My publisher was deadlocked between two covers. I opened the pictured one first and was thrilled by its overall beauty and thoughtful composition. I’d known they were basing the jacket on the picture I took in 2006 of Freckles, with her nursing newborn lambs, standing beside a giant hay bale eaten into a half moon. Color scheme I could only imagine, and font. The big surprise here was the mountain range at the top—wonderful, as it says, “This is a book not just about shepherding but about place.” Yes. The Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio and their human inhabitants are a big part of the story about my and my family’s life there as we operated a sheep farm for a decade. And I thought the full bleed—an image that goes all the way to the edge, no frame—worked well and was enhanced by the artfully used white space. I polled friends and family and former coworkers, and nine out of 12 favored this cover.
The other jacket was an extreme closeup of Freckles’s face, plus the lamb at the right. Very dramatic. But to me, not as complex—and of course complexity can be risky. Those who voted for it liked the “faces” and the “in your face” quality of it, though to me their reasons seemed rather theoretical. And they didn’t know this author’s marketing strategy, which sometimes seems even to me as convoluted as a barrel of fishhooks.