For The King: the search for the cover is on!

I am in the process of revising For The King based on the notes of my editor, Julie Doughty. And even though my publication date is ten months away, the team at Dutton is already thinking of the cover design. As I did for the cover of Mistress of the Revolution, I sent in several suggestions and would love to have your input as well.


Cover No. 1

This would be my favorite. It is a detail of a painting representing the storming of the Tuileries Palace on the 10th of August 1792, but I think it could also depict the upheaval following the explosion of the bomb on Rue Nicaise.

For me it evokes images of 9/11. The smoke, the fire, the shock, the destruction. This is an analogy that was very much on my mind while I was writing the novel, and I would like to convey it through my cover.

The concern here seems to be that battle scenes don’t “sell” for historical fiction, and marketing issues are obviously paramount.

Cover No. 2

This is also, I believe, a powerful image. It is a detail of the famous painting Bonaparte crossing the Alps, painted in 1800 by the great artist Jacques-Louis David. Part of the propaganda so effectively used by the new ruler of France.

This particular painting also appears in the novel, as Roch visits one of his friends at David’s studio. However, I wonder whether the epic oomph would not be too much. It might give the mistaken impression that the book is about the Napoleonic wars.

And, as Julie pointed out, the title For The King might look strange superimposed on an image of Bonaparte. Note how I cut off the face. I had no qualms here, because Bonaparte’s features are too well known, and the book is not about him, though he is omnipresent.

In sum, I believe this is an appealing image, but one that could give the potential reader the wrong expectations.

Cover No. 3

This, a detail of a portrait of the painter Isabey by Gerard, has been really growing on me. This is how I picture my protagonist, Roch Miquel, the ambitious young policeman who will lose his illusions in the course of the Rue Nicaise investigation.

I like the almost black-and-white tone, the dark atmosphere, the proud and brooding expression of the model. A title in blood-red script would stand out beautifully against that very neutral background.


Cover No. 4

This is a detail of The Stagecoach, by Boilly, a minor – or not so minor – painter who very adeptly captured scenes of everyday life in Paris at the time. Many of my descriptions in For The King were inspired by his works.

Stagecoaches, then the main means of public transportation, play an important role in my novel. Also, I love the extraordinary level of detail in the painting. Note the chickens, the woman nursing her child, the unpaved street, the emotional farewells between the travelers and those left behind. Paris really comes to life here.

But the problem is that the scene has too much of an everyday tone, too quiet for the upheaval that takes place in the book, both on the political scene and in Roch’s personal life.

Cover No. 5

Again a Boilly, this time a billiards party. Like Cover No. 4, it fits certain scenes of the novel, but has the same drawback: too much a an everyday feel for the what is otherwise taking place in the story.

Cover No. 6

Gerard Madame RecamierAny detail of this beautiful portrait of Madame Recamier by Gerard, the same artist who painted the male portrait in Cover No. 3.

This is how I picture my heroine , lovely, dark-haired Blanche Coudert. I also used a few details of Madame Recamier’s biography as an inspiration for Blanche’s character. I hasten to say that both ladies are quite different in many, many regards.

So how is Madame Recamier similar, or dissimilar to Blanche? I won’t tell. Some blog visitors who are also in the middle of reading the Mistress of the Revolution have been complaining bitterly about spoilers (for instance I revealed in my last post that Gabrielle goes to jail!) so I will try to avoid those in the future.

To go back to this beautiful portrait of Madame Recamier, the problem is that this image is too well known and has been used for 10,000 other book covers.

What is your pick? Any other suggestions?

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51 Comments to “For The King: the search for the cover is on!”

  1. Catherine Delors says:

    Me too, Gabriella! But we’ll have to make do with the lady in a pretty dress:

    http://blog.catherinedelors.com/2009/09/29/for-the-king-the-cover.aspx

  2. Gabriela says:

    Hello Catherine,

    I really love cover 2. Love the horse image.

    ~ Gabriela ~

  3. Hey, that was interesting,

    cover 2 is defo the best

    Thanks for writing about it

  4. Catherine Delors says:

    Ah I wish, Penny, but that would be nice, but probably be too expensive. I only get one choice…

  5. Penny Klein says:

    Acutally, Catherine,
    I am torn between # 1 & 2. I can see why the first would be your favorite but then with that title and the famous #2 also work for me. maybe one for the front and the other for the back????

  6. For the King: another possible book cover

    Blog reader Suzanne Levine suggested Gerard’s beautiful portrait of Madame Regnault de Saint-Angely for the cover of my second novel.So this may boil down to a choice between Madame de Saint-Angely, and the painter Isabey. Both are portraits by Gerard, and very fine works of art.Or my publisher’s designer might come up with a third idea…It will turn on a marketing issue: is the emphasis going to be on the historical thriller aspect, which would call for a male figure, or the romantic themes of the novel? Your opinion, as always, is most welcome. And thanks to Suzanne! …

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  23. For the King: another possible book cover

    Blog reader Suzanne Levine suggested Gerard’s beautiful portrait of Madame Regnault de Saint-Angely for the cover of my second novel.So this may boil down to a choice between Madame de Saint-Angely, and the painter Isabey. Both are portraits by Gerard, and very fine works of art.Or my publisher’s designer might come up with a third idea…It will turn on a marketing issue: is the emphasis going to be on the historical thriller aspect, which would call for a male figure, or the romantic themes of the novel? Your opinion, as always, is most welcome. And thanks to Suzanne! …

  24. For the King: another possible book cover

    Blog reader Suzanne Levine suggested Gerard’s beautiful portrait of Madame Regnault de Saint-Angely for the cover of my second novel.So this may boil down to a choice between Madame de Saint-Angely, and the painter Isabey. Both are portraits by Gerard, and very fine works of art.Or my publisher’s designer might come up with a third idea…It will turn on a marketing issue: is the emphasis going to be on the historical thriller aspect, which would call for a male figure, or the romantic themes of the novel? Your opinion, as always, is most welcome. And thanks to Suzanne! …

  25. For the King: another possible book cover

    Blog reader Suzanne Levine suggested Gerard’s beautiful portrait of Madame Regnault de Saint-Angely for the cover of my second novel.So this may boil down to a choice between Madame de Saint-Angely, and the painter Isabey. Both are portraits by Gerard, and very fine works of art.Or my publisher’s designer might come up with a third idea…It will turn on a marketing issue: is the emphasis going to be on the historical thriller aspect, which would call for a male figure, or the romantic themes of the novel? Your opinion, as always, is most welcome. And thanks to Suzanne! …

  26. For The King book cover: the winner is…

    Hands down, Gerard’s portrait of fellow painter Isabey! Thank you very, very much for your wonderful insights and suggestions. This is what the kind of exchange that makes blogging so much fun.I also tallied the emailed votes of comment-shy readers and my family’s impressions. The trend is consistent. My brother noted that there would be a beautiful continuity and symmetry between this cover and that of Mistress of the Revolution. Each would have a single character, one female, one male, both almost full-length. I will leave the comment track open under the prior post. Feel free to change your mind, …

  27. For The King book cover: the winner is…

    Hands down, Gerard’s portrait of fellow painter Isabey! Thank you very, very much for your wonderful insights and suggestions. This is what the kind of exchange that makes blogging so much fun.I also tallied the emailed votes of comment-shy readers and my family’s impressions. The trend is consistent. My brother noted that there would be a beautiful continuity and symmetry between this cover and that of Mistress of the Revolution. Each would have a single character, one female, one male, both almost full-length. I will leave the comment track open under the prior post. Feel free to change your mind, …

  28. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Thanks, Eva!
    Another vote for #3, then. And if you throw Dostoevsky into the mix…

  29. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    I am amazed by the response. Thank you so very much to all for your participation in this discussion!

    Suzanne – Thanks for the suggestions. Yes, David and Gerard are at the top of my list. I like the woman you suggest, but she looks a bit sleepy for Blanche, who is anything but.

    Amanda – Yes, Lady Hamilton was one of the prettiest women of her time (and what a life she had!) but all of my characters, including the painters, are French, and the action takes place entirely in France, so I would like to stick to French painters, and French models, for this cover. Though one of the portraits of Emma Hamilton you suggest might be a Vigee-Lebrun. Also, we have the same problem with Emma as with Bonaparte and Madame Recamier: her face is simply too well known…

    And Danielle – For The King won’t be released until March 2009! But in the meantime, I hope you keep visiting!

  30. Eva says:

    I like #3 the best, based on your description of the book. If I saw this in a bookstore, I’d be really, really drawn to that guy, and I think he’d be a great mental image to have while reading the book!

    I just read over the comments, and I didn’t think of Jane Austen at all when I saw that painting (and I’m a huge Austen fan!); if anything, I almost felt a little bit of Dostoevsky. Not a lot, mind you, but a tiny bit-probably because of the dark colours.

    It’s so fun how you share the publishing process details. :)

  31. Danielle says:

    I’m just finishing Mistress of the Revolution today. I’ve only taken peeks here also as I didn’t want to learn too much about the book as I was reading. However, now I’ll be a regular visitor! I always thought authors didn’t get a lot of choice when the cover was being designed (which I think would bother me if I was an author). I like cover #3. It’s subtle and not too busy. When is the new book due out? I think I’m just about ready to read it now actually! :)

  32. Suzanne Levin says:

    Oops, I’m afraid the second link doesn’t go directly to the portrait I intended. But if you browse there by artist, it’s the only painting by David. (Oddly, though on that site it claims the subject of the portrait is unknown, I just read elsewhere that it is thought to be a portrait of Thérèse Tallien, though it that is the case, I can’t imagine that David would have taken the commission, so it’s likely that it’s either really an anonymous model, or not really by David. Either way, it’s still an option.)

    I also found this (http://www.artrenewal.org/images/artists/g/Guerin_Pierre_Narcisse/large/biopic.jpg) portrait of Guérin, which might work for a cover, though he’s possibly too nicely dressed.

  33. A couple of suggestions if you’d like a man on the cover but don’t want to use the Isabey portrait: Charles Lamb and Thomas Girtin, both in the NPG:

    http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/portrait.asp?search=ss&sText=charles+lamb&LinkID=mp02600&rNo=1&role=sit#

    http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/portrait.asp?search=ss&sText=thomas+girtin&LinkID=mp01782&rNo=0&role=sit#

    The portrait of Charles Lamb isn’t quite so dark in the flesh. He has a red curtain behind his head to the left, but this might not be a problem as it would counterbalance the red writing for the title.

    Oops, I’m meant to be working :-)

  34. Colonel Brandon’s Diary will only be using a head a shoulders image, so perhaps not too like the image you have in mind for For the King. And as for him being too handsome, I start the book when he’s eighteen, so the cover’s meant to show him as a young man of about twenty-three. I particularly liked it because of the little girl in the original. It looked just right for Brandon with little Eliza.

    http://historicalromanceuk.blogspot.com/2008/03/colonel-brandons-diary-is-out-in-july.html

    Or if you want a picture of your female character on the cover – apparently, books with women on the cover sell well, for example look at Elizabeth Chadwick’s covers and Phillipa Gregory’s covers, so your marketing dept will probably love you for choosing a woman!, then how about a portrait of Lady Hamilton? She’s incredibly beautiful, she’s right for your character because your character is a mistress, and I don’t think I’ve seen these portraits used on books before:

    http://www.batguano.com/VLBLham.jpg

    http://219.88.101.105/emma.gif

    http://images.bridgeman.co.uk/cgi-bin/bridgemanImage.cgi/400.TWC.987070.7055475/67610.JPG

    http://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/images/200/BHC/27/BHC2736.jpg

    http://www.explorepahistory.com/images/ExplorePAHistory-a0a7v2-a_349.jpg

    Good luck with the search. There’s nothing more exciting or more frustrating than finding just the right image!

  35. Rachel says:

    Catherine,
    My vote is for number 3. I love it for all reasons you mention, and a male model will certainly stand out on the shelves from the many females who grace the covers of historicals.
    And may I congratulate you on “Mistress of the Revolution”. My copy arrived on my doorstep in Australia last Thursday, and by Saturday I had devoured it! A compelling story, brilliantly told. I will try to wait patiently for “For the King”!

  36. Suzanne Levin says:

    You can’t win when it comes to associations; it’s possible people might associate the Isabey portrait with Jane Austen, but what cover image could possibly be found that some people wouldn’t associate with something other than the book’s subject? And there are certainly other covers where a given assumption about the book is not only possible but highly probable. (For example, I had the idea to suggest that you might use one of several images of painters’ ateliers, since you mentioned that the art world plays a prominent role in the novel; but of course, anyone looking at such a cover would naturally assume the protagonist to be an artist.)

    I thought as well of a few other options you might consider. If you wanted to have your heroine represented on the cover, but with a less well-known image, either of these (http://cartelen.louvre.fr/cartelen/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=18895 or (http://www.sdmart.org/Image1/Index.html) portraits might work, though naturally it will all depend on how you envision her. And the second one may be a bit too late, though women dressed à l’antique from Thermidor to the Restoration, certainly.

    If it’s Roch you want on the cover, you’ve probably found the best portrait to use already. For whatever reason full length portraits of men are rarer than those of women. This (http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/collection/international/painting/d/ipa00176.html) portrait reminded me of him as you’ve described him, but I doubt that it would make a workable cover.

  37. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Thank you, Charlotte and Suzanne.

    Two more votes for Cover 3! The Jane Austen association pointed out by Sarah bothers me a bit, though, because the theme of For The King is so different from her work.

    It is so odd that I keep unwittingly tracking Margerit’ covers…

  38. Suzanne Levin says:

    It would be a possibly unfortunate coincidence if you were to use the first cover, though I understand your reasoning; it happens to be a detail from the same painting used for the second volume of Margerit’s La Révolution. Now this might not be a problem in itself, except that Mistress of the Revolution, as I’ve mentioned before, has the same cover as the first volume in that series.

    For the rest, I think the portraits of Bonaparte and Mme Récamier are too well known, and both of them, along with the Boilly paintings could give potential readers the wrong idea of what the novel is really about.

    Of these I think the painting of Isabey is the best hands down. I knew it was Isabey, but only because I know a great deal about the art of this period; most people wouldn’t recognize it as such, and thus it could work as an image of your protagonist. Moreover, I agree that red lettering would contrast very nicely with the picture, and better hint at the book’s contents.

    Another possible option might be a drawing or an engraving of the explosion itself (I believe there are a few floating around), although such would necessarily not be very colorful, and might generally not work very well for a book cover…

  39. Charlotte says:

    Catherine,

    My favorite is painting number three that reflects darkness and light and loans a intriguing handsome French face to your “protagonist, Roch Miquel”.

    I enjoyed reading “Mistress of the Revolution” and I’m looking forward to reading “For The King” when it’s released.

  40. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    Sarah – about those chickens, I will leave it up to Dutton
    to wring their necks – nor not. Personally I like them as a kitchen decorative
    motif, but I digress… Digressing still further, I am thinking of that French
    Jewish comedian (a retired policeman) who calls himself Le poulet cacher,
    The kosher chicken/cop.

    OK, let’s be serious for a second. Back to book covers.

    Sheramy – yes, I thought of the Pont d’Arcole, and even used it to
    illustrate my original post on For The King and the topic of Bonaparte’s
    propaganda, but it definitely has a militaristic twist that wouldn’t fit the
    novel. And you don’t even have the pretty horse as in Cover #2. Come on, you
    are the art specialist here, give me another idea!

    Tomorrow I will be going with my Mom to a little family celebration and will
    take a poll there. Results to be announced on this blog…

  41. Sarah says:

    Catherine, that is very funny! I wasn’t aware of the alternate meaning. Maybe it would be worth keeping them in then :)

    I like the level of detail in the existing picture for #4, but with them in the foreground it distracts a bit from the human figures. Not a huge objection, however!

  42. Sheramy says:

    #2 is the most visually striking, but as Julianne points out, subjectwise it’s not the best choice. None of them really grab me, I have to say. You mentioned before that this novel was different from Mistress: to me, having a female character as the focus on the cover would make readers automatically assume it was.

    Have you considered Antoine-Jean Gros’ Napoleon au Pont d’Arcole? Now there’s a dashing image, filled with action, and it’s not the Napoleon people are used to seeing.

  43. CATHERINE DELORS says:

    What a response, and in less than 24 hours!

    Thank you so much to all for your input. I also received votes via email for #3
    and #6.

    Sarah – really, you don’t like the poulets (chickens) in #4? It is very
    funny, because in French slang poulet means cop, and my
    protagonist is, well, a policeman. But I hadn’t made the connection before
    reading your comment… I had not realized either that #3 had a Jane Austen feel (all of her men are so
    thoroughly British.) And I would never have imagined Col. Brandon being that
    handsome. Marianne Dashwood would have ditched Willoughby in a heartbeat!

    To all who read/are reading Mistress, my heartfelt thanks. And no, Blanche is
    not a courtesan. She is a married lady, and Roch’s mistress.

    I promise you updates on this topic, and if you have not commented yet on these
    covers, please feel free to continue doing so under this post.

  44. Sarah says:

    I’m with Julianne; I prefer cover #4 (sans poulets!). It seems evocative of the period and locale and says “historical novel” to me, and all those taken together would be enough to make me pick it up. I also think it would appeal to both male and female readers. Beverly Swerling’s historical novels use urban street scenes on their covers (totally different place/period though) and I think they work really well.

    #1 seems problematic marketing-wise, for the reasons you state, and #2 is instantly recognizable to me even without Bonaparte in the picture; it’s such a well-known image. I like #3, but given your book’s title, would wonder if people would assume the male figure was supposed to BE the king. The portrait is also very much in the style of the covers of modern Jane Austen adaptations, and looking at Amanda Grange’s website (the portrait looked to me like something her novels would use) it appears it may be planned for the cover of her upcoming Colonel Brandon’s Diary. But I still like it a lot and think it would be my second choice.

    #6, it has been used on several very recent historical novels, plus I would also guess that the main character was a courtesan meant “for the king.”

    Best of luck, and I’d be curious to know what the final decision will be!

  45. I like #2, the one with Napoleon’s horse. It suggests drama and adventure, and the attack on Bonaparte.

  46. Daphne says:

    You know, I’m not sure that any of them really appeal to me although I’m not sure what else to suggest.

    by the way, I started reading Mistress of the Revolution last night. I’m really enjoying it so far but I feel so sorry for Gabrielle.

  47. Cinderella says:

    My pick is the last one – beautiful! I also like #3.

    I’m almost done with “Mistress of the Revolution” and delighted to hear you have another book coming out soon!

  48. Catherine,

    You have some great possibilities here! I’d have to say I’m torn between #s 1,3,and 4.

    The mountainous backdrop in #2 throws me because the story takes place in Paris and deals with urban terrorism. #5, as you yourself point out, is too mundane. I don’t feel #6 is appropriate, because it gives the impression that “For the King” will a love story/women’s fiction type book with Blanche’s story dominant. It makes me ask “Is this beautiful woman what is “for the king”?

    It’s hard to get a good feel for #1 because the resolution isn’t very good, but I’d worry over the lack of any human figures in the scene. I like #3 for the same reasons you do, but am also nervous that such a cover might mark the book as “too masculine” and turn away potential female readers (although it might win you some male readers who might not pick up a cover like #6). You have to remember that most readers of HF are women. They might be attracted to the handsome man on the cover (even though he is fully dressed!), but they might also assume the book will be heavy on politics and light on relationships.

    I think, then, that my vote would be for #4. I like that it shows a street scene, capturing the urban setting of the book; the stagecoach foreshadows the terrorist attack; the everyday-ness of the crowd’s activities emphasizes how the attack came out of the blue, affecting the “little people” and disrupting everyday life. Seeing the picture with the title will cause the reader to ask “What, exactly, is ‘for the king’?” and prompt her to read the back cover. My only suggestion would be to cut out the chickens at the bottom of the picture–they make the scene a little too mundane.

    It will be interesting to see what others have to say. And once the final cover is done, I hope you’ll be able to share what your editor had to say about your suggestions.

  49. Cristina says:

    I like no. 3

  50. Sibylle says:

    My favourite is most definitely cover #3, and actually now that I’m thinking about it, it seems the logic continuity to Le Baiser à la Dérobée by Fragonard. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it’s the only cover with a single character on it ? ( except for cover #6, but I’m afraid Madame Récamier makes me think of a courtisane on this painting, not sure why, is Blanche a courtisane ? )
    I’ve just received my copy of Mistress of the Revolution just this morning, I can’t wait to read it !

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