Yeah, I know. (Inhale, exhale, gaze in wonder, repeat.)
Back in September, former agent and (still) writer Nathan Bransford wrote a post about the experience of seeing your cover for the first time and how it resists comparison. That's really true. Full disclosure: I'm a graphic designer at my day job, but I have zero experience in book design. In the end what I have to say is that I am completely in love with this cover.
And no, not just because of the hot guy on the cover. (My own book cover makes me feel fat. Go figure.)
If I haven't talked your ear off about my book already (and if I haven't, go to my author page linked above and read the synopsis—pretty please?), I've been describing it as a road trip with a romance surrounded by a ghost story. I've been working on it since 2003, when I walked through the Missouri Botanical Garden with my friends Jim and Laura, along with Michael (this was before we began dating again), and we concocted a harebrained plot that was broad slapstick and which bears only scant resemblance to the novel I turned in to my editor.
Which is a good thing.
When I read a book, like everyone else I get a picture in my head of what those characters look like. The writer has hopefully given me the information I need to make that character alive in my mind. Sometimes the picture is also influenced by friends, people I know, celebrities, random strangers. Sometimes it's influenced by the book cover, if a person is depicted there.
In this case, the guy on the cover could be a dead ringer for Lincoln, a character who is clearly bad news but is hard to resist. The thing is, I knew what he looked like when I was writing the book, but now that I've seen the cover, my image of him has changed a bit.
In most cases, everyone is going to have their own mental image of what the characters look like (until it gets made into a movie... Is anyone in the film business reading this?). And like Nathan Bransford said, it's at that point that you realize that the characters aren't completely your own. The reader, using her imagination, works together with the writer to visualize the character, and if the writer has done his job well, that visualization is vivid and realistic.
I hope I've held up my end of that agreement with my future readers.