Anatomy of a Book Cover Part II

Readers are often fascinated by the selection of images for a book’s cover. As I discussed with my previous post, Anatomy of a Book Cover, Part I, which discussed the design process for The Eighty-Dollar Champion, with a great cover, it seems like the natural choice, and yet, normally a book’s cover goes through several drafts before the final cover is chosen. The cover design for The Perfect Horse was no exception.

So, what are you going to do to make people understand immediately that this is a book about animals in peril during World War II?

Here is the first draft:

The concept, of a horse behind a strand of barbed wire is already set, but something feels amiss. Perhaps to a casual viewer, this looks like a white horse– possibly a Lipizzan–but to an educated eye, this is clearly the wrong kind of horse. In addition, some people thought that the horse should be more face-front.

So, here is where we went next:

Doesn’t look like a Lipizzan to me!

Now, forgive me, but to me that looks a bit like Misty of Chincoteague goes to war! And of course, I love Misty dearly, but a Lipizzan stallion she is not!

Next try– again, not the right kind of horse. This looks like a white Arabian.

Clearly, the best kind of image to use on the cover would be a picture of one of the real Lipizzaner rescued by the Americans. But to be on a book cover, an image needs to meet a lot of specifications. I had a nice one, but the horse was wearing a bridle. This is a picture of the Lipizzan stallion Favory Slavonia. He was rescued along with the other horses, but sadly, he perished that same summer of a heart attack. Only this beautiful photo survived.

And bingo! With the real photograph to work from, the brilliant art department at Penguin Random House was able to create the beautiful cover for The Perfect Horse.

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  1. Martha Conway

    Dear Elizabeth,

    I am the co-moderator, with Rebecca Rosenberg, of a Goodreads and Facebook Group for American Historical Fiction. The group is not a book club; rather, we invite one historical fiction author per week to host a one-week discussion about their work. Rebecca and I both write American historical novels, and this is our way to highlight a specific historical fiction author and hopefully allow them to find a new audience.

    My novel, The Underground River, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2017 (it takes place in 1838), and was a NY Times Notable Book. Rebecca’s first novel was published this year by Lake Union. I noticed that you have a new novel coming out next February, FINDING DOROTHY, which sounds fascinating. I wonder if you’d be interested in hosting a week around your publication date?

    If you are interested, please do contact me at and I can send you more details. Thank you!

    -Martha Conway

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