Everyone loves a great book cover, but an odd cover can make us pause and wonder what the author was thinking when he/she requested it. But the truth of the matter is that most authors have little input on cover designs, which is generally decided by the sales, marketing, and/or art departments. The amount of input an author has usually depends on the publishing house they write for and how well-known the author’s name is.
Most publishers will have the author fill out an art sheet which includes descriptions of the main characters, the setting, theme or faith element, a special feature that is key to the story, such as the covered wagon that appears on my covers below. The publisher also sometimes want to know the key plot points and will request photos that represent your characters and/or settings.
I asked Becky, who works in the art department of my publisher, Whitaker House, how they go about choosing a book cover design, and here’s what she said:
“I get the book title and the art sheet, and after looking over character descriptions and a blurb about the story line, I hit up stock photo sites to see if I can find images that fit the descriptions or decide if I will need to get models in to do a photo shoot. While looking through countless photos I am thinking of designs and how I want the book to look, taking into account if it is a stand alone book or part of a series. If it is a series, how am I going to keep the books the same so they will look like they belong together. At some point during my photo search I will either find a picture that I will work around or I will come up with an idea that I want to do and then must find just the right picture to make it all come
together. Follow all this searching is some Photoshop magic, and a cover is born.
“That is how my technical process is done, as for the creative process, that is much harder to explain. I have heard authors describing how their characters do not behave for them and rebel against where the author wants them to go in the story progression. I can relate to that with what I do as well. At times I can sit down and a cover just flows from me, and at other times I fight with one all day long and try to get the image in my head out onto paper.
“I also do a lot of research, as well, looking at books in the same genre to see what others are doing–if there are growing trends or fading trends. I love walking through book stores to see all the covers and what catches my eye vs. what makes me think “why did you do that?!”
“After I create 1-2 covers, along with the other designers here doing the same, the covers are all taken into a cover committee meeting and a winner is chosen. From that point, it is given to the author to see if any tweaks are needed, until a final is agreed upon.”
I appreciate Becky sharing her expertise with us and giving us a peak into the cover design process. I thought you might also enjoy seeing the development of the cover design for my new release, Whispers on the Prairie.
Version 1: This is the first cover that my publishing house, Whitaker House, presented me. Overall, I really liked the design. The color combination was different, I loved the title fonts and the curlicues around my name. The wagon looked good too. The thing that I didn’t feel fit my historical story was the heroine. Her hairstyle and dress looked too contemporary, especially the sleeveless blouse.
Version 2: The second cover was better. The long sleeves more accurately portray the 1800s time period, but the heroine’s hairstyle still didn’t, and her reading a book really has nothing to do with the storyline, so I gulped and asked for a different heroine.
Version 3: Whispers on the Prairie was purchased last fall as an already completed book. My publisher wanted to release it in time for the International Christian Retailers Show in late June. Since there wasn’t time to hire a model and do photo shoots, they used stock photos. They kindly allowed me to search the photo sites they use, and I found a picture of the blond woman smelling a flower. This worked perfectly for my storyline since flowers are something both my hero and heroine love. The dress was a good match for the time period, even though it was white, and the hairstyle also looked historical.
Version 4: I could have easily lived with cover #3, but there was one more change I requested—that the back of the wagon be pink. In Whispers on the Prairie, Ethan, my hero, helps city folk get outfitted to travel the Santa Fe Trail. Instead of taking his advice and picking the sturdy wagon Ethan advises, my heroine suggests a red faded wagon to her uncle because it’s bigger and will hold more. The “pink” wagon is a symbol to my hero of the heroine’s stubbornness and a bone of contention between them. I wanted the colored wagon reflected on the cover, because it was an important issue, and I though it might intrigue buyers. I didn’t quite end up with a pink wagon, but close enough. I want the thank the folks at Whitaker House for working with me to create a lovely cover for Whispers on the Prairie.
So, what do you think? Do you like the final cover best or one of the others. Be honest. You won’t hurt my feelings, because they’re all nice.
I will be giving away two copies of WHISPERS ON THE PRAIRIE to readers who comment. Good luck in the drawing.
Vickie McDonough is an award-winning author of 27 books and novellas. Her novels include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series and Long Trail Home and End of the Trail in the Texas Trails series. Long Trail Home won the Inspirational category of the 2012 Booksellers’ Best Awards. Whispers on the Prairie, the first book in the Pioneer Promises series has just released. It was selected by Romantic Times magazine as one of the Recommended Inspirational Reads for July.
Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a computer geek who is scared of horses. But she lives out her dreams in her fictional stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen and others living in the West in the 1800s. Vickie is the award-winning author of 27 books and novellas. Her novel, End of the Trail, recently won the Best Published Fiction Novel of the 2013 OWFI Contest. Her books include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series, two books in the Texas Trails series, and Whispers on the Prairie, Book 1 in a new series set at a stage stop in 1870s Kansas. Whispers on the Prairie was chosen by Romantic Times as one of their Recommended Inspirational Books for July.
Vickie is a wife of thirty-seven years, mother of four grown sons, one daughter-in-law, and grandma to a feisty seven-year-old girl. When she’s not writing, Vickie enjoys reading, antiquing, watching movies, and traveling.
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