Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Book Covers: from Vague Ideas to the Reader's Hands

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Naomi Rawlings here, and I thought I'd share a bit about book covers with you today. Have you ever looked at a book cover and thought, Oh, that looks interesting? 

If so, the next thing you probably did was pick up the book and glance at the back cover copy to find a little more about the story. Perhaps at this point, you put the book down and realized it wasn't quite like you thought it was going to be. Or maybe the paragraphs on the back of the book made you even more curious about the story. So then you find the price, flip the book open to the first chapter, and decide whether you want to buy the book.

Or perhaps the opposite is true. Have you ever seen a book cover that made you cringe and walk to the other side of the store?(Don't feel bad. I think we've all done that before).

I'm currently in the process of gathering cover information for my next book (The Wyoming Heir, which releases January 2014). And while every publisher goes about creating book covers a bit differently, they all have the same goal in mind: To make a cover so eye-catching readers will take a moment out of their busy day to give the book a second glance.

For all of the Love Inspired imprints (Contemporary, Suspense, and Historical), authors fill out a cover form on the computer called an Art Fact Sheet. This sheet asks for all kinds of information about the story. The year and place in which the novel takes place, the themes of the book, the looks of the hero and heroine, etc. On top of that, I also have to provide a summary of the novel, as well as pictures of famous people who look like me hero and heroine. For example, my hero, Luke Hayes, is a rancher from Wyoming and looks a little like . . . Paul Walker.

My heroine teaches advanced mathematics at a girls preparatory school, and she looks like . . . Amy Adams.

Furthermore, the story takes place in 1893 upstate New York. So then I had to dig up some pictures of New York in the fall.

And then, I'd really like for the story to convey that my rancher isn't very comfortable being called to New York and thrust into all the business his late grandfather left behind. So I thought, why not have a western cowboy on the cover with a fancy white mansion in the background? I found this picture of a mansion:
All in all, Love Inspired writers have to give the Art Department three different scene ideas for the front cover. Then the Art Department decides which scene they think will do best on the front of the novel and use that.

So what will the cover for The Wyoming Heir look like when all it's done? I have no idea! I've got to wait until this fall to find out. But I do know that the art department will try very hard to create a cover that will appeal to readers like you.

So now I'm curious. Is there a book cover you saw recently that you loved? Please do share. I'd love to know what some of your favorite book covers look like. As for me, one of my best friends (Melissa Jagears) has a debut novel releasing in October, and I'm completely in love with the cover.

What do you think?


  1. I love the process of choosing cover art, and am thrilled with how my next books cover--Deadly Devotion, from Revell--came out. The person who modeled for the heroine even contacted me and introduced herself. Pretty cool, eh? :)

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  3. And the process works. I think the LI authors and artists come up with some terrific covers. What do you think?

  4. I do the same thing with actors and actresses. My actresses change. I've used Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, and varous redheads.

    Only, sigh, my hero are always the same. I'm drawn to dark haired, swarthy guys.

    Which is why I married a blond Swede!

    1. I'm in the same boat, Pam! I prefer dark haired heroes and yet married a blond, blue eyed Czech. ;)

  5. The LI art department does a fabulous job with the covers. I've been delighted with all of mine and love so many others that I couldn't pick a favorite.

    Sandra, how cool that you met the cover model!!!

  6. I didn't know the process was so detailed, glad they take that much effort to catch the reader's eye. I have seen many that I love and a few wonder how they put it together with the story.
    I like the old fashioned ones better then modern look.
    Paula O(

  7. Hi Naomi:

    I’ve bought books based on the cover alone many times. I love a great landscape scene of the American southwest, stories that take place in Venice, and views of the Oceanside with sail boats and a lighthouse. I often buy books because I want to ‘visit’ the location. HR and Harlequin Medical Romances win me over the most often with their covers.

    My favorite cover of the last ten years is Janet Dean’s
    “Courting Miss Adelaide”. That hat by the way plays a very important role in the story. The art department gets an A+ for that cover. See it at:

    The most important element in a book cover is not attracting the attention of the most people. It’s attracting the attention of the most prospects who would enjoy reading that book. They are the readers who will buy your book, like your book, buy your next book, and give your great word of mouth. You have to get them to know this is a book for them. That’s the job of the cover.

    BTW: I’m so happy to see that Melissa has a book coming out. I’ve enjoyed her posts for a long time now. She is a great friend of the genre. I wish her well and wait in anticipation.

    However, I have a question with her cover that perhaps the female readers can comment upon. I like the cover because it does not show the face of the hero. It is easy for me to vicariously become the hero because I don’t know what he looks like. Now for women readers, they know the heroine is not them. I would think that romance covers should show heroes and keep the heroine’s face hidden. Could it be true what some say: “Women are more interested in other women and women dress for other women and not for men.” I’m not saying this is true but if it is not, then I would sure opt for putting a great hero on my romance book covers. What do you think?


    P.S. If your heroine really looks like Amy Adams, I'll surely buy the book. ☻

  8. Great post, Naomi! I think the LI art department puts out fabulous covers. I've been pleased with all of mine. Waiting to see the cover is the hardest part of the process for me. :)

  9. I think the Love Inspired Historical covers are by far the most lovely and evocative covers out there! YES!

  10. Oh goodness! For some reason I was thinking the comments from this post would get emailed directly to me. And they weren't. Yikes! Sorry for chiming in so late.

    Sandra! I was just on Amazon looking at your June release today. How fun you got to meet the model!

  11. So admittedly, with LI and other publishers, I have my share of covers that I like and ones that I dislike. But I do think that hard work goes into every cover created, and it's important to remember that. :-)

  12. Okay, Pamela and Karen, I'm the complete opposite. I like the blonde-surfer look, and I've only written one book where the hero has dark hair and dark eyes (and that's because the hero started off as a minor character in a previous story. If I'd planned to make him a hero, he probably would have had light hair!)

    Anyway, guess who I married? Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome. And even worse, he hates the beach. But I love him anyway. :-) In high school, my best friend and I had ideal images of our dream guys. Mine was the blonde, tanned surfer; and hers was the tall, dark fireman. Somehow I ended up with tall and dark, and I'm thinking she'll end up with tan and blonde. :-/

  13. Wow Vince, you ask some really great questions, and I unfortunately don't have all the answers. I did go check out the cover to Courting Miss Adelaide, and I agree with you that it's a really captivating cover.

    As far as showing the heroine on the cover, LI tends to show the characters much more than not. I've been told by authors who write for other publishers that sometimes there will be a cover where you only see part of a character's face or back or whatever because it leaves more room for the imagination. Everyone has an idea of what the hero and heroine look like, but if the image on the cover doesn't match the image in your mind, it can be hard to reconcile the two.

    I personally love the way Everett's back is turned on the cover of A Bride for Keeps, though he looks a little skinnier than I imagined him as I read the novel. And I also like the way you don't quite see all of Julia's face. Hope that answers your questions. :-)

  14. The Beauty in Disguise cover has been one of my favorites that I've seen come out of LIH.

    And I'm the same, I love scrawny blonde men, I married tall, dark and not-so-scrawny. And I've yet to write a blonde hero, must rectify that.

    I'm really picky about covers, I tend to be hard to make happy, and was so pleased to like mine. :)

    And Vince, I do like the half-face covers, but I know people that think that's cheezy. But it's not because I need to pretend to be the heroine, I live through them all, so what I "look like" can change as I read. But I do prefer not necessarily seeing the character because I tend to make them look like whatever I want despite the author description or the cover, so I don't favor seeing them because I could be jarred every time with what looks like someone else. But sometimes if I'm not getting a good description myself, I use the cover to create her, so really, it doesn't matter to me.

    Though I do think both my main characters look very close to the cover models, so that makes me happy.

    What really pulls me in is beautiful period dress...but that's cuz I'm a historical girl. :)

    But what's worse than the cover models not looking like I imagine? A scene that doesn't exist in the book. If your characters are never sitting on a bench together in the story but are on the cover, it'll drive me batty. But that doesn't hurt sales at all, just irks me after reading it.

  15. See, scenes that don't exist in the book being on a cover fail to bother me, but I am a sucker for a beautiful dress, as long as the rest of the cover is equally intriguing.

  16. I am really a "Cover Girl" in the sense that if the cover has nothing to do with the back cover recap, I'm putting it on the shelf quick, fast, and in a hurry. I read Ecstasy by Gwynne Forster and as soon as I saw the couple standing in what seemed to be a green pathway, I had to buy it. I absolutely love greenery and all that nature has to offer.


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