And so, as of 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, my neck is stretched out on the chopping block once again. 🙁 Yikes!
Let’s go back (way back) the year 2001. Heck! Let’s go further back, shall we? Let’s say…1995-ish—back when book covers were so easy and stress-free for me. Back when all a girl had to do was Xerox a drawing of her handsome hubby, slap it on top of a manuscript, three-whole punch it, stick it in a three ring binder and Voila!…a book to give as a gift to a friend for a birthday or Christmas. Ahhh those were the days—when everyone was totally satisfied with simply having their own Xeroxed copy of a drawing of Kevin on a manuscript cover. 🙂
Back then, every book had the same cover—or at least nearly the same. Every manuscript/book I gifted or sold had this simple Xeroxed copy of a drawing of Kevin, accompanied by the title and my name (the title being the only difference between books). Whether it was Indebted Deliverance, The Heavenly Surrender or Dusty Britches—the cover image was the same. I mean, how easy is that? I think it lent a sort of mystery to it all, too—kind of like opening a present. Since the cover of every book looked the same, the story and its setting was always a surprise to the reader. Kevin hated having his ‘likeness’ on the covers, of course—but oh well, right? 🙂
And then 2001 arrived, and the publication of my first officially published book, The Heavenly Surrender. This was the first time I’d ever had to really think hard about a cover. At the time, and in the genre in which I write (i.e. “Tasteful Romance”), book covers featuring landscapes were really in! Also watercolor type covers—picket fences with flowering vines on them, etc.
Well, the first thing I did when trying to think of what I’d like on The Heavenly Surrender cover, was go to the local Barnes and Noble and start pulling books off the shelves in the Romance section. Guess what I discovered—a lot of naked people. Oh, not nearly as naked as they are now on Romance book covers, but naked people all the same. Most main-stream romance at the time involved either naked people on the cover, or landscapes or watercolors (but the naked people covers won over the majority…not that I have anything against naked people…we’re born naked, you know? But you know what I mean when I refer to a romance novel having only naked people on the front, right?)
I knew it was going to be a challenge to find a decent cover that the publisher would be willing to pay for the artwork for. It had to be tasteful, yet different—and yet not SO different that it turned people away. Stock Photography was way on the rise and more accessible than ever, thanks to the Internet. But it was REALLY expensive! None of this easy accessible and a lot of choices that we authors and publishers enjoy now—it was REALLY expensive back then, and required royalty fees, etc. Furthermore, for The Heavenly Surrender, I couldn’t find anything I liked anyway. So…I just grabbed my camera and hit the rural roads of Ferndale, Washington—took my own photographs for the cover.
Thus, the first cover of The Heavenly Surrender was created by a graphics artist using photographs I had taken (and one a friend had given me). I told the graphics lady what I wanted, emphasizing ‘pink sunset,’ and that first ‘pink’ cover of The Heavenly Surrender first edition was born! I wasn’t totally happy with it, but it was different than anything else that was out at the time, AND the readers seemed to love it!
Therefore, when The Visions of Ransom Lake was up for publication the next year, I did the same thing—grabbed my camera and hit the Ferndale roads, including the cemetery just outside and north of Bellingham, Washington. Yep! For those of you who don’t already know, that main image on the first edition of The Visions of Ransom Lake, is a combination of a cemetery and a pumpkin patch in that Ferndale area (only the cover artist ‘removed’ the tombstones from the cemetery one).
When Shackles of Honor was up for publication later in 2002, however, I had no idea where I was going to find a cover! The weather was bad in Ferndale that time of year. Plus, there weren’t any good cliffs around close…and I certainly wanted cliffs. Thus, that cliff photo on Shackles of Honor’s first ‘blue’ cover was indeed a stock photo. Yep—the publisher dropped a wad on that one—and also on a stock photo for the cover of Dusty Britches one year later. The first cover for The Fragrance of Her Name was my concept as well—and created from photos I had taken.
But then something happened—I agreed (much to my great misery for years to come) to let another publisher publish a few of my novellas and a couple of novels. Desert Fire (and you know THAT story, right—the one of how it became Desert Fire when it was published, instead of The Foundling, right?), To Echo the Past, An Old-Fashioned Romance, Divine Deception and Daydreams were all published as part of a series called, “Love Notes.” And though the watercolor art was done by a sweet, sweet and very talented lady that worked for that publisher at the time, the covers were not what I would’ve have liked to have seen. Then when The Touch of Sage was finally published, I cried my eyes out when I saw that first cover. I was so disappointed, in fact, that the publisher did allow me to work with their artist for the cover of the first edition of The Highwayman of Tanglewood—and I was okay with that one.
Life went forward and I never allowed any publisher but Distractions Ink to publish my books again—for a myriad of reasons that I won’t go into because this blog is already too boring.
But let’s fast-forward a bit now—from 2001 to 2010. E-Books were exploding onto the scene! Book covers featuring landscapes were all but vanishing, in favor of images that were more eye-catching when presented as thumbnail images. Landscapes are harder to see on a thumbnail image, and my books like The Heavenly Surrender, The Visions of Ransom Lake—those first 5 books that were ever published, not only needed a facelift by 2019 for their own self-esteem, they needed something that looked great as just a teeny, tiny thumbnail image.
Now, as you may or may not also know, until 2010 I had completely steered away from using any kind of “human face” element on my book covers (with the exception of the original manuscript type featuring Kevin). I preferred that my readers be able to open a book without any preconceived images in their minds. I mean, after all…let’s be perfectly honest…no matter what we look like, every one of us girls imagines ourselves in the role of the heroine, right? Therefore, it wasn’t so much female images I was worried about, but the men ones. We all have our own notion of what the hero in a book looks like, too—either our husband, our boyfriend, or Hugh Jackman, Zack Efron, Chris Hemsworth…whoever, right? So it was more the male images I was worried about.
However, I began to notice that with the onslaught of e-book popularity, and the changing times, the “human element” was becoming the new thing for book covers. Therefore, in 2010, I nervously tested the waters with a silhouetted image of a cowboy holding a saddle on the cover of Weathered Too Young. I had tripled the length of the novella version of that book in preparation for print book release, and when I saw that image (the cowboy silhouetted against that beautiful blue sunset) I knew—I knew that my own book cover preferences were changing right along with the changing face of the book business.
I was very cautious at first, nonetheless—to the point that I think I made some really big mistakes—The Touch of Sage being one (I LOVE it now, however! Thanks, Nate and Andrea!). When I finally managed to get the publishing rights back on that particular book, and it went into republication, I chickened out—I went scenic. Oh it was a beautiful scene—but it didn’t do the book any more justice than that first (in my mind) awful cover had. 🙁
I did the same thing with several other books that I retrieved the publishing rights for, too—Daydreams being one. I chickened out on books I already still held the publishing rights to. In fact, it wasn’t until the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Heavenly Surrender was on the docket, that I finally found the courage to do what I’d wanted to do for a long, long time—add a human element to my book covers.
Now, believe it or not, I have taken some criticism for the direction I’ve chosen to take with my book covers. Not too much—but two or three letters/e-mails that really upset me. ? Still, I it’s the nature of the game, you know—criticism. I try to be tough and re-read the kind, encouraging e-mails I get about my book covers—but you know how it is—800 compliments may come your way, but it’s the one ‘dis’ that sticks in your mind and heart, right?
Still, it hasn’t deterred me. I mean, after all, what I think is still true—all of us girls imagine ourselves as the heroine, so it doesn’t really matter if the GORGEOUS woman on the cover of the new edition of The Fragrance of Her Name looks just like what we each individually imagine Lauren to look or not. She’s just there to let us know that Lauren is beautiful! Everyone knows that Lauren looks exactly like she looks in my mind—and in yours! ?
The same goes for the guys—we imagine them the way we imagine them—no matter who is on the cover. Although, oddly enough, I’ve never received a scathing e-mail about any of the covers with guys on the front—not one. That’s weird, now that I think of it.
After all this nonsensical rambling (which is really just my innermost fears and worries over my book covers and whether or not you’ll like them) you’re probably wondering why I even brought it up, right? Well, here’s: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! Midnight Masquerade goes up for pre-sale tomorrow morning and I’m freaking out!!!!
I absolutely LOVE this book! I love it so so so much! For me it’s right up there with A Crimson Frost, Shackles of Honor, The Visions of Ransom Lake and others of my personal favorites! And I want you to love it, too! The ambiance in the book—delicious! The smooching—WOW!!! And I just love the story! So I’m nervous—because even though Midnight Masquerade is only in the pre-order stage—I want everyone to LOVE the cover—even before they love the book!
I could’ve really wasted a lot of your time with more stories about, and history of, my book covers, but I know you don’t want that! I hope, however, that this little blog thingy gave you a bit of insight into how very seriously I take my books and their covers. It’s why I work so hard to keep control of my book content and covers. I know authors where publishers have forced them to delete entire characters from the content of their books before publishing it! I know authors who have no say, whatsoever on what their cover will look like! And I’m so very thankful that I can choose what my ‘babies’ (i.e. books and stories) “wear” you know?
Thank you so much for wading through this miserable nonsense of my nerves! It happens every time a new book comes out, or an old book re-releases with a new cover! I’m a crazy person! I’ve been eating Peanut Butter Crunch by the mixing bowl-full for days! In fact, as I leave you with a little sample of the cover for Midnight Masquerade, I think I’ll run downstairs and have another bowl of Peanut Butter Crunch before hitting the hay! (And then I wonder why I’m chubby, right :))
PS…The name of the heroine (that we all look like) in Midnight Masquerade is Evony Elorietta! Don’t you LOVE it!?