Minnesota Photographer Has It Covered When It Comes To Hit Paperbacks

By Kristin Tillotson
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (Tl;dr) Talk about Women in Entrepreneurship! This profile of Elisabeth Ansley takes a look at how this spunky mother of three created a thriving photography business shooting book covers.


When Elisabeth Ansley says she’s between covers, she doesn’t mean her sheets and duvet.

Ansley shoots cover photographs for mass-market paperback books, often from her home in a newish Plymouth, Minn., housing development, using her three daughters as models. She has shot nearly 500 covers, published in 25 countries, in less than five years. Her latest work, for the thriller “Private Vegas,” co-authored by top-selling James Patterson, came out Jan. 26.

Ansley, 44, has created cover shots for other big names, including Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Mary Higgins Clark, Danielle Steel, David Baldacci and Anna Quindlen. Most have been for European editions. But the new Patterson, a guy so important to major player Hachette Book Group that they have a whole department, including three art directors, devoted just to him, is for the substantially larger American readership, and her biggest score to date.

“He’s the Holy Grail,” said Ansley, a soft-spoken, laid-back presence who can whip up a nuanced cover-shot mood by artfully draping curtains over the lights in her upstairs bathroom. Her basement laundry room contains a wardrobe of elaborately embellished satin gowns culled from vintage-store bins.

Ansley’s success story reads like something from one of the adventure romance novels that make up one category of her business. A self-taught shooter, she wandered into her career after discovering a passion for landscape photography in Australia, where her husband, Christopher, an international tax consultant, was temporarily working.

That led to an online portrait business, and her first book cover, for a self-published Australian author.

Criticism of her portrait work actually led to her surprising profession.

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