or double line. The title/author might be in modestly-dressed Times Roman, or maybe something a tiny bit more exotic. But for the most part they were truly “plain vanilla.”

It started me wondering: is that a good thing?

Imagine: You’re in a bookstore, not looking for anything in particular, just engaging in some luxurious browsing. You’re drawn to the shelf of “New Fiction,” maybe. Or “Best Sellers.” Or – one of my favorites – “Staff Picks.”

And they all look the same. Fifty Shades of Gray, The Goldfinch, Deadly Adagio, The Scarlet Letter, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Picture them: cream cover, stark type. No pictures to guide your choice, no colors, no fonts that hint at the genre. Mystery, romance, paranormal, erotica, literary, historical? All the same. There wouldn’t even be any blurbs from quotes to let you know that, for example, Ann Patchett liked this book so, if you’re a Patchett fan, you probably would too.

I can’t imagine I’d like this. I even have trouble when I read a digital book and don’t see the cover or title every time I pick it up (because the device keeps track of my last page read). Sometimes I even forget the title of the book I’m reading, because I see it so infrequently. And I don’t like that. Not at all.

How in the world would you choose a book if all covers were identical? Personal recommendations, yes. Books by an author you love, sure. Otherwise…… what?  I, personally, need a little come-on, like the coming attractions for movies.

Then again, some books have several editions, each with a different cover. I looked at the listings on Amazon for Moby Dick, for example, and stopped counting when I reached 10 covers.41Adtkskt7L._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_51A2zA7DqvL._AA160_ So which edition of Bel Canto would speak to you, saying “Pick me up, buy me, read me”? I guess it’s different come-ons for different folks.

What do you think? Would it be better if all book covers, like the uniforms some kids have to wear to school to avoid being judged by their clothing, were the same? Or do you like to have a hint of what’s inside?


Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, recently published by Second Wind Publishing.


Filed under books, Travel, writing

Tracy Beltran, the Creative Wizard of the Second Wind Publication Team

“Recently one of our new authors insisted on using an outside design firm to produce the cover for his first novel. We offered to make the cover ourselves from the raw illustrations he was using, but he declined. In the process of setting the book up for publication, the author revealed that he spent the better part of $1000 for the cover. I was stunned at the cost and also at the mediocre quality of the final cover design. My first thought was, ‘Man, Tracy Beltran does a lot better job of making covers than this — and she does it at no cost to the authors.’

“At Second Wind we know one of the ‘calling cards’ of our publishing company is the high quality of the beautiful covers created by Tracy. She has an uncanny way of finding just the right art to suggest the key aspects of each book, regardless of genre. Indeed Tracy does such a wonderful job on a consistent basis that we are sometimes tempted to take her excellent work for granted. Thank goodness for the artistic and highly functional covers she produces.” –Mike Simpson, Chief Editor

Here are some samples of Tracy’s work, showing how her covers reflect the themes of the various books. Just as important, the covers all look great in thumbnails, which is necessary to show  a book to its best advantage and to be instantly recognized in this online world:

Spooky cover for a spooky YA tale (coming soon):

Fun cover for a delightful story:

Down-home cover for a book of humorous down-home tales:

Romantic cover for a regency romance novel:

Beautiful cover for an anthology of stories about change and renewal:

Literary cover for a book with great tips on how to write well:

Classic cover for a holiday recipe and short story anthology (coming soon):


Filed under Art, books, Mike Simpson, writing