Writing is a process of change, drafts that develop gradually and sometimes imperceptibly until it is a finished text. Then comes the time to ask "Do we have a cover?"
The cover art is just as much a process of trial and error.
Above is the original draft of The Dante Club by the wonderful Random House designers. You always have to start somewhere, just like with writing, knowing that it will evolve. There are five main elements here. The font of the title and author: we all loved. The general color, yellowish-sepia. The "burned" corner. The bloodspots. Finally, the backdrop image. This comes from an image by Gustav Dore of Dante. But as striking as it is, we were concerned. We didn't want to alienate any readers who weren't familiar with Dante, and we wanted to make sure the book presented itself as a thriller in the 19th century, not the 14th.
I suggested showing 19th century Boston instead, and the team at Random House found this great image above. There's nothing specifically creepy or ominous going on in it, and yet...
So they took a slice of that larger image of Boston, and put it with the sepia overlay... One other thing, we felt there might be too many bloodspots. I remember a conference call we had--my agent, my editor and myself--counting the bloodspots and which ones we liked best.
We trimmed them down and came out with...
Now we were cooking! We were very happy. The spine, which had been designed with an antique feel from the beginning, was a hit. The only thing was, we weren't sold on the burn in the corner. What exactly was burning? So
There we had it. Our cover.
And the other image didn't go to waste. You see, we were also publishing a "companion edition" with the novel. Re-publishing, actually. A new edition of Longfellow's translation of Inferno that had been out of print for almost 80 years.
POSTSCRIPT: After posting this, I remembered my suggestion after the original cover was actually a little more detailed. I said "Why not use a background of 19th century Boston--but with an image of Dante's Hell growing out from the top of it?" They liked the 19th century Boston suggestion, but not the Hell part.
So imagine my smile when one of the Italian editions -- the book club edition -- used my idea! I hadn't told them, they thought of it on their own. What do you think?
POSTSCRIPT II: Also check out my post on the evolution of the cover of The Poe Shadow.