Thursday, July 24, 2014

Inside Cover Design with Love Inspired Art Director Tania Pery!

What does an average day look like for an Art Director at Harlequin, and more specifically a Love Inspired Art Director? Well, the great thing is, there isn’t an average day-and that’s what I love about it!

I do, however, have a few core elements woven into my day-to-day responsibilities. These are meetings, research, creative, approvals, managing suppliers such as photographers, illustrators and retouchers, and deadlines.

Hey wait! Maybe you want to hear more about my background; how I got into design, where I studied, how long I’ve been working in the industry…. Nah, on second thought, I’ll spare you and skip ahead to the glamorous part.  

Creating The Cover (the creative)

Perhaps it’s just my nature, but I think most everything is better explained with visual accompaniment. So, I will use a cover I art directed, His Montana Sweetheart by Ruth Logan, to illustrate each step in the creative process.

Laying the groundwork.

Meeting with the vision team for the creative brief is the first step. This team includes dedicated editors, a savvy marketer, and me, a passionate Art Director (AD). 

The editor prepares an art fact sheet (AFS) for each story and leads us through character descriptions, key themes and hooks and ultimately how they are individually unique.  Collaboratively, we determine the most relevant and saleable direction for the cover art; which elements will work best visually to tell the story and capture the audience. For example, do we depict a scene of a family in a small-town, a cowboy hero, an adorable set of twins…?  Our authors also do an incredibly fabulous job outlining some pivotal scenes in the book that we draw a wealth of inspiration from.

Here is an example of one page of an AFS (typically 4-5 pages in total) with a few key points I highlighted during the brief.

After the briefing, it’s cover concept time!

Research & Creating Concepts.

I’m off to create concepts and develop the look and feel for each of the book covers. My process starts with image research. I’m very excited at this point because it’s one of my favorite aspects about my job. I can spend hours, days, weeks on this without even noticing the time pass.  I scour magazines, the online world, stock photo sites, my environment… You name it and I’m there, on the hunt for poses, styling, scenery, lighting, mood and anything that inspires me. 

Once my time-management skills get the better of me and I’m able to convince myself to move on, I create a rough sketch/concept on the computer and attach my inspiration and reference images. It looks like this:

Now it’s time to get approvals and make sure the vision team is on board with the direction. Once I get the go ahead, I’m off to create the final cover art.

Working with Suppliers.

Creating the final cover art for a Love Inspired book works a bit differently from our other product lines. I commission the art out directly to amazingly talented photo illustrators who are also accomplished photographers. Some are based here in Toronto and others are in and around the New York area.

We discuss in detail the concept brief including content, styling, wardrobe, casting models, mood and any other important details that need to come across in the cover art.

Speaking of wardrobe and styling, I often get lots of questions on this and so, here’s the quick lowdown. We have a wardrobe stylist for each cover. He/She rents items outlined in the creative brief in sizes specific to the models cast for the role. They pull everything from clothing, shoes, socks, hair clips, blankets, jewelry and the list goes on. This is awesome as it ensures we have the most current and up to date styles reflected on our covers. Besides a couple dated wedding dresses (I’m talking like from 1995 era-ish), a wig and some jewelry here and there, we sadly don’t keep a wardrobe room in the Harlequin headquarters. I think if we did, it would take up the whole 6 floors of our Toronto office!

Back to creating the final art.

I use the direct to artist approach because of the more heavily photo-illustrated art style of Love Inspired covers. To achieve a believable scene where the people are integrated seamlessly into the background, all the elements must work together, most importantly lighting and perspective. The illustrator will first create the background in order to nail down these elements, then shoot the models accordingly, and finally add them into the scene.  The background is often a compilation of several purchased stock images and/or images they have personally shot which is how we are able to get such diverse covers each and every month.

We work very closely together throughout the entire process, which typically takes about 3 to 4 weeks. They send me sketches of their work in progress for feedback to ensure the art is taking the right path. I like to say this is where they work their magic and bring the vision to life. I am so often blown away by the great detail, care and beauty of the final product. Truly amazing, amazing work.

This series of images shows the process in a nutshell. First, choosing a pose from the photo shoot (one shoot captures on average 500-600 frames!). Next, selecting stock images for the background and lastly illustrating the final cover:

Once the final art is complete and approved, I lay out the full cover (front, back and spine). It is then passed to the production department who readies the files for print. Here is what a final cover file looks like.

Credits: Artwork by Blake Morrow ,Twitter & Instagram @shootblake

I hope you enjoyed this quick glimpse into the making of a Love Inspired cover. His Montana Sweetheart is available now!!!! So be sure to pick up your copy in-store or online!

Ruthy here!!! I love this inside look at how our covers come together, and honestly, I wouldn't have believed that it was possible to make such lifelike covers by bleeding technological wonders together! I'm crazy impressed!!!!!

Hey, I had Tim Horton's bring breakfast along and the staff at Tim Horton's is building coffees and latte's for you, too! Leave a comment and I'm going to toss your name into the NEWEST cat dish for a chance to win copies of His Montana Sweetheart or (if you've already gotten His Montana Sweetheart, thank you!!!!) I'll send out some copies of Carolyne Aarsen's "Her Montana Twins" the next book in our Big Sky Centennial series!


And here's a great shot (via debut Love Inspired Suspense author Mary Curry!!!!) of the elevator wrap they have in San Antonio right now!!!!!



  1. What an interesting post. I think Love Inspired has some great covers and Ruthy's is beautiful. Please throw my name in for the free book!

  2. Your book arrived yesterday, Ruthy. Thanks!

    Tania, does your team also do the covers for Heartsong Presents? (I love mine.)

    Since coffee's taken care of, I'm setting up the tea urn.

  3. Thanks, Ruthy for having a Timmie's breakfast!!! And what a cool post. I love it, and your novel. It will be more thrilling as I think of how the cover was made. Please put my name in the dish.

  4. TANIA, Thanks for sharing your process developing covers. LI books stand out on the shelf. Such talent and it really shows!

    RUTHY, I love me some Timmy's! When we lived in Fairport, late at night DH and I traveled to Timmy's in Victor to have a hot chocolate and doughnut special. When we entertained guests from Australia we took them along the first two days after they arrived. On the third day, they finally ASKED us if we were going! They got such a kick out of the doughnut selection. I think we took them every night during their visit. It was a nice way to close out the day, chatting over Timmy's baked goods.

    Of course, you know I have your latest book! Congrats! And I love seeing you on the elevator at RWA! How cool is that? Did you know that was going to happen?

  5. Interesting! Thank you for visiting Seekerville for this informative post! And thanks for the Tim Horton's Ruthy! It doesn't exist inn the South yet...:)

  6. Loves to Read, darling, you're in!!!

    Helen, that's so weird that it just got there! I mailed it 9 days ago.... I wonder where it's been??? If only mail packages could talk and tell us their story... :)

  7. You're in, Marianne!!!! And the layering processing, taking static parts of this and that... it's really like quilting. Piecing things together to make something beautiful!!!

  8. Lyndee! I love Tim Horton's and I'm so glad we have them up here.... I can just picture you doing that, and now there's a Tim Horton's between Fairport and East Rochester that we frequent when we go visit family in Fairport... I'm a mocha latte girl, with whipped cream, of course!!!

    And no, I didn't know about the elevator wrap, so when Mary Connealy sent me a phone pic I was ecstatic!!!! HAPPY DANCING!!!!! Then Mary Curry sent me a better image straight from her iPad last night... WAIT!!! I'll go insert it!!!! :)

  9. Piper, my Golden Heart finaling friend!!!!!

    We are not going to talk about how I tried (and failed!) to "buy" a Golden Heart back in the day... 5 entries, Piper.... FIVE...


    Talk about a total smackdown.

    But yes, back to this cool cover process, isn't that intriguing to see how it's done? And even the slight variations of choosing Livvie's expression (and they nailed it, that's exactly the kind of look Livvie offers Jack on a regular basis...)

    And picking the angle of body, the horses.... I love that the models have to pretend they're riding, but that's way cheaper than renting horses, LOL! Great job.

  10. hey ruthy
    can someone "borrow" that elevator wrap for you? just wondering... considering the particular images have a limited shelf life (no pun intended).

    loving this post. all the graphics stuff is in my wheelhouse of skills and "expertise". i know exactly what Tania is talking about and I'm thinking "hey... I KNOW I can do that!"

    probably the ONLY part of getting a book completed where I've the utmost confidence...*sigh*

  11. Oh -- what a fantastic post!!!! This is something I've always wondered about! What a great job to have...all the endless possibilities. Thanks for enlightening us Tania and Ruthy! And how cool that the covers are done in Canada!

    That elevator wrap is awesome!

  12. Tania, thanks so much for coming by today! Love Inspired has some of the best covers in the business, and I've loved all of mine. It was fun to see how you and your talented artists put them together for us :)

  13. Deb H, this is your line of expertise, but kid... for being straight out of the gate on "Killer Voices" I'm over the top impressed by your success!!! GO YOU!!!

    Love it!

  14. Kav!!!! You are home to our biz, and so much good stuff comes from my neighbors across the Lake Ontario pond that we've got nothin' but love for ya'!!!! :)

    Isn't it amazing?????? #love !!!

  15. Such lovely comments, thanks everyone.

    (I'm on set right now where we have built a sandy beach, models are in hair and make up, and we are moments away from's an exciting day here!)

    Our art team is made up of 6 art directors and two designers. We do all the covers for our series product in-house, including Heartsong.

    We are a busy bunch, but so rewarding to be part of!

  16. Thanks Tania so much for shining a light on Love Inspired covers. I find it so interesting. I love Ruthy's final product. Wow. And a personal thank you for my own beautiful Love Inspired covers. I can't wait to see what's coming next.

  17. That was interesting. I didn't know so much went into a cover. I love your books.

  18. Wonderful blog post. I loved seeing the process for developing cover art. Love Inspired always has the most beautiful covers!!

    Ruthy please don't enter me in the drawing since I won a copy of His Montana Sweetheart last week. It's on my bedside table waiting to be read this weekend!

  19. I am so impressed!! Thanks for sharing how this works!

    Beautiful covers!

  20. Hey, "tp"!!!! That's Tania, guys, and they're shooting....

    TANIA!!!!! How cool is that???? Is the sandy beach in an outdoor location or do they do it in a studio setting?

    How Fun!!!

  21. Good morning, Tania. This is just the coolest post. How interesting to see how it's all put together.


  22. I am fascinated by all things cover-related! Thanks so much for coming today! :)

  23. That was so interesting to read. What a fun job to have. I love the Love Inspired covers, they are all so well done.

  24. It's always fun to go behind the scene and see how it's done! :-)

    Beautiful covers too!

    Thank you for this interesting post, Tania Pery! :-)

  25. Morning Tania and welcome to Seekerville. What a great post. It just fascinates me how you put the covers together by taking parts of other photos and combining them to make the perfect cover for the current book.

    What a fun job. smile

    Have fun today and thanks to Ruthy for bringing you on board.

  26. This was a very interesting post, I loved it! Thanks Tania and Ruthy!!!

  27. Love the glimpse into how the covers are made!

  28. Thank you for visiting Seekerville, Tania -- and for showing us step-by-step how our LI covers are designed! Fascinating!

  29. Tania -- are there any covers that you've done that you especially enjoyed doing?

  30. Ruthy -- I found your book in a Phoenix Barnes & Noble this week! I LOVE the "satin finish" on the LI covers this month.

  31. Fascinating! I had assumed LI cover art was painted because both the foreground and background were always so crisp, detailed, and beautiful. I never considered composite photographs, but that makes so much sense. You do amazing work blending those photos together! Now I want to go track down every LI cover I can find and look at it again through new eyes. Thanks so much for sharing a glimpse of the design process. :)

  32. Thank you for sharing, Tania!
    I just finished my first ever art facts sheets for my first Love Inspired Suspense book. It's really amazing to see what's going to be done with the info. I have to admit I'm super excited to see what the cover will end up being.

    I love the elevator door!

  33. Oh, this was TOO much fun! I loved seeing how the covers come together.

    It's like getting to be a kid all over again and playing dress-up with cut-out dolls!

    FUN!!! :)

  34. The beach set is indoors in the studio with our specially made sand mixture to look like the beaches in Greece... Ah, if could really be shooting there now on those beaches.

    Hmmm, to pick a favorite cover I've worked on is really hard. I can say I love working on covers with babies on them, so adorable. I am also really excited about the Big Sky Centennial continuity series in LI and have really really enjoyed working on all of them, we have a bride, twins, cowboys, Christmas.

    On to my next shot of the day, we are setting up a hot tub with floating candles and flowers, so romantic. This time we are in a fictional desert palace. I'm travelling the world today.

  35. Ruthy, great cover, and the elevator door is wonderful! Thanks for sharing this post on Facebook.

    Tania, this was fun to read. It's apparent you enjoy your job. I recently received the proof for my December Love Inspired Historical release. I'm thrilled with it and can't wait to share it. The attention to detail is impressive. Thanks to you and everyone on the team for a job well done. The Love Inspired Books always shine on the shelves. Enjoy your day at the beach!


  36. I've been looking forward to today's post. I've always wondered how the covers are made. Thanks for giving us a start to finish look, Tania!

    Love Inspired covers always draw the customer's eye on the shelf. Whether it's babies, cowboys or beautiful outdoor scenes, they're always attractive.

    BTW - I love the cover of my August release. It captures the story wonderfully!

  37. I'm always interested in how covers are designed. So impressed by the technology!
    So do all LI books have people on the cover?
    (I love the way the heroine model is looking at the hero, by the way.)

  38. You know what...I combined photos last week for my blog post in Christian Fiction Historical Society...

    My blog post was about food on the Oregon Trail and since Tina has scared me silly about grabbing photos off the 'net, I go to extremes to take and/or create my own.

    Luckily, I already had a picture of a pot of soup on the stove that I'd taken (why, I don't know! lol), so I took my cast-iron Dutch oven outside, put it on a brick pathway and snapped several pictures. Then I used Picmonkey and combined the two, added some "fire" and ended up with something that fit life on the trail. Very amateurish, but hey, it'd worked for what I needed at the time. lol

    Pam’s PRETEND SOUP on the Oregon Trail

  39. This is such an awesome post! I love it and I love seeing all the behind-the-scenes. Ruthy's cover is gorgeous--but honestly, I think LI has some of the best covers in the business, and definitely the best covers at Harlequin. Wonderful job, team! I'm still thrilled with my cover--it set the tone for the whole book perfectly. Thank you, LI art team!

  40. This is so interesting to see how a cover is put together.

    Ruthy I looked for your book last week. Hopefully I will find it at Walmart this weekend.

    Please put my name in the cat dish

  41. Oh, well, the link didn't work correctly. You'll just have to imagine it! :)

  42. Tania
    it sounds like you really love your work. setting up your own little around-the-world travel via the film shoots sounds like a blast (lots of work, but fun none the less). thanks for sharing about the process.

    thanks for the "go you!"

    another Killer Voice sale announced today (not me :(): Lynn Blackburn

    i'm expecting the revise/resend email any day now...(hope springs eternal?)

  43. oops, forgot... Pam - next time you want to combo shots, feel free to email me with the photos you want to combine and i'll be happy to do my photoshop "magic" on them for ya.

  44. Tania,

    Thank you for showing us how the cover comes together. I admit I've never really appreciated the hard work that goes into the cover. I've been reading Harlequin for 40 years and you can always tell one by its cover.

    Ruthy's cover is beautiful. I like how the horses' heads are together.

  45. So cool on the book cover on the elevator door?, Ruthy! I can't imagine how exciting that must feel. And my awesome critique partner has her book cover on there, too, right under yours. Narelle Atkins! I wish I was there to see it in person.

    Thank you for the look at the book cover process for LI.

  46. Such an interesting post! I've often wondered how covers are put together, and this was really cool.

    Side note- how weird would it be for the cover models to see their faces on a book cover? You know, just popping into Walmart and seeing their face on a book? What if their moms bought that book or were a fan of the author? How would that shape their reading experience?)

    Have a great day!


    I absolutely ADORE the cover process, although I don't think my artist/designer at my publisher does quite as much (at least not with me!) since my input/verbosity is as extensive as my 500-page books! :)

    I am somewhat aware of the general process for covers, but WOW, you really filled in the blanks with some GREAT info, so THANK YOU!!

    And, RUTHY ... LOVE the cover and am absolutely CERTAIN I will LOVE the book as well, so SUPER CONGRATS on another winner, my friend! And, YES, those babies are flat-out ADORABLE!!

    Hugs to you both!


  48. You had me at the picture of Joe Mauer from the MN Twins as your hero inspiration. Swoon!

    And congrats, Ruthie, on all your success. You are a STAR, and you always have been!

  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

  50. This was fascinating to read. I did not know how they put those covers together.

    Please put me in the drawing. I would love to win the book!

  51. Tania, so terrific to have you here and read about your incredible job! Thank you for showing us piece by piece how it all goes together. What fun!

  52. I was an art major in college so I always love learning more about the process behind designing book covers! Please include me in your giveaway! :)

  53. Hi Tania,
    The behind the scenes look at how Ruthys cover came about from start to finish is so interesting. It turned out beautifully. What a wonderful job you have. It must be very rewarding.

    I'm half way through His Montana Sweetheart and am enjoying it. Love Inspired has a winning set of books going with the Montana series.

  54. I loved the post! Thanks! I've always had a "thing" about the covers on all the books! I have a "pet peeve" too when the cover people don't match the author descriptions in the book!!! It just bugs me when the authors describe them one way and on the cover they are another - like they are described as a red head and on the cover they have black hair! OR, they have long, curly hair and on the cover they have short, spiky hair! That's happened a number of times in the past. I have noticed it's getting much better though and I appreciate it! Thanks, Tania, for the informative post!

  55. Isn't this fascinating???? So Tania has gone from pseudo-beach to hot tub..... What a wonderful job, and I love the bit-and-piece technique of putting things together.

    The shot they chose for Livvie (the heroine of His Montana Sweetheart) is perfect, that little bit winsome and uncertain, but SMITTEN with Jack... and Jack, he's just an adorable clueless cowboy who's hanging on for dear life... and realizing how blessed he's always been.... sigh....:)

  56. Tracey, I'm so glad you're enjoying the book!

    Great story... Marcia Adirim was the organizer and editor for this fun series.... and working with these ladies was AWESOME!!!!

  57. I love that we have so many LI authors stopping by to say hi!!!!

    Thank you, ladies!

    And huge thanks to Tania for this insider glimpse. I know her day's coming to an end soon, but want her to know how grateful we are for her time and the combined efforts on both sides of the border to get the jobs done. LOVE IT!!!!!

  58. Ruthy, how exciting it must be to see your book and name on that elevator door! The stuff dreams are made of! Congratulations, you didn't even have to go to RWA to get recognized!

  59. Joe Mauer's a cutie....

    And Buster Posey? Another cutie. Albert Pujols, Mike Trout...

    Jeter's got some cool guys to fill big shoes when he finishes this season!

  60. Deb H. You know if you end up with an R&R, that's not a bad thing!

    I've had many of those in my time, LOL! But even if they contract it, you'll get the "Revision" letter... and you'll gasp and faint, and call me... and we'll laugh and get it done! :)

    Revisions are a big part of the process and if I ever get too big for my britches and don't realize that revisions help qualify books... well, smack me!!!

  61. Thanks for inviting me to seeekerville, I had a blast and am thrilled you enjoying the post! I especially love the engagement from everyone!

    Until next time and happy blogging.

  62. Tania, this is fascinating!! Thanks so much for telling us what all goes on. Thanks for all your hard work and excitement for our covers!

  63. Oh, I DO want to be in the dish for Ruthy's book! THANKS~~~

  64. Tania, thanks for giving us an insight into the cover design process. Harlequin does great covers for all their lines. It was very cool to discover the LI covers on the elevator door in the hotel lobby!

  65. Very interesting!
    I love your cover Ruthy!

    Amber Schamel
    Bringing HIStory to Life

  66. Thank you, Tania and Ruthy. Very interesting to see the fact sheets and photo ideas come together for a beautiful cover......and covers with mountains always call to me!

  67. "Hey wait! Maybe you want to hear more about my background; how I got into design, where I studied, how long I’ve been working in the industry…."

    Haha, I would have ... Awesome post. I love learning about book cover art. I have a traditional studio art background so I'm not very comfortable with Photoshop. They deserve lots of credit because even though it's with a computer, it can be very painstaking work!

  68. How interesting! Being art director sounds like it would be a fun job! :)

  69. Haven't had time to read comments ... yet ... but did want to thank you for this wonderful look behind the scenes. I had no idea the art fact sheet was so detailed, but it helps explain why the covers reflect the stories so well.

    Seeing that final cover in print must be a thrill!

    Nancy C

  70. Tania, thanks for the fascinating tour through the cover-creating process! I love Ruthy's cover and so many others. I don't think the Seekers have had a cover we haven't all ooh-ed and aha-ed over.

  71. BTW, my favorite covers have mountains and cowboys...LI does a GRAND job with them!!

  72. Fascinating process! Love seeing the behind-the-scenes of cover art! How fun! Thanks for sharing this!

  73. What a fabulous post thank you. Loved seeing how it all comes together.

  74. Wow! Thank you, Tania for stopping by and sharing this. It's so exciting to see the process and know that this will be happening for my story. ;)

    I loved his:

    "My process starts with image research. I’m very excited at this point because it’s one of my favorite aspects about my job. I can spend hours, days, weeks on this without even noticing the time pass."

    I think we can all identify with that!

    Thank you and thanks, Ruthy for hosting Tania.

  75. Tania, thank you for visiting and explaining the cover art process. I find it truly fascinating. I loved all my covers! Seeing all the work that goes into them makes me appreciate them and all the talented people who create them even more.

  76. How did I miss this post?!! I am anticipating my first Love Inspired Cover within the next few months and it was fascinating to see how they do it!

    Thanks for sharing!


  77. Thanks for the behind the scenes peek, Tania! Put my name in the hat for the book please.

  78. That was informative. Much more complicated than you'd think to get to the final cover. Please throw my name in the cat dish for the book drawing.

  79. Sorry, I'm late arriving! I loved this post! Thanks so much for the peek into the process. And Ruthy that is a stunning cover.

  80. Hi Tania. Great post thanks so much for sharing the inside track on the cover art process. I agree presentation is so important, same is true when plating a meal.

    Can you tell us if the author is involved at all in the programming process? Also, does the team read the book in order to get a vibe on what the message is etc.?

    Sorry to be so late with this, had a busy week. Thanks !