My Worst Cover Ever

norway secret lives coverI will say very quickly, before any of my readers totally freak out, this is not a new cover for one of my books. Not even a recent cover. But my last post led to a discussion on book covers and author input, so I thought I’d use this truly scary example as a jumping off point.

This cover was the Norwegian edition of my third (and perhaps my personal favorite) novel, Secret Lives. I hasten to add that Norway has improved greatly in its book covers since then as you can see by the cover for The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, below.  When I saw the Norwegian Secret Lives cover for the first time, the only thing I could figure out was that the art director wanted to give her three-year-old a chance at the big time. I wonder if a single copy of this book sold. 

But back to the real world and 2009. The reality is that authors rarely have norway cee cee covera say in what goes on their covers. Some big name authors do, but even they will often sit back and allow the publisher to make the final determination, because while writers may know what people love to read, they may not know what will draw people to a book’s cover. As with everything else in art, different things draw different people. Publishers sometimes get it right and sometimes they don’t. I have to say that I’ve had some hideously bad covers in the past, but I believe my publisher, Mira Books, has found the “right look” for me in recent years–evocative and thought provoking–and I’m very pleased.

So do I have any input at all? Absolutely. Early in the process, I fill out a form that very briefly summarizes the story, defines the “take-away” message, and describes the characters. Then the various departments–art, editorial and marketing–meet and come up with a cover concept. Once the cover is complete, the publisher seeks feedback on it from the various departments and their main accounts. And me, of course. Aside from tweaking, however, it is very difficult to make changes at this point unless there is something seriously amiss with the cover. As is the case with this early Norwegian cover. I’m glad someone finally kicked the three-year-old out of the art department!

Thank you for the feedback you provided on the new cover for The Lies We Told in my last blog post. It was very positive and lets me know  what appeals to you and what doesn’t. What touches me most, though, is hearing that you’ll read my books no matter what’s on the cover. While I hope my covers won’t disappoint you, it’s the stories themselves that I want you to love and remember.


  1. Margo on October 8, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Ah yes…the Norwegian version, not my favorite cover (lol)
    It’s interesting to read everyone’s comments on what appears on the front of books and if it actually matters.
    As an artist it’s something I’ve always been aware of but the bottom line is the novel itself and Diane, it’s definitely your stories, characters and sense of place that makes me love and cherish your books.
    For me, it’s a good thing I’m drawn to covers…it was your original hardcover KEEPER OF THE LIGHT that grabbed my attention when I saw the book ‘face-out’ 15 years ago on Walden’s bookshelf…I had not heard of you but I bought the book on impulse because of the gorgeous lighthouse on the beach…and your name and the title grabbed me too. Of course that was the beginning of my new favorite author Diane Chamberlain and from there on I bought your new books each year they came out; regardless of the cover.
    This may sound strange to some but I remember every single cover that was on the front of each of your books…like I said, I think it’s an ‘artist’ thing. (-O:

  2. Gina on October 8, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Yikes on that book cover!!

    Thanks for giving us an insight on how book covers are done Diane. That was interesting to know.

  3. Denise on October 8, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Diane, the Norwegian cover for Secret Lives looks more like a sci-fi book cover, sort of like an alien baby. LOL I am sure glad they improved their art department.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on October 8, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Margo, I have that original Keeper cover framed above my computer. I’ve always loved it.

    You’re right, Denise. Maybe the artist had his/her genres confused?

  5. Margo on October 9, 2009 at 8:04 am

    LOL Denise!!
    Diane, maybe I haven’t told you this but many times your books inspire me to paint something new…years ago, after I finished reading KEEPER in about 3 days I began a very large canvas painting of a lighthouse on the beach…the inspiration came from your novel and today it still hangs in our home. The same thing happened after reading CYPRESS POINT and SUMMERS CHILD. I cherish your books and they move me in many, many ways. (-O:

  6. brenda on October 9, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    What insight-it is the STORY we remember…not the covers.Margo is lucky-I did not DISCOVER Diane that early. It was Renee, a teacher friend who taught in another county…she suggested the Keeper book for my online bookclub…I bought every book after that…it was several years ago…but not l5….

  7. Diane Chamberlain on October 9, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    It’s fun for me to hear how people “discover” me. I had a little thrill yesterday. I stopped in a tiny market here in Topsail Beach and the cashier was reading BEFORE THE STORM. She had it on the counter next to her (it’s VERY quiet down here–just the two of us in the store). I asked her if she liked the book and she said “quite a bit,” so then I told who I was. Don’t know what I would have done if she said she didn’t like it!

  8. brenda on October 10, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    That was quite risky. The little paper for which I now only write abuot 3 or 4 columns a year (used to write weekly for STATE newspaper…) emailed me that they had a letter for me. I was apprehensive although all the “fan mail” for the l0 years has been favorable…when the letter came, I was afraid to open it…it was another fan letter-but what if it had not been-no big deal since it is a little column-but risky with a book.
    However, let’s face, what’s not to like about your books?

  9. brenda on October 10, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Just looked at some of my drafts of emails and some on this blog-my new computer takes come getting used to-plus the arthritis is pretty bad right now-difficult to type the keys…you should see when I write on the white boards…the rooms are cold from air conditioning-that should be off-and it is quite painful-Diane-I am sure you know-the pain never goes away…perhaps one of my students will be one to discover a cure for some of the diseases we have…

    • Diane Chamberlain on October 11, 2009 at 11:31 am

      Brenda, I’m sorry you’re having such a time with your hands. I’m very lucky that the RA meds I’m on have almost completely taken away the pain in my hands. My left foot and ankle are another matter, but at least I don’t need them to type! I’m having great joy here at the beach, because my new brace is allowing me to walk on the beach with the dogs. First time I’ve been able to walk on the beach in years.

  10. Margo on October 11, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Brenda and Diane, I’m so sorry you both suffer so much with your RA…Diane, what a thrill for you to be at Topsail in your new home, walking the beach with your doggies…I’m so happy for you…modern miracles, a new brace to help you walk…new meds to help with pain…wonderful.
    Brenda, I wish you could try the meds Diane’s on.

  11. Margo on October 11, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Diane, how exciting to walk into the bookstore at Topsail and see the cashier reading your book!…if I had been the cashier and you told me who you were I think I would have fainted from the shock and excitement!!…I’m sure she asked for your autograph right on the spot…what a lucky lady.
    As for the ‘quiet’ at the beach, for me that’s the best time to be by the sea…solitude and nature at work…some of our best memories are when Gary and I were alone at the ocean of Cannon Beach, Oregon with the mist and the seagulls…nothing quite like it.

  12. brenda on October 11, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I agree with Margo-the se is where I rest…from Maine to Florida and on the west coast.
    Margo-my arthritis is osteoarthritis but with the Fibromyalgia and the Osteoporosis…not good combination…
    I agree with you-I’ll bet that cashier was pleasantly surprised…Diane can be the resident writer of Topsail.

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