Remember this cover on the left? Not long ago I whined about what a hard time I’d had creating a couple of covers for novellas I’d written. At the time, I didn’t want to hire a designer for work that was unlikely ever to sell well enough to recoup the expense. So I did this one myself. I knew it was weak, and comments validated my opinion. Several of you said it looked like a business or self-help book.
Since then, I’ve had a change of heart about improving my DIY covers. Those stories are all my babies, right? I love them all equally. They all have given me joy and made me sweat tears. So why shouldn’t they all have nice covers?
I’ve hired designers before, many times, for my books and other projects in my day job, but I found this experience to be more interesting than usual. For starters, what sort of image should go on the cover? There’s no reason to put an embracing couple there. In the story, while the couple has corresponded by email for a while, they meet in person only on the last page of the book, and they decide to go for dinner. That’s it.
I helped the designer search for images. I’d thought at first that a cover without a couple would be best, since the story isn’t about a couple. Melody didn’t like the images I found. She asked me to think about the final product and to look for finished covers that conveyed the emotion I wanted to convey, rather than the literal story. Those covers all had couples as the central image. I know from past experience that putting people on the cover of anything is almost always a better choice. But in the case of this story, I thought a photo of a couple—especially an embracing couple—would be inaccurate, and I didn’t want to give readers a false impression of what they’d get. They weren’t getting a couple.
Melody said, what about your other books? How do you identify as a writer?
Well, okay. There’s an interesting question. I identify as a romance writer, even though many of my books aren’t courtship stories, or the courtship plot isn’t the main plot. I can’t sell my books to editors and agents as traditional romances, but I think that the romance element is why I write these books in the first place. I believe in the HEA.
Melody said, think of your author brand. If you identify as a romance author, and the courtship plots are important—if not critical—to your work, you should put a couple on the cover because it solidifies your brand, at least in general terms.
And I agreed with her. This story, Reading Gregory, is—more than usual for a romance—the story of a journey, but at the end, we know these people have found each other. It’s up to the reader to decide if that’s for an evening or a lifetime.
Melody and I were a long way from finished, however. I’m down with the couple now, but I’m hoping to find an image similar to what I’d found on another cover—that of a couple standing in a gazebo, both of them laughing, but not touching. That really worked for me—they’re encircled by the gazebo, clearly together, but not yet embracing.
Did I find such a photo? No. Not even close.
Melody found an image she liked of a couple, but I thought the woman looked too young. I found an image I liked, but we decided the guy looked too giddy. She found an image we could both live with, where the guy might have gray in his hair. I like the dreamy look on this woman’s face: she looks like she might be savoring the moment, or thinking of the future, and I liked that.
Melody and I could have looked forever, and we would not have found an image we both thought was absolutely perfect. There just aren’t that many images of people obviously in their thirties who are engaged with each other in something that isn’t a clinch and isn’t terribly specific. There are oodles of photos of a man and woman in an office setting. And there are oodles of clinch shots. And there are oodles of photos where a man and a woman are doing things that are not in my book at all—moving furniture, petting a dog, drinking champagne.
Maybe that author or her editor had set up a photoshoot to get those two laughing people in her gazebo. It wouldn’t surprise me.
One cover had a sepia tint. I picked the sepia tint because it’s warmer, and the book, while not a comedy, is light-hearted. I thought the sepia would convey that a little better, since nothing else on the cover does.
I love the typeface(s) Melody used for the title. She also matched the typeface for my name to keep the design more cohesive, always a good choice, although I like the font used in the left-hand blue one. What I have is readable, and that’s all that matters.
So that’s this cover. Melody and I did another cover, where my protagonist isn’t even human. Maybe I’ll talk about the challenges of that one next time.