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?

 

Nancy: Two Scandals Cover Reveal!

Coming this May…the next installment in the Harrow’s Finest Five series! In TwoScandals Are Better than One, our couple–Lucinda (Luci) and Edward)–face no seemingly unsurmountable external obstacles (other than needing to rescue her father from kidnappers) to being a couple. Instead, we join them on their journey as they fall in love, and they:

  • Overcome their internal misbeliefs to each become a fully realized person
  • Learn their previously-believed weaknesses are actually strengths
  • Discover the games her brothers played with Luci as a child were really lessons in fighting and survival (and sharpshooting)

And now for the really fun part: the cover reveal! And the back cover copy/blurb to go with it.

A gentleman on an illicit lark

Edward, the upstanding Viscount Meriden, is desperate for one reckless adventure. After years of holding his crumbling family together, he finally indulges in one night of abandon at a debauched house party, where he meets a masked mystery woman. He longs to uncover all her secrets. But when he realizes she’s an old friend on a dangerous mission, he insists on becoming her protector. 

A lady on a dangerous quest 

Miss Lucinda Wagner is the only woman in a family of men rumored to be spies. When her father goes missing, she infiltrates a treacherous world to find him. No one suspects her double life until her childhood friend Edward discovers her secret. Now “Steady Eddie” insists upon watching over her. To gain his silence, she allows him to join her search. 

A journey into the belly of the beast

As Luci and Edward delve deeper into the criminal underworld, their lives turn upside down. Danger lurks around every corner. Threats assail them from all sides. The only safe harbor in the city is in each other’s arms. Until the sparks between them threaten to ignite their long-denied passion.

Next week, I’ll have some more news about the series including a special sale, and when, where, and how to get Two Scandals Are Better than One!

Justine: (Is It?) All About the Book Cover, part III – The Reveal!

book cover reveal To Protect.png

The big reveal!

Wow, nearly a month has passed since I posted about my desire to redesign the book cover for my first-in-the-series historical romance, His Lady to Protect. You can view a recap of what I didn’t like about the previous cover (and examples of what I was looking for) here, and a first take at the redesign here.

But this post is about how, with the amazing talents of my designer, Mariah Sinclair, I have a book cover that SPARKS JOY! Continue reading

Justine: (Is It?) All About the Book Cover, part II

His Lady Protect Sml-1

My original book cover.

Two weeks ago, I announced that I was redoing the book cover for the first book in my series because it did not “spark joy.” (Thank you, Marie Kondo!)

Well, my new designer, who will still remain nameless (until we have the final cover completed), has given me a first draft, if you will, and I’m already in love.

Before she began any work, she asked me a bunch of questions about what I’m looking for, including:

  • Genre
  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Author name/co-author (if any)
  • Blurb/summary/back cover copy
  • Release date
  • Links to covers I like
  • Things I know I don’t like
  • Is the book part of a series?

Because we were changing up an existing cover, my designer wanted more information about what I didn’t like. So I sent her this: Continue reading

Justine: (Is It?) All About the Book Cover

Recently, Nancy debuted her cover for the first novel-length book in her series, and Kay posted about the redesign she recently did for a previously published book. I find myself in slightly different territory…I don’t have a book published (although it’s coming later this year), yet I’m already redesigning the cover. Why, you may ask?

Marie Kondo. That’s why.

My cover does not “spark joy.” Don’t get me wrong…it’s a pretty good cover. But as time goes by, and the more I look at other covers in my genre, the more I think Continue reading

Kay: Anatomy of a Cover, Redux

Not long ago, I decided I wanted to get a new cover for my book Betting on Hope. I discussed in this blog post that I wanted to have a print cover made, and I thought it was time to refresh the old cover, which had been designed in 2011. The cover on the left is what I had.

I hired a designer from the Fivrr site and paid the artist $42 to do a new cover. She did a good job with what I gave her, but I picked the wrong image and decided I wouldn’t switch. The cover below is what she gave me.

A few of our blog readers thought I should use the original image and just go with a new type treatment to spruce up the cover look. I didn’t have the image or the InDesign or PhotoShop file from the original designer, which is customary in the design world, and I couldn’t find the original image on the site from which it had been purchased. In a miracle of skill and organization, Michaeline and Jilly tracked down the image for me.

And then heartbreak ensued, because while the image was found, it cannot be purchased from that location. The site says that “most” of its images were migrated to two other sites for sale, but neither of them has it and won’t be acquiring it.

So with that possibility gone, I went back to the drawing board and purchased the photograph on the left, which I thought sufficiently conveyed the mood of my book.

Then I hired the same artist on Fivrr who’d designed the purple cover. I asked her to crop out the woman in the red top and to make sure that the man driving the convertible is also cropped out. The cover below is what she came up with.

Note that she used the first purple cover as a template for this cover. I’m not disappointed, exactly—for $25, I’d do exactly the same thing. But I would have liked to have seen a different look.

However, I like a lot of things  about this cover. I picked a better photo this time: The color palette is right and there’s some juice in the image. The artist did a good job cropping out the people I didn’t need and screening back the less important visual elements. What’s important in the image is central on the cover, leaving a lot of breathing space for the type. I like the type treatment, and she does a reasonable job incorporating the cards on the left in such a way that they can be seen without overwhelming the space.

What is not as good, in my opinion: In a perfect world, the image would have had a couple front and center, rather than a prominent woman and the hand and a small bit of the head of a guy sticking out. Still, I think readers can tell there’s two people there and they might assume they’re a couple. What are imaginations for, otherwise?

In addition, I had the designer make my name bigger than it was on the purple cover, and it could be bigger still. The kerning on “Betting” is poor, making the word just a teensy bit hard to read. The photo on the cover is less vibrant than the original, because of the screening. The woman looks like she’s sitting on the ace of hearts, which is a little weird.

And I’m worried about the prominence of the “Las Vegas” sign. The location is important to the story, but the Las Vegas location isn’t the story. However, I looked at a million photos, and I didn’t see any others that I thought would be better. (But I thought that purple one was a good choice, so what do I know.)

I might ask a second designer for a treatment with this photo to see what I get, and then maybe run a survey on PickFu to see what “wins” with romance readers. But if I don’t get around to that, I think I’ll just go with this cover.

So what did I learn from this experience?

First and foremost: Buy your cover image yourself and send it to the designer, rather than have them suggest image banks at which they have a discount. It’s almost unbelievable that images would eventually become unavailable, but it does happen. If you own it, you can use it forever.

The next thing is about me and not cover design: I’m not that fussy about my covers. In part that’s because I’m not convinced that a cover sells the book. I think you need a professional-looking cover to get readers to pick it up, but after that, the back cover copy and the first page (or maybe a previous exposure to your work) do the selling. I just bought a paperback by a very well-known historical author, and the cover, in my opinion, is no better than meh and maybe not that good. But the book is selling gangbusters.

For me, if a cover ticks the boxes, that’s enough. Does it get the job done? That is, does it tell the reader what the genre is? Does it convey the right mood, and does the image reflect the content? Is the type clear and large? If so, I’m fine with it. I want to spend my time doing what’s fun for me—writing, not production and marketing. And budget is always a consideration: I want to spend some money this year on ads and I don’t want to blow my entire budget on covers.

What about you? And what do you think about this cover?

 

 

Nancy: Another Day, Another Cover

 

Victorian Reader Drawn


This is the placeholder ‘cover’ I’ve had on my website for Too Clever by Half. This week, I can upload the real one!

I’ve been away from home and offline for the past several days, so I just caught up on the cover craze that took over 8LW this past week. That’s very fortuitous, as I now have a cover of my very own to share!

I wish I could say I had the designing chops (and confidence) of Justine, the whimsical eye of Michaeline, or the cover-judging savvy of Kay. Let’s just say I’m not one of those people who judges or buys a book by its cover. I had high hopes that I’d be able to have a quick conversation with a designer, turn the task over to her, and do a happy dance when the best cover I could ever imagine appeared in my inbox. (I can’t help that I sometimes live in fantasy land. Hazard of the fiction writing profession.)

So, when no cover fairies appeared to do my bidding for me, I began my long, arduous journey toward a cover for my soon-to-be-released (!) novella myself. I allocated a mid-level budget for the project, narrowed down the list of well-established and recommended romance cover designers in that price range, and finally chose The One. It didn’t work out. So I spent more months researching, returning to my original down-selected list, and contacting designers for scheduling information. I chose the second One. That almost crashed and burned as well. But the second time, I at least got a proof copy to consider.

The first thing I noticed about the proof copy was color. So much color. You might recall I was traveling in September, which is when the color bomb hit my inbox. I opened the email attachment in the middle of the night Copenhagen time, gasped, blinked hard, said something like ‘dear lord, that’s pink’ (possibly with a few expletives thrown in), and went back to bed for a nearly sleepless night.

Nevertheless, I persisted. From the ashes, and through some teeth-clenching emails and what felt like never-ending negotiations, a cover that started out as unworkable gradually became something usable, maybe even pretty. I’ll let you be the judge: Continue reading