I must confess something. I am an unapologetic cover snob. Please don’t judge me. I really can’t help myself. It all started when I was six-years-old and I came across a book cover that absolutely mesmerized me.
It was a book called “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. The wildly imaginative cover drew me in, which led me to read the book. Not once. Not twice. But dozens of times until it became not only a keeper, but one of my favorite books of all time.
As an avid reader, I find myself gravitating toward vivid, compelling covers. After all, it’s the first thing we notice about a book, and almost one hundred percent of the time, the book blurb comes afterward. So as readers we really are first attracted to a book by its cover. And forgive me for being blunt, but a terrible cover isn’t going to attract many buyers. As an author, one of the most important steps in the book publication process is the cover art. A cover really can make or break a book launch. There is no escaping the reality that a stellar cover helps sell books.
As a hybrid author I write for Harlequin Love Inspired (a traditional book publisher), as well as Indie/Self- publishing. The process involved in both of these endeavors is very different. With Love Inspired, I am very fortunate to have input in the cover process. Love Inspired authors fill out AFS forms (Art Fact Sheets) which is our opportunity to have input in the covers of our story. We are able to convey to the art department what our hero and heroine look like, the setting of our book, time of year, weather and any unique details we might wish to include.
It’s always very exciting to receive an email alerting us to the final cover reveal. My current release from Harlequin Love Inspired is “A Match Made in Alaska.” Last December I was out Christmas shopping at the mall with my daughters when I happened to see a message on my phone from Love Inspired. When I clicked on the attachment I found myself getting teary-eyed the moment the picture came into focus. My cover was spectacular. And although I have been in love with many covers before, this one was different. The artist had tapped in to the very world I created in Love, Alaska. It felt as if the artist had read the book and based the cover off those details. In reality, my input led the artist in the right direction.
Although the credit goes to the artist for creating such a masterpiece, those details I provided on the AFS sheets were invaluable.
Although doing the AFS sheets can be tedious, I would advise every author to take their time and go through the sheets in meticulous fashion. Rushing through the forms can lead to a cover that you’re not really crazy about. There’s no better feeling in the world than seeing a fantastic cover that you actually were a part of creating. For this particular series (Alaskan Grooms series) I wanted to tap in to the romanticism of brides and grooms, as well as the remote aspects of Alaska.
I promise you, I’m not the only writer who feels that covers are extremely important. Piper Huguley, an award winning author of Christian romance says, “It’s well worth the time and effort to obtain a good cover. I suspect that readers might not have been willing to try my stories if it had not been for the covers on book one in both of my series. Both covers have won Best Cover at the Emma awards two years in a row.” Piper makes an excellent point. Discoverability. Exposure. Award winners! An outstanding cover allows a book to shine. And it attracts readers like moths to a flame.
Speaking of cover contests, I had a great experience this year with the Judge a Book By Its Cover Contest sponsored by the Houston Bay Area RWA. My cover for “An Alaskan Wedding” (created by Robert Papp) received second place in the Inspirational Category. This is a great contest and I know that the Chapter is hoping to widen the pool of entries. So enter your book covers in this cool contest and spread the word about it.
Tips for creating an appealing Indie cover:
1. Study the market. Make sure you look around at what covers-books are selling. And be familiar with the top-selling books and their covers. If I’ve seen it once I’ve seen it a hundred times (or something like that). Numerous authors launch the Indie books at the same time with an identical cover. Don’t pick the most obvious couple for your book. Look for something a little different or with unique details. Add a landscape or special fonts or pops of color.
2. Branding. Establish a brand via your covers that readers will know is uniquely associated with your books. And try to stick to it. That doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and experiment a little, but never stray too far away from your own brand so that your readers need a road map to find you.
3. Don’t chase trends so much that your cover is blah. Find yourself in your own cover creations. Brainstorm and use visualization to bring your story to life. Tap into the most important elements of your story and then capture them on the cover of your book.
4. Find a great cover artist! Unless you’re extremely talented and can do it yourself a great cover artist can really help you nail the cover of your dreams. I always have a great vision for my covers but I do not possess the skills to do it by myself. I am a firm believer in doing the thing I do best, which is write. I work with my cover artist to fine tune the details, but I leave everything else in her capable hands.
5. If you’re doing a series, find something to tie the covers together visually. Add some little detail that connects the books together so that if you line them up they all appear as if they’re from the same tribe.
6. Don’t be afraid to tool around with a cover until it fits your version of perfect. A good cover artist will work with you to ensure that you are one hundred percent satisfied with the end result.
7. Sometimes you have to spend a little money to be successful in the cover game. A cheap cover may save you a few dollars, but in the end, you’re not doing yourself any favors by putting out a blah cover. I’m not saying break the bank, but spending a decent amount will pay off in the long run.
8. Sweet rules the day when writing for the Inspirational market. That means no heroine with cleavage for days or a hero with too tight jeans or a shirt unbuttoned down to his belly button. Romantic, but never raunchy.
Best-Selling Christian romance author Leah Atwood says, "A good cover should tell a story in line with the book. A poor cover or one with a misaligned story to the books theme will distract the reader and do an injustice to the book.”
Leah’s latest cover for “Calling Love” showcases beautiful wedding bands that lets the reader know this book might be about the bonds of holy matrimony. The vivid pop of color really catches the eye and nicely complements the font.
As a romance author I love romantic covers. I want a cover to make me feel something. I want to know more about the people gracing the cover of the book. Were they high school sweethearts who were just reunited? Or a divorced couple yearning for a second chance? Or perhaps the heroine has a secret baby by the amnesiac hero who just inherited a ranch in Wyoming that used to belong to the heroine’s father? An Inspirational romance cover should convey love, romance, hope and the belief that the couple featured in the novel will be able to surmount all obstacles to be together. That’s no small feat, but if you tap into your creative abilities, it lies just within reach.
The cover for “If Only in My Dreams” (Book 5 in my Seven Brides, Seven Brothers series) is one of my absolute favorites. It conveys all the hopes and dreams and romanticism of my couple—Rose and Brandon. Every time I look at it I grin like crazy because it brings to mind all of the reasons why I write romance. And why I always will.
What kind of covers make you smile? Or compel you to take out your wallet and buy the book? Does a favorite cover come to mind?
Belle Calhoune was born and raised in Massachusetts, one of five children. The daughter of a Physician and a Biologist, Belle found herself entranced by the literary world. Growing up across the street from a public library fed her hunger for books, particularly romance novels and mysteries. After graduating from Syracuse University, Belle worked as a Federal Investigator in Boston. After the birth of her youngest child, she and her college sweetheart husband moved to Connecticut, where they now reside with their two daughters, a lovable chocolate lab and a very spoiled poodle. Being an author is her dream job.
Belle is generously giving away five print copies of A Match Made in Alaska. Leave a comment and your name will be entered in the drawing. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
|A Match Made in Alaska|
Librarian Annie Murray hoped participating in Love, Alaska's "Operation Love" would lead to finding a rugged bachelor to call her own. But as her flight crash lands before reaching her destination, she finds herself alone with her pilot, Declan O'Rourke.Annie's met charmers like Declan before--now she wants a man of substance. Forced to survive with him in the snowy wilderness, Annie discovers Declan's depth--and he begins to see the shy librarian's heart of gold. But once back in town, outside sources threaten their bond. It'll take all the bravery they had in the wild for Annie and Declan to find love in small-town Alaska.