Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Secret About Cover Artists

I always wondered how cover artists got it right when it came to a book's cover. Naively, I marveled about the fact that they had so many books to read and covers to create. How could they possibly find the time to read them all?

Well, now I know their secret.

When a publisher signs an author they give them, among many other documents, a 4-5 page sheet with all kinds of questions and inquiries about the book and what the author envisions for the cover. Those answers are given to the cover artists. Here's a sampling of questions from my publisher:

  • What do your main characters look like? Describe their hair color, eye color, skin tone, etc.
  • What do the villains/antagonists look like?
  • Is the setting integral to the book? If so, describe it.
  • Is there an item that's important to the storyline, i.e., a necklace, sword, castle, horse or coconut cup, for example. (Okay, I made the last one up but there is a coconut cup on my cover and you'll see why when you read my novel!)
  • Is there anything you do NOT want on the cover? For me, I didn't want a man, even though several men are integral to the storyline, especially a sexy cop! Oh, how I fought myself about adding a uniformed hunky man to the cover. Also, Hope's hippie parents are important (and hilarious) and I considered adding their crazy peace signs and VW Microbus to the cover but I knew it would get too busy. Finally, since my novel opens on Suzy's wedding day, I thought about having a bride on the cover. There were so many possibilities! Agony. I had to refocus and decide on the gist of THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS. The genre is women's fiction with elements of romance, suspense and humor, so I wanted the focus to be on the three female main characters--Suzy, Hope and Alex.
  • Would you prefer people or an object on your cover? This was the hardest question for me to answer. At first, I typed PEOPLE. Without a doubt. No hesitancy. Then, out of curiosity, I ran downstairs and looked at the books in my library, a/k/a the exercise room. I pulled 20 random books. To my surprise, the cover art was about 50/50 on people vs. objects. That told me that I'm compelled to pick up a book whether it features people or objects. So, I went back to the drawing board on my answer.
  • How do you envision your cover? Give us a couple of examples of what you'd like to see. I decided I'd like to see Suzy, Alex and Hope seated around a table like they do at Coconuts, their Thursday night meeting place and that's what I got. It was strange to see how the artist envisioned their faces, which is, of course, not exactly what I had in mind. I can see why some authors go for graphics or don't show faces for this reason.
Those are the main bullet points I remember but there were at least four pages of questions. Now we know how the cover artists get it right!

Here's my cover for THURSDAYS AT COCONUTS. It releases in ebook on August 13, 2014, by Soul Mate Publishing. A few months afterward, it will be available in print. I'll share more about my characters in June and July. Mark your calendars for a fun online launch party on August 13!


I was allowed to suggest a few tweaks--there was a plant at the end of the table and I asked the artist to replace it with pretty flowers. The drink glasses were empty and I informed her that Alex always drinks Chardonnay; Suzy drinks Cabernet, while Hope usually has a margarita, so that was changed.  She also had Alex, the sassy bank marketer, in a drab brown shirt and that is so not Alex (more like Hope) so I asked her to change it to red. I love the color of my title, the font choice, and the palm fronds at the bottom. And seeing my name on the cover...I'm still pinching myself.

So, did you know the secret about cover artists? How do you envision your book cover?





18 comments:

  1. It's a really great cover, Beth! Best wishes :-)

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  2. Thanks, Bethany. I love your covers, too. SMP does a great job.

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  3. It sounds like you got to have a lot of input on your cover. That's great. It's a beautiful cover.

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    1. I did get quite a bit of input. Each time, the artist said, "Can we move on now? Can I get you the final art?" You know me. The tweaker.

      I didn't want to be a diva so I stopped suggesting changes sooner than normal for me. :)

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  4. I've heard that covers with dogs on them (like Kristan Higgins' books!) sell really well. But of course, those books have the advantage of Kristan's terrific storytelling as well. Oh! and there needs to be a dog in the story. ;-)

    Your cover is wonderful Beth. Makes me want to pull up a chair and join that group of women!

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    1. You just made my day, Mia! I'd love for you to pull up a chair! Interesting about dogs on covers. Probably the same as animals in commercials--those do well, too. Babies and animals. :)

      Thanks for commenting. You always have beautiful covers.

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  5. Great information. I just set my ideas for
    "Grandmothers Ghost" Cover.
    Amber Manor with the amber glow showing on the stone and the Amulet of Safety. Not sure if I want just the emblems or someone wearing the necklace?

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  6. It is a hard decision, isn't it? People versus objects. That's fantastic, Jan!!! Who is your publisher? I didn't know about this. Congrats!

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  7. Good information and a great cover.

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  8. Let's see. I've got to do that for my YA novel. Haven't thought about it yet. SO much preparation to do for novels. But I'm not complaining.
    I'd like a pic of an inn for sure. But it needs to have a spooky element. Maybe a bloody ax, since there is something about that in the book. I'll keep thinking. Guess I need to get busy.

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    1. You're right. Tons of things to do in preparation before and after our novels release, Shirley! And you and your dead bodies... I love you anyway!

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  9. I've never been much of an artist. Words have been more comfortable for me to work with. Thankfully there are those individuals out there who are into visual art. Another example of how it's good to have people in this world with different talents.

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    1. Definitely. I can barely draw stick people but I'm pretty good with daisies. :) Thanks, Chuck.

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  10. Hi Beth - Enjoyed the article and the cover artist got it right. Looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Thank you, Lora. I hope you enjoy it!

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  11. I love your cover. My editor for Dibs sent me to a couple of picture sites and asked me to select a couple that I could visualize as a cover. She then went from there. I also had to answer a gazillion questions about the book to help them out.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. I love it, too. I forgot they asked me to send a few links to covers that I liked. That's where I also discovered it was 50-50 between objects and people on the covers that I liked! I love your cover for DIBS. It's adorable.

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