The first impression readers get of your book is usually visual. That’s the picture that sells your 90,000 words. Over the years, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my 54+ covers. I’ve had drop dead gorgeous art and I’ve had some that made me want to run from store to store pulling plain paper bags over them. The most frustrating is when the cover doesn’t accurately represent the content. I’ve had my robust 6’4 hero show up looking like a 16-year-old who’d have sand kicked in his face at the beach. I’ve had mountains as backdrops for my Michigan settings. I’ve had my slightly-built Apache tracker looking like he could bench press a cement truck. I’ve had wrong places, wrong era, wrong clothing, wrong hair color (which was retouched to glow in the dark neon!) . . . until I’d wonder if the graphic artist ever saw the art fact sheet I’d labored over for hours to send along with pictures of my hero and heroine and settings. The most fun was doing a book signing with an author friend and finding BOTH our covers had the same exact art, only one had the heroine’s hair up and one had it down.
But those times you hit the jackpot make it all worthwhile.
When I sold my “By Moonlight” series to Pocket I was surprised . . . no, stunned . . . to be actively solicited for cover input. Since the first three books were coming out back to back to back, they wanted them all to have the same ‘feel.’ I came up with three different cover progression ideas and the one they ran with . . . WOW! That was my book beautifully captured . . . that was Max! The first thing I did when I visited the Simon & Schuster offices in New York City was visit the art department to say thank you to the rather startled group of behind the scenes artisans.
Going from print to e-book brought some changes to the cover development. Because of the quick turnaround and low overhead, instead of actual art, my new cover went the stock photo art route (without any loss of quality, I might add). The cover needed to be ‘clean’ for the e-book thumbnail pictures rather than the printed cover flats that featured blurb, tag lines and quotes. Instead of a cover conference, I was presented with a choice of three covers that had the same series feel as earlier books.
Second round . . . hmmm. Back to my co-worker panel. “No sex appeal.” “His waist is bigger than his chest!” “That’s what I’ve got at home. I want my fantasy to look larger than real life, not like he’s going to change my oil!” Not promising. Back to the digital drawing board.
Third time was a charm! Yep, that’s Giles. I could imagine the collective sigh of relief from New York, and I gave one of my own that they were willing to go through the process with me of finding a great fit. What do you think? Yummy?
I got a taste of their time-intensive frustration during my next PR effort. Tomorrow I’m talking book trailers and the hunt for that perfect eight pack.