Naked Ambition: Evolution of a Book Cover

I sat down with Brad Latham, a fabulous designer and my creative director at Leader’s Edge magazine, to generate ideas for the cover of my thriller, Naked Ambition. We shifted gears several times before we came up with the final two covers: one for thumbnail images on the Internet and the eBook; and the other for the print version of the novel. Note how the type treatment evolved and the NAKED brand was launched after several attempts.

This was the original concept, which reflects the exotic locales in the novel, but the tramp stamp was too large. I love the concept though.

I loved this cover. We finally got the tramp stamp right. It also tells so much about the story. But when I showed it to several book cover designers and marketers at an Austin publishing conference, they thought it was for a romance novel. Oops! I was bummed but learned an important lesson about thriller novel covers. Readers expect them to be more dark and moody.

So we went in another direction and came up with this, using the same female image. But it has too much emphasis on nudity and not enough on the thriller itself. And it wasn’t dark enough. However, Brad created this great type treatment with the Capitol Dome.

So we went darker. But realized that didn’t work either. It almost feels like porn. So now we’ve gone from romance to porn. We need a thriller cover!

I consulted a number of cover designers and people I respect in publishing and we finally decided to simplify the cover with just the White House image. This allowed us to drop the word “political” from the deck. We still needed more, so we experimented with the nude female silhouette. We determined this one just wasn’t large enough. It get’s lost in any thumbnail image on the Internet.

So we tried this. I really like this one too, but again, the female image does not stand out enough.

Finally we came up with this concept. I chose this for the thumbnail cover on the Internet because the black silhouette stands out as a small image.

And this one became the print cover image since it has plenty of size to stand out without overpowering everything else.

Read the first 5 chapters of Naked Ambition here!


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Rick Pullen is an award-winning investigative reporter and magazine editor. He starting writing fiction in 2011. Naked Ambition is the first in his “Naked City Series” of thrillers.

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