In the beginning, there was a complaint. It went something along the lines of, “Y’know, I’ve never been able to find a novel about a garden club.” Seven months later, I finished writing one. Then came the hard part.
What would the cover for a book called Garden Clubbed look like?
The story features not one garden club, but two, and they’re in competition. One’s rural, the other’s a bit more cosmopolitan. They tangle over a ridiculous gardening contest, and their surprising plan to resolve the issue plays out against a backdrop of romance, con artistry, and double-dealing. It takes place in the deep, deep South, a locale normally absent of big-city problems, yet one which still manages to get embroiled with a drug cartel and the National Guard.
All of which, of course, is delivered with a healthy dose of humor.
So, what goes on the cover? What’s the main selling point of this novel? Who’s the primary audience? What should the cover “say”?
I had no idea.
My first two efforts didn’t please anyone. Even my bride rolled her eyes when she saw them, and she’s normally eager to be in my corner. I finally settled on two elements: flowers and humor. I also realized that I have two very different markets. The first consists of garden club folk. The demographic suggests most people in this category are older and female. The second market is pretty much everyone else who might enjoy an entertaining tale.
When at long last I put together a cover scheme that worked reasonably well for the general market, the most common refrain I heard was that it likely wouldn’t do well with the garden club set. That cover is on the left. Good for one market, terrible for the other.
Back to the drawing board.
More humor. Less drama. Don’t portray anything that might be construed as negative about gardeners or garden club members.
Eventually, I recalled some of the covers used on Karl Hiaasen’s books. I’ve often been told that our writing styles are similar. We both write about the South, and we both love to portray slightly oddball characters in whacky situations. So, what do his covers look like?
For many of his titles, the covers are fairly plain. Some of the illustrations are either cartoons or appear cartoonish, yet the stories are anything but. So I tried my hand at a similar kind of cover–simple and slightly cartoonish. After a few false starts, I had something I hoped might work. Here ’tis, on the right.
The problem remains, however. Neither cover is likely to work for both markets. The answer, I’ve decided, is to come up with two completely different marketing plans. One will feature the first cover, while efforts to reach the garden club set will feature the second one. (I’ll have to remove the Special Edition line on Cover One, but that’s an easy fix.)
Am I crazy? Probably.
Feel free to let me know what you think.