The Post Where I Admit It is Possible I am Not a Genius at Everything

by Barb, happily typing this in Boothbay Harbor, Maine

On Monday, I did the cover reveal for the sixth Maine Clambake Mystery, Stowed Away, over on the Wicked Cozy Authors blog.

I’m very happy with the cover, which incorporates many story elements, including the yacht, the sumptuous dinner, and the lobster with an engagement ring in his claw.

In general, I’ve had great covers for the Maine Clambake Mysteries. So far, they have all been done by artist Ben Perini. I describe the way my editor and I work together on the covers here.

One of the criticisms you hear about traditional publishing is, “you don’t control your covers!” And for me that is true. My editor always asks for my input, but the final decision is Kensington’s.

When I managed young engineers, there would always be the meeting where I would have to say to one of them, “Just because you are very, very smart at one thing, does not mean you are smart at everything.” Meaning–maybe your ideas on marketing aren’t so great, (though that would never occur to you) and maybe you should let the people who have actual expertise in that area do the job.

For me, it’s the same with my covers. The two I have liked the least have actually sold the most books.

For example, I was horrified when I saw this cover for Clammed Up. Why was there bread at a Maine clambake? And what is up with that crab?

I was new to writing a Maine series and I didn’t want people to think I had never been to a Maine clambake. But, despite my reservations, this book took off. My agent called it, “The best launch I would have hoped for.”

I loved the next three covers for Boiled Over, Musseled Out, and Fogged Inn. But I was worried when the second book sold less than the first, and the third sold less than the second. But finally, with the fourth book, Fogged Inn, sales bounced back.

Aren’t these covers great? I love the motif of the little lobster boat that appears in all of them.

But then, after making several brilliant suggestions and offering up this Pinterest board, I got the cover for Iced Under. I was so disappointed. To me, it looked like a generic suburban street, no feel of my little Maine town, no harbor. It was the first time they hadn’t implemented any of my suggestions.

I understood why they chose to do the view from the inside looking out. You want the reader of a cozy to feel cozy. And there was a little ice in the background.

But still…

Then, you guessed it, the sales of this fifth book in the series were the strongest, at least initially, since the first.

Proving that, much as it pains me to say it, maybe I don’t know everything, after all.






About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
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12 Responses to The Post Where I Admit It is Possible I am Not a Genius at Everything

  1. You know it was the lighthouse that made people pick up that first one! And that cat must have helped sales of Fogged Inn. I know covers sell books, but what keeps readers coming back, let’s hope, is what’s inside.

  2. Kate Flora says:

    So interesting, Barb. I’ve been using FB and Public Safety Writers a focus groups for my book covers, and it has been very helpful. In particular, getting a reaction for cops about the cover for Led Astray brought about changes to a cover that I really like, when I was very “MEH” about the earlier proposals. Sometimes your publisher is right, especially if they specialize in a particular niche like Kensington. But I miss the lobster boat!


  3. Susie Brownell says:

    Pffft. I’ll buy your books no matter what the cover looks like.

  4. Kay Bennett says:

    I have loved all of the covers!!

  5. Ruth Nixon says:

    All the covers are fine with me It’s seeing the name Barbara Ross that sells the book for me. I love Maine authors and not just cozy Maine authors.

  6. Mollie Bryan says:

    I feel the same way about my covers. And it’s true that the cover I liked the least probably sold more books than any of them. Someone asked me in an interview whether I get my readers involved in the decision. Of course I don’t have a choice about that. But I can imagine the differing opinions…which would just confuse me. 😉

  7. Karla says:

    Hi Barb,
    Is there any protocol about responding to an older blog entry? I was interested in what you wrote here.

    I’ve used your book covers in my basic design class as examples of a strong, unified visual series. Because I sometimes design book covers, I appreciate the care you take to understand them with objective analysis of their effectiveness. ‘Slapping a cover’ together isn’t as easy as it sounds (can you hear me shudder?), template or not. Thanks for bringing the profession to light.

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