The El Rey Club, Searchlight, NV

The El Rey Club, Searchlight, NV
The El Rey Resort & Casino, Circa 1957-1962

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cover Story, Part Two: Sex Sells!

By the time I got to the stage where I was gathering files for publishing I needed a graphic designer to really make the cover art work.  I certainly could have used the templates or paid for someone at CreateSpace to do this for me, but I wanted to get someone I knew and trusted especially if I ended up paying for the work.  I also had a couple of other ideas for the cover and I wanted to give Greg Barrington as much to work with as possible knowing he could not only get the job done, but knowing he could come up with several great ideas based upon a theme.

I sent Greg my badly hacked cover idea and photo and we both agreed it would be better suited for the back cover.  For the front there were some elements I wanted to incorporate.

First off, I had always envisioned seeing The King of Casinos in big bold letters, juxtaposed with the photo that first got me interested in the El Rey Club.  That photo was of a run down shack and taken in 1946.  I loved the intrigue it could create in the mind of a potential reader and thought seeing such a bold proclamation of grandeur along with the very humble (if not downright meager) image of the place as it looked in 1946 could be enough to get a person to want to see more.

The photo that started it all.
One of only a handful of previously published images within my book.

Next I wanted to have some kind of warning label on the front cover.  This was not to make the book look sleazy or like a pulp novel (although I liked that visual), but because I needed to hedge my bets a bit with regard to stopping the potential customer in his tracks and encouraging him or her to actually pick up the book and leaf through it, maybe even buy it.  So on the warning label would be things that not only titillate but all help sell a product, particularly a book about Vegas.  In short I was hoping to pander a little bit (Yes, I see the humor in a book about a one-time brothel and my use of the word "pandering".)  I envisioned a warning that read, "WARNING!  This book contains...Nudity!  Celebrities!  Prostitution!   Adultery!  Gambling! and...Mobsters???"  After all, all of these elements are in there to one degree or another and any one of those things could get someone to leaf through the book.  I knew that the prostitutes were among the things most everyone found fascinating about the story (It's what got me involved) and I knew that books about Vegas always sell better if A) mobsters are in there somewhere and B) if a showgirl was on the cover.  This brings me to my last elemnt I wanted to use.

I had some fabulous photos of dancers, showgirls, and other performers inside the El Rey Club.  I wanted to get a showgirl on the cover somewhere.  I just wasn't certain how it would work out knowing I also wanted the casino in there somewhere.  So far as I was concerned, that wasn't my problem.  I don't ask a graphic designer to spin plates and he wouldn't ask me to design a killer book cover.  Let him figure it out!

Photo courtesy Nevada State Museum
[J. Florian Mitchell Collection]
©Andy Martello and Just A Martello Books
All Rights Reserved

What Greg came up with were two rough, but excellent cover ideas.  The first (pictured here) utilized one of my favorite photos of a dancing girl inside the El Rey Club, was certainly eye-catching and  capable of stopping a person walking by an airport book store, and it had the warning label.

What this cover didn't have was any real indication that the setting was the El Rey Club. This could be the inside of any night club anywhere in the world.  It also was a bit too in-your-face and it had too much of a tabloid feeling to it.  This cover suggested more of a smarmy tell-all of some seedy underbelly of Vegas life, and anyone who bought this book would expect something different than what was inside.  You also couldn't read the warning label very well, but again, this was all just a rough concept to get the creative juices flowing.

A great idea, but not quite hitting the mark.  What followed was also not quite what I wanted.  Where this cover was too far on one end of the scale, the following cover was on the opposite end,  Stay tuned to see cover concept #3.

There's still time to make a donation and help finish this project.  $20 gets you a signed copy of The King of Casinos.  However the opportunity to get your name in the special thanks is running out.  head to today to help make this book a reality!

The research & collecting of photos and memorabilia from the El Rey Club never stops! Please contact me at 702-465-5604 or email me at if you have stories or memorabilia to share.

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