The Cowboy Contract 3One of the very nice things about being traditionally published with a publishing house is that there’s an  art department that deals with making marketable covers.  They take care of assigning models to represent your story on the cover of your book.  The author does have to fill out an Art Fact Sheet to describe the hero and heroine’s physical traits.  At the same time, the author also describes the theme of the story, any major turning points and locations of particular interest that would enhance the cover.   For me, the majority of the time, they’ve gotten it right.  Not that I’m always thrilled with my covers or titles, but for the most part I am. 

The one negative about being traditionally published is that the author has no control over the final artistic vision of the cover.  So when I received the rights back to a story I’d written, I decided to self-publish it.  I am still in the process of doing just that.  You may have heard me speaking about this book in the past. It’s been months – the major drawback?

We can’t find the right cover art.   Yes, there are pre-made covers available at several online sites and many images to go through, but believe it or not, there aren’t a slew to choose from bearing good-looking western/country/cowboys or scenes.  The Cowboy Contract

Well as luck would have it, my son-in-law is a photographer and he suggested that we do our own cover shoot.  He’s a talented guy and I only had to think about it for a few seconds before agreeing it was a great idea.  But that still left us with who to use for our hero and heroine.   

That’s where my daughter Nikki came in. She’s auburn-haired and petite just like my heroine. And their age range is the same.  Her dear friend, and Zac’s brother-from-another-mother, ( the best man at their wedding and Godfather to their little girl), Tony was willing to help out.  As you can see in the pictures, Tony is tall, dark and handsome- the perfect hero. 

We chose Paramount Ranch for the setting. If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s where the series, Medicine Woman was originally filmed and the historical town is still set up, complete with livery stable, sheriff’s office, wagons, train depot and gorgeous landscapes of the Santa Monica Mountains.   On a side note, we took a field trip there with my nephew’s class years ago and saw them shoot one of the episodes. Jane Seymour made a special point to come out to speak to the children and she was lovely to them.   So, the area had always stuck out in my mind.   

We had a few poses in mind and I learned a lot about placement and lighting.  Believe it or not, near dusk is the best time to shoot.  Bright sunshine and the shadows are gone. We only had an hour of good lighting that day, but I am happy with the results. 

The Cowboy Contract 1So not only was I the babysitter of the cutest new little cowgirl in town, but I was helping with direction. I never thought I’d hear myself tell my daughter, get closer, hold him around the waist and look passionately into his eyes, to a man other than her hubby.   Many shoots were tossed out because everyone was laughing too hard. If nothing else, we had a great time!


Now, I need your help in deciding which picture best depicts the story and reflects the title. Keep in mind, this isn’t the finished product, there may be more graphics on the cover, but I’m asking what scene works the best.  I’ve captioned them by number.  I’ll pick three random winners  for a prize of one of my available backlist books.  I appreciate your input on this!!

Here’s a brief synopsis of THE COWBOY CONTRACT:

Trey Walker was cursed when it came to women, so he never expected to invite veterinarian, Maddie Brooks to live under his roof at 2 Hope Ranch. But the petite, wholesome redhead needed a place to stay and practice medicine after a fire in Hope Wells nearly cost her everything she owned.  And Trey needed her expertise.  The bargain they struck seemed to be made in heaven.  If only the Walker Curse wouldn’t rear its ugly head.

Maddie Brooks knew the temporary arrangement she made with Trey was strictly business.  For over a year she’d tried to get the handsome rancher to notice her, but the man simply wasn’t interested.  Now, she’d be living at his ranch and using his barn to treat animals.  She owed him her livelihood, but oh, how she wished for something more.   Would Trey give her reason to hope?

NIK and Tony











Nik and Tony 2



Nik and Tony 4
Nik and Tony 5












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54 thoughts on “READY, AIM, SHOOT THE COVER !”

  1. I like one the best. They both look totally relaxed and into each other. It doesn’t look posed at all. It sounds like it is going to be another great book. I can’t wait to read it.

  2. Oh, my goodness. How COOL is this?!? When before has an author had such liberty (and control!) to design her covers, using her own family members no less? Absolutely fun!

    I had such a hard time deciding which one I liked best, but I have to go with #3.

    Let us know what you decide!!

  3. This is great, Charlene. #3 is the one that stood out to me. They are close, but the bit of space between them shows they aren’t quite sure, they still have some issues to work through, but you can tell they both want to work through them.

    Super fun!

  4. You’re welcome! I enjoyed this post. It’s fun to see all the options and to hear the story behind it.

  5. Wow! That’s so awesome that you were able to get your own models and shoot the cover. It’ll definitely be one of a kind and very special.

    My favorite I think is #3.I like their pose and looks like they’re really into each other. It’s very nice.

    Lots of luck with whatever you choose. They’re all great.

  6. Hi Charlene! I vote for #3. There’s a little bit of mystery here. Are they going to kiss, or is she going to whisper a secret? The pose makes me wonder what’s going on, and what’s going to happen next. Very romance-y! Very in keeping with your strong characters.

    The “hide behind the hat” shots are fun and cute, but I feel like I’ve seen them before.

    My second choice is No. 4. The heroine’s secret longing for the hero comes through loud and clear, and I’m already rooting for her.

    The book sounds terrific and these shots are going to give you a cover to match!

  7. I love the pose in #1, but prefer the lighting in #2. #4 is also very modern as far as covers go, although personally I prefer to see the heads of the models, but there isn’t good space for title and author name.

    The pose in #2 is cute and playful, lighting excellent, so I’m going with that. : )

  8. I love, love, love these pictures! It is so hard to choose. #4 would be perfect for a women’s fiction kind of story, but I think you need a couple for your book. Therefore I think One or Three are both good. I do like to see a dash of the hero’s face.

    Man, you have a huge job on your hands picking your next cover.

    Great story and great job all around.

  9. I prefer #2. I like to leave the faces up to the imagination. I also like 1 and 4, but 4 would be more for a heroine based story, while this seems like it’s more 50/50.

  10. They are all good, but I think I would have to go with No.1.. I think it is natural and not so posed.

  11. Hi Charlene, this is such a great post. I sure enjoyed all of Zac’s hints techniques and aw, I love Paramount ranch. My faves are #3 and 4. I know you want one…but I love ’em all. I hope Zac gets a little sideline going…I’ll be thinking about SP next year I think.

    Make sure you let us know which one makes the cut. Xoxo

  12. How fun. Cover shoots are exciting–especially when the results are for your own book.

    Fortunate enough to have had a few shoots for my own covers–and not for self pub but for an open to outside excellence publisher. Most small pubs cant afford to hire models so they rather like having a well done ‘live’ cover.

  13. OMG I cant wait to read this and I love the pictures! What a cool way to make your cover!!! All the pics are great but my favs are #5, #3, #1. I cant wait to see which one you pick! I cant wait to buy the book too!

  14. Really love #4. Your daughter is perfect for this picture.
    As a buyer, this cover would catch my eye.

  15. Charlene,what a neat idea. I liked one and three the best. Look forward to seeing which one is chosen

  16. I’m stuck between one and three. I like the relaxed look in the first one but number three promises more to come so I guess I’ll go with 3 🙂

  17. They all look interesting. However, I like #4 because it looks like she looks dejected and is sitting by herself. I want to know Why?

  18. Before looking at the photos, I was reading the lead up ..son-in-law photographer, daughter as the model and family friend as the other model, and thinking, “Oh goodness, someone not named Sam Beck is going to have to gently suggest to Charlene that she go with professionals who have done cover shoots before,” but boy was I wrong! These shots are great…sweet, evocative, sexy and charming all at the same time! I like them all, but like #1 the best. 🙂

  19. #2 and #3 and #5.

    GORGEOUS shots!

    And I loved this article, mostly because of the dynamics.

    Your SIL is a pretty laid-back duded. My husband would have busted a vein if he’d had to direct me on that shoot. HAHAHAHA!

  20. I liked #3 best. It showed that they were “discovering” each other without being too passionate. The cover is in keeping with other covers I’ve seen on your books.

  21. I like #4 and #3. Since he is avoiding her and she is trying to figure out how to get him interested, #4 works. If she is into flirting a bit to get his attention, #3 would be best.
    Good luck. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

  22. I like pictures #3 and #1.

    I noticed in your brief synopsis, you have a slight issue with a word (womAn instead womEn — Trey Walker was cursed when it came to woman, so he never expected to invite veterinarian, Maddie Brooks to live under his roof at 2 Hope Ranch.)

  23. I am so excited that so many of you have voted for the cover you like the best! This is really helping me. Keep your votes coming. It’s a tough decision, but so far, I my two favs are in the running. THANK YOU!!!!

  24. Number 1. More room for your name and title. Also he’s sitting on a rock which ties into the fact he’s ‘solid as a rock’…which is what a hero is supposed to be.

  25. Gorgeous pictures! Thank you for giving us this sneak peek at your photo shoot.

    I LOVE #4! It perfectly depicts Maddie sitting on the fence thinking of ways to get that handsome rancher, Trey Walker, to notice her.

    texaggs2000 at gmail dot com

  26. I like them all but am with the rest and think #3 although as I read the story line and thought about the fact that she admired him from afar I would go with #4!

  27. Charlene, I like #3. Book sounds great. Looking forward to reading it.

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