Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Cover Story

   Whoever said not to judge a book by its cover, obviously never tried to interest anyone in a book.
   The cover is the first contact a potential reader has so it's in the authors' best interest to employ something eye-catching, alluring, an image that will keep the person from seeing anything else but their book.
   For my latest novel, My Two Flags, I wanted a simple, yet telling canvas to start. After several weeks of examining designs, I looked down at one of the surviving notebooks from my high school years where I wrote Flags in its earliest form. It felt apt. The simple spiral bound notebook's pages were filled with my handwriting, dating back to when I first made it a goal to write a novel. Canvas problem solved.
   Next came the quest for images. 
   The idea of the American and Ecuadorian flags together was a no brainer, but I didn't want them to become the cover for fear of suggesting a political theme. I wanted them to subtly iconize the title (yes, I might've made up  the word "iconize" but there it is.)
   The boy on the picture, the idea of Antonio Amaya on the Polaroid, is actually my twelve year old nephew Danny, who was a good sport about posing for the camera. 
   Why Polaroids? I was ten years old when my uncle visited Ecuador. The first time I witnessed the innovation of the instant camera, I thought I was living in the future. It made me wonder what else the US was capable of.
   The other two images embody each of Antonio's nations. La Virgen del Panecillo is the only winged representation of Saint Mary and to most Quiteños,she is our own icon of freedom. 
   And as for Lady Liberty? Other than the bald eagle and the Star Spangled Banner, no other icon in existence screams United States of America like the Statue of Liberty.
   What does this all mean? I honestly don't know, but when I look at the cover of My Two Flags, I see a timeline in the Polaroids. Above, the past: Ecuador. Below, the future: America. And in the middle, the present, where a young boy struggles to understand where he belongs as he stares at his two flags, as though he's thinking in his mind: I pledge allegiance...
   Someone even mentioned conflict.
   "What do you mean?" I was perplexed as I stared at the cover.
   "See how the US flag is next to La Virgen and the Ecuadorian flag is next to the Statue of Liberty? Conflict!" my friend said.
   At first, I thought of rearranging the Polaroids, but I liked what he got out of it, and maybe that's what it's really about.
   Perhaps every book cover should tell its own story. It should invite closer scrutiny and evoke more than mere curiosity. It should speak in its own way.
   I won't speak for everyone else, and I must take into account that as the author, I'm as close to the story as anyone will ever get. 
   In fact, I have very little concept of graphic design and as an advertiser I'd probably starve, but the first time I looked at the finished cover of Flags, I couldn't say a word.
   It spoke to me and evoked emotions that went beyond the elation of finishing my novel. 
   Despite the fact that I'm intimately familiar with My Two Flags, the cover captivated me. I can only hope it speaks to readers as well.

   Javier A. Robayo


  1. Almost like Charles Dickinson's, "A Tale of Two Cities." I believe the cover lets the readers know exactly what they are in for. Well done.