Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Which Cover Works?

The current cover, circa 2012

I was so pleased with the covers I commissioned for the “Phoebe” trilogy I just finished that I took a look at the rest of my books with a new eye. Back in the old days, six or seven years ago, when ebooks were still pretty new and finding freelancers who had good skill sets for book design was more difficult, I had some covers commissioned that I thought in the end were all right but not wonderful.

This first cover to the left is one of them. I like the image a lot, but I’ve never liked the type treatment. And these days, it’s design best practices to have some kind of tag line on the cover that gives readers a third hint (after the image and the title) of what’s in the book.

Maybe, I thought last week, it was time to redo these old covers.

Betting on Hope is set in Las Vegas. Hope, our heroine, holds her family (sister, mother, niece) together with a lick and a prayer. And then to her shock, she finds out that her father, a professional card player, lost their ranch—the family home and her sister’s livelihood—in a poker game.

Cover 1

Cover 2

A child prodigy poker player herself, Hope had given up the game long ago after too many betrayals by her father. But when the family is given thirty days to move out, she decides to try to win the place back from the east coast Mob boss who won it.

She enlists the professional players from her past to help her brush up her game. They introduce her to the hero and his daughter. The Mob boss brings his moll to Vegas and then the wife shows up. Not to mention, the Russians. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

Cover 3

Cover 4

There’s a lot of poker playing in the book, and a lot of the reviews on Amazon think the story is “about” gambling. When I wrote it, I thought the book was about what family is and means. I read thirteen (count ’em! Thirteen!) books about Texas Hold ’em, the game Hope plays, and by the time I was finished reading those books, I’d decided that people who play poker professionally can benefit from luck, but they must have skill to win consistently, which is what makes professional card players not the same as gamblers, who rely solely on luck, unless they cheat.

Cover 5

But as we learned at McDaniel, the book you write is only half the experience. The reader brings the other half.

I mention all this by way of pointing out that some of these covers are more about card playing, and some of the covers de-emphasize this aspect. But I’m interested in what cover best reveals the story.

I have my favorites. What do you think?


12 thoughts on “Kay: Quiz for Y’all—Which Cover Works?

  1. I like cover #3 but would put the tag line from #2 “one last chance to save the ranch”, my second choice would be #5. #2 has nothing to do with it & #1 looks more like a gambling book, where #5 deemphasizeses it while clearly showing Vegas.

    • I agree with you about putting the ranch tagline on #3– that really ties the tagline and the book content to the image a lot better. And yes, those cacti have nothing to do with it, although I love the colors. 🙂 One of the things about #1 and #5 is that they have the stylized Las Vegas sign, which ties to the original cover a little bit, although that’s probably not important. Thanks for weighing in! I haven’t been objective, and it’s good to see what others think.

    • As I mentioned to Penny, one of the things I like about 1 and 5 is that stylized Las Vegas sign. The setting is really important in this book, so I’d like to get that across. And that blue is so mellow! Thanks for weighing in.

  2. I like the overall look–one dominant cheerful, friendly but not candy-floss color, fun vector images, and informal, contemporary-looking white type. It suggests to me that the story will be modern-day, light-hearted, pacy and fun.

    My strong favorite is #3. That’s the one that says the story is about a person (Hope) having an adventure which involves playing cards. I agree with Penny that the ‘one last chance to save the ranch” tagline matches this cover better. I like the warm orange-red color, and I prefer the type/font. I prefer the tagline in white (easier to read than the black), and I like the cards in a block rather than fanned as a hand. Author name is harder to read on this one.

    My next fave would be 5. Then 1. Not sure what signals 2 is trying to send, not sure what I’d expect from that book. 4 is all about the gambling, and I think it says the betting is about love (and I’d take love to mean romance, not family). I prefer the red/orange and the blue to the purple.

    I like the taglines about love, but in this context they confuse me because I think the covers are signalling adventure, caper, fun, high-jinks and while that could (does!) also include romance I don’t think ‘going all in for love’ or ‘love is the biggest gamble’ is the main point of the story(?). I really like ‘one last chance to save the ranch’–an active, engaging, fun story promise.

    Tl;dr. They’re all cute, but I really like #3.

  3. I agree about the tagline for #3. I asked the designer for three roughs and gave her two taglines, and she wrote a couple more and changed a couple up to get a different take on every cover. But that #3 that has the ranch background has to have the ranch tagline, for sure. As for the story, I always thought–I always say–that I write romance novels, but I’ve had enough agents and editors tell me these books aren’t romance that I think I have to have a somewhat different look without foregoing the romance all together. It sounds like maybe I got there with these covers. I hope that the orange one does suggest that there’s a romance in it, because it certainly does. That would be my main overall concern: that the cover accurately tells the reader what’s inside.

    • I’d say you write books with strong romantic elements–there’s always a great romance in there, which I love–but if a person were to read the opening scene (which makes the story promise for the book, right?), I don’t think they’d say the story is “will Hope find true love?” or “will Hope get her cheating fiance back”‘ or something of that sort. It’s been a while since I read the book, but I think the story question in the opening scene would be something like “will Hope rescue her family and save the ranch?”

      In pursuit of that goal she goes to Vegas to win back the title to the ranch, gets herself into and out of all sorts of madcap adventures, saves the day and also finds the perfect guy.

      I think the orange one offers the possibility of romance. Imo the others depend on the tagline to bring love into the mix.

      Now I want to go and read the book again 😉

      PS–Which cover(s) do you like best, and why?

      • I like elements of all the covers, but I like 3 and 5 the best. I love the color on 3 and I like that there’s a person on it, who even sort of looks like Hope. 🙂 The typeface even looks a bit like rope, which ties in with the ranch idea. But what I’m concerned about on the orange cover is that ranch in the background, because while you’re right that the story question is, will she win the ranch back, all the action takes place in a casino. That’s why I like #5. It has the stylized Las Vegas sign, which absolutely means cards and gambling, and it has that bold slanted type, which is so dynamic.

        I like the others, too. I love the colors in the cactus one, but as Penny says, it really doesn’t have anything to do with anything. And #1 is very similar to #5, but the type face is the same as the Phoebe trilogy, so I think we should stay away from that. Of course we could always change the type, but the boldness of #5 just works already. The purple one has good color contrast and I like that, but the focus is a little too much on the cards.

        The designer, Patricia Simpson, posted these covers on her website and asked for opinions. Most of those folks went for the orange. So right now I’m leaning toward that one. I have a group meeting next week, and I’ll show them there and see what folks think there before I make a final decision. Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. Having read the book, I definitely prefer #3, tagline and all. The ranch is super-important to Hope, but you need to emphasize Vegas, as well. The windmill is a little jarring; I didn’t really envision a windmill in Nevada. And the Holstein couture on Hope throws me a bit. But I love the Hope character — she’s the heart of the story. She and her band of merry men! I love that you have a girl with a confident look on her face, posed to succeed, on the cover.

    The taglines on some of the others are pretty hard to read, even when they are this large.

    (-: I still have to say, I prefer the original over all of them. I even love that font. It does need more cards and a tagline, though.

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