Did you see the cover art for my novel, FREEDOM FOR ME: A CHINESE YANKEE? It was revealed by 5050 Press during a virtual cover reveal party on June 9th. My publisher revealed all the covers of its fall and winter releases at 12 p.m. on Twitter and Facebook. At exactly noon, I was at the office for my day job and in the middle of a meeting with two of my colleagues. Thankfully, I work for a supportive team and I was able to watch the Twitter party live with friends as we discussed other topics. Being able to share the special moment with them was especially gratifying as one of them is an author herself.
The flurry of tweets started right on time. They came one right after another, each heralding another big reveal and another beautiful cover. I had gotten a sneak peek the night before so none of the covers surprised me, but still it was thrilling to see them debut in the Twitterverse. When it came time for FREEDOM FOR ME’s cover debut, I could only smile and take a deep breath. There it is, I thought. This is real.
Now that the cover is out there, I can confess to having some major anxiety about my cover art. I worried there wouldn’t be images that could help bring my novel to life like there would be for other books. Oftentimes a book cover uses a stock photo of a person or place to illustrate the story. For fun, I recently made book covers for my two works-in-progress. I found suitable images online, did some adjustments to color and presentation, and popped in my titles. They don’t look professionally designed, but it proved my point that a book with a less specific main character can be fairly simple to illustrate.
Finding a picture of a Chinese Yankee as a stock photo is an impossible task. One of the key selling points of my novel—and the reason I wrote it—is because the majority of the world still doesn’t know that there were Chinese Yankees or Rebels who served in the American Civil War. Corporal Joseph Pierce, on whom my story is based, is the most well-known of them and only one image of him in his uniform has survived.
So, what was my publisher going to find to use for my cover? I had no answer and was pleasantly surprised that they found an image that could have worked. They put the image on top of two backgrounds, the one of the flag, which ended up on the final cover, and another comprised of picture frames of other Civil War soldiers. I liked both presentations, but I’m a sucker for the red, white, and blue so the choice of background was a no-brainer. But the image itself didn’t strike home to me.
Ultimately what I wanted for the cover of my novel was an authentic image of a Chinese Civil War soldier. I wanted the character depicted to be Chinese and to be in the exact right uniform. After some wonderful back-and-forth with my publisher, we decided to use the actual image of Joseph Pierce. By using the real-life Chinese Yankee on the cover, I could rest assured that all the wonderful Civil War enthusiasts out there would be pleased by its presentation and that any readers could rest assured that a Chinese Yankee really did exist and that his life formed the basis for my novel.