Monday, December 10, 2012

8 Days to New Release Day: Judging a Book by Its Cover

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. 

At first glance, I thought Woo Hoo! Then I looked closer. I took them to my co-workers to see if they saw the same thing I did. “Hey, I recognize that belly button!” was the first response. The covers were beautiful but . . . the cover model was the same one who was on SEEKER OF SHADOWS, my previous book . . . and he wasn’t the same hero in BETRAYED BY SHADOWS. Big problem became no problem since the changes could be made digitally. I picked the bayou background because it fit the storyline best and the hunt was on for a new model. 

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.


  1. Great blog! What fun to get the "inside" info about how covers are chosen while I wait for the release of Betrayed by Shadows. Thanks for writing the fascinating books beneath those covers! Keep 'em coming!

  2. ^^ so interesting, it's hard for the reader to imagien all the work behind the cover but i admit the final result seems perfect for me!

  3. I know this story from both ends! I can't understand an artist NOT reading the art sheet. I always do. Things are so much easier when you do. The final cover is wonderful!

  4. What what an interesting tale. I have been so fortunate to have great covers for my books by the amazing Patrish (above). I love the covers of your Moonlight and Shadows series. I like when I can't see all the guy's face. More mystery. Since I only read digital versions now the cover doesn't really matter that much--I just use my imagination, like I always do. :)

  5. I liked all the covers so glad i didn't have to pick the one!!!

  6. The covers are the first thing I notice about a book. It's what makes me want to read the blurb and hopefully the blurb. I'm sure as an author it means a lot to have some input in your covers :)