Red Ned Tudor Mysteries

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Cover! My Kingdom for a Cover!

Fiction, Its Great to be Published, now for the Sales!!

Or A Cover! A Cover! My Kingdom for a Cover!

Good day my well regarded viewers, I hope this missive finds you all in excellent health, partying along like its well, yuletide! Just remember always consult your honoured and reputable physician before indulging in the myriad of mountebank hangover cures. Unlike some charlatans and hedge witches I do not prescribe eye of newt or wing of bat! Certainly not, as every qualified doctor knows only the refined and distilled essence of the bull musk ox will restore and promote the natural vigour!
Now having dispensed more Tudor medicinal wisdom onto the theme of the day
So you’re published? And?

Publishing ... the Myths

All right you have finally done it, achieved that pinnacle of fame and fortune as we discussed in the last post. Every thing is sweet, life is as they say a bed of roses. Your book is on the shelves and the ravening reading public is out there buying up for Christmas and… your book stays on the shelves. Actually well into post new year, and worse news, its still on the shelves! Finally months later a container load of your book covers is shipped back to the publisher. Then disaster at the height of your writing peak three quarters of the way through your sequel you get that dreaded envelope from the publisher. Dear Sir/Madman/ Miss…Due to an unforseen dip in the market and the poor sales response of your debut novel our company is no longer able to retain you on our list ….yours unfaithfully wishing you the best… at a later date and so
The translation is- your toast, piss off, don’t call us because we won’t call you!

What!!! How??? Why???

I mean, I know it was a debut work but it couldn’t have been that bad… could it? Your self esteem plummets, you look at the delete key with ominous foreboding, the great work of years has failed, crashed to ruin. It must be your writing a little voice whispers in your mind. You’re a miserable failure, go on admit it, the voice continues to hiss seductively, go on give up you’ll never make!


You did the work, you put in the effort, all those thousands of words weren’t randomly typed by an infinite number of monkeys you know! Then the editing and the twenty five, read it twenty five redrafting sessions, to get it all sparkling and mint just as the publisher requested. You even did the book signing tours and cajoled all your friends and family to buy and promote the book. Don’t forget the keeping up with modern technology, there were those fifty social sites and Facebook you joined in order to get that networking thing happening. So what if you downloaded a stack of viruses, it was worth it!
At this point in the self analysis you should have got past the ‘my work stinks’ stage and started looking around for scapegoats and be ratcheting through all sorts of bizarre and unlikely candidates. Perhaps after exhausting all other possibilities including the cute black kitten that walked across your path the day your book went on sale, you may finally decide to look at a few previously taboo subjects.

I’ll give you one…


Now I know that in our younger days and at school, our teachers and our parents always hammered us about not judging a book by its cover. I recall Mr Markarroff in his heavy Russian accent and overhanging threatening eyebrows wagging a horny finger at me and saying ‘Kiddies zat ist a gud book read it, enjoy it, don’t worry about the cover its just fluff for ze ignorant!’
Of course we all nodded and agreed, with a universal ‘Yes Sir’ if you answered in the negative, oh well, you’d get to appreciate Mr Markarroff’s facility with the backswing caning technique.
However in some respects that old sage is correct, until you flick open the cover and have a bit of a read it is almost impossible to tell if a novel is any good or suits your mood or taste.
However in reality that is stage three in the purchasing process which is as you realise three vital steps away from the most important initial temptation.
Let’s face it, we live in a visual world saturated by advertising, it is coming at you all day every day thousands of images pleading enticing and cajoling you to give in to temptation buy me! No me… and so on.
To compete in the savage environment of book retail where it is red in tooth and claw your work has to stand out. It has to proclaim its individuality, in fact its inalienable superiority to the rest of the herd. For it is a KING!


Your publisher in their infinite wisdom and experience could wack on a blurred photo of a headless bimbo in a vaguely Tudor period dress.
This particular trend has been explored at the Goodreads webpage
in the Tudor History Lovers section, with much speculation as to why? One possibility was so that the purchaser subconsciously projects their own face into the image in a narcissistic fashion, somewhat like the teen sword and magic fantasies. Maybe so, however I suspect a less esoteric reason; blurred photos are cheap, easy, don’t require any complicated graphics and can be used for anything.

So I want to epublish my book The Cardinal’s Angels a Red Ned Tudor mystery what how do I go about it? For a start I cranked away hours in the internet ether searching for cover inspirations. After all why re invent the wheel. To be honest the results were disappointing swathes of headless Tudorish bimbos and abysmal cover art of the odd building or may be a Tudor royal. Even the latest versions of PF Chisholm’s fine Robert Cary books were less than impressive, in fact almost dreadful. Out of the whole trawl only a few stood out Sacred Treason by James Forrester and The Marlowe Conspiracy by MG Scarsbrook. (We will deal with those in part 2)

As an example I have picked up this ‘short’ selection;

Headless Bimbo 1.

The cover for The Tudor Rose a novel of Elizabeth of York. All right, now before we continue I am stating on the record that I have not read this book so I can make no judgements about its contents.
The truncated cover is alone under scrutiny.
First why cut her head off is it just the normal fashion habit? Ahh perhaps not, Jocelyn my design critic immediately pointed out that this portrait was wildly off uit is in fact of Eleanor of Toledo who married Cosmio de’ Medici duke of Tuscany and was painted in 1545 by the famous artist Bronzino. How this Spanish lady of the Renaissance corresponds with Elizabeth of York 1466-1503 the ‘mother’ of Henry VIII is a mystery to me and probably to anyone else with a brain. Sixty years and half a continent is a bit of an error, its not as if we lack portraits of this English queen who united the rival houses of York and Lancaster. So what the …?

Roll the drums Taaaaa da!!!

Headless Bimbo 2
This is the cover for the War of the Roses novel The Stolen Crown by historical author Susan Higginbotham, I must admit I do follow her blog Medieval Woman which is very well arranged and full of a lot of top quality historical information, though I have not read any of her books. Now once more we are not judging the novel. It is the cover. Once more my artistic consultant steps in, her opinion is the cover is from a late eighteenth century painting probably French rococo in style.
What pray tell does this have to do with the character Katherine Woodville the sister in law of Edward IV? Anyone got any descent suggestions apart from blatant stupidity? My partner Jocelyn was particular aghast since she felt this was a very slapdash and lackadaisical way to treat the work of an accomplished author.

Now Taaaaa da!!!

Headless Bimbo 3

Lucky last, At the King’s Command. Oh dear that corseted heaving bosom! Oh I feel faint I think I’d better have a few scotches and have a very cool shower! Well its Tudor I think, because it says its part of the Tudor Rose Trilogy. Apart from that it looks like a thousand other nondescript bodice rippers, which it may well be. However if that’s its market then it is maybe an adequate cover, though pretty shoddy in style and composition.

That about all I can handle of this, now since the Festive season approaches I’ll split this into a three part blog. Part two will be a few days and discuss some better examples of covers and part three will showcase the design process for The Cardinals Angels. Who knows maybe in the New Year we could do Vampire Vikings!!!

Ps you like the Richard III theme? I thought that was particualy apt considering the general headless-ness, after all no gets Lancastrians headless as fast as Richard III. Anyway as you can see in image advertising what could be a more effective example?

As the good doctor says ‘Keep taking the Pills!’


  1. I've always hated those headless bimbo covers, and have discussed this with some of the authors whose book covers maintain this theme. According to these authors, their publishers assure them that this style sells. Anyway, as you've probably gleaned from Susan Higginbotham, the author's rarely have any say in the final cover if they are being published by a medium to large publishing house.

    Unless you are referring to Richard III's role as a soldier, I must digress a tad and comment on your statement that Richard III caused many a Lancastrian head to roll. While he did execute about six people (mostly Woodvilles, BTW) he gained the throne relatively peacefully, having set aside the princes because of a bigamous marriage. He was essentially "elected" into office by the Bishops, peers, and commons.

  2. thank you Joansz for the vote of support against the headless covers for authors. Yes I also got the impression it was a management 'fad'I suspect it is as successful a marketing practice as LGA training programs. Hopefully soon they will tire of it and we'll get better covers.
    As for Richard III I full agree with your position, I am just using his 'modern media profile' to prove a point for covers and effective images. In fact I have a draft of a Tudor period novel that explores where this mythology of the evil tyrant came from and when. Regards and happy yuletide Greg

  3. The advantage of doing a Richard III cover with the top half of the body missing is that you wouldn't then have to make the decision of whether to show a hump or not!

  4. Or waste good gold on a competent executioner!