Getting the cover art for your book is a bit scary every time. What if you hate it? What if everyone hates it? What if it’s beautiful, but somehow not right for the book? I think I’ve been very lucky so far, with the three publishers I’ve worked with, that I’ve had good and even great covers from all of them. Some I love more than others, but I wouldn’t call any of them duds.
This isn’t entirely good luck mind. It is something I consider when deciding to submit to a publisher. I look at the covers of their books and consider if I’m likely to get a decent cover from them. If all their covers look like slapped together Friday afternoon jobs, then what else are they likely to skimp on? Editing? So covers matter to me as a writer at every stage of the game. Don’t judge a book by its cover – but judge the publisher.
Trust your publisher too though, writers. They know what kinds of covers sell. And yes, sometimes that’s naked torsos. Don’t expect perfection in cover models. Remember that the way you picture the characters is not how the reader will anyway, not exactly. So you could find someone exactly correct for your vision and the readers might still say “that’s not how I see him!”
Getting a couple of covers recently prompted me to post about the great covers I’ve had since I started publishing over four years ago now!
My very first one was for Liar’s Waltz. That was a nailbiting time. I had to fill out a cover spec sheet, which also allowed me to say which other covers from that publisher I liked. There were a couple of dream artists I hoped to get, and I got one! Anne Cain, who produced beautiful covers for many books. And then for my next one I got Anne again. She went on to do four of the books in this series. The cover of Stowaway is still one of my favourites. It’s still quite hard to find “clinch” covers for m/m romance and I know these kissing boys have turned up on a few other covers.
One of the great things about Anne Cain covers is the layering and texture to them that you can fully appreciate when zoomed right in. And I love the way the Stowaway cover has stars and planets above, layered with the figures and then gradually down at the bottom there’s an interior. There’s like three pictures in one all layered on the cover. (There are also four figures. There’s a tiny little figure right in the bottom left if you zoom in enough and one just off centre at the bottom.)
Valerie Tibbs also did one of the covers – the middle one for Higher Ground. I recall at first wondering if that woolly sweater was too contemporary looking. (It’s hard to specify “put them in whatever people will be wearing in 500 years” you know!) But then I figured it made sense. People have used wool for clothing for thousands of years. Why would they stop? And in Higher Ground they are living in a quite small colony that doesn’t have any large scale industry yet. And you need large scale industry to make synthetic fibres. Whereas for wool you need sheep, spinning wheels and looms or knitting needles! I recall asking for one small change for the cover from the first draft. It had a small moon in the sky, and the book specifically mentions this planet not having a moon. Probably nobody else who read it would have noticed that and of course the covers aren’t meant to be an accurate picture of the locations in the book, just an impression. But better safe than sorry.
Back to Anne Cain for the final two. The Ganymede Tilt one to me is all about the eyes of the Alex figure. I could look into them all day. Someone also mentioned that the buildings below have kind of a phallic look to them, but let’s not lower the tone here! And last of all Chrysalis Cage – which breaks from the blue and violet tones of the others for dark pinks and peachy tones. It’s got a sensual feel to it, to me, and it’s probably the book that’s closest to actual erotica as well as erotic romance. Also as Charlie Cochrane pointed out “Worra pair of lips!” More sensuality!
Dream for Me has a great futuristic cityscape there below the figures. I think stock photo sites must have a lot of great planet landscapes and futuristic cities, because the cover artists always find great ones that I love to zoom in on and take a close look at. This cover also has that tricky element – the tattoo. Since the chances of finding a suitable model with the exact right tattoo in the exact place are small, cover artists often have to put them on with their graphics program. Small ones are generally okay. This one works alright I think. And the tattoo is important in the story, so I was glad it was there.
First anthology cover
I have a story in this anthology, Lashings of Sauce. Anthologies are an odd one. There’s no individual cover and you don’t get any kind of say in it. It has to reflect the collection of stories as a whole.
This cover is by Alex Beecroft (who’s also a writer.) And it’s certainly a delicious looking cover, with the chocolate and strawberry. It’s got an elegant simplicity that I like. The limited colour palette helps that simplicity. I love the lettering of the word “sauce” and I like the red frame around the image
Red Dragon Series
Again the clothes are tricky. How to get futuristic clothes? It’s almost impossible. Yet clothes are actually pretty important to certain characters in the story. In a way the best approach is to go with something that conveys that character best, and contemporary clothes are something the reader understands and can judge character from. But I’m also resigned to getting plenty of torso covers for my sci-fi books.
What’s missing from The Champion’s Secret cover though is James’ tattoos – full sleeve ones on both arms. Like I said above, tattoos are tricky. One small one, easy. Extensive ones, much harder to add. So it’s better to compromise and leave them off than have the cover ending up being “the one with the bad tattoos”. Otherwise he’s an excellent figure for James. Tall, bulky, super-fit, oh and thoroughly manscaped.
Choose Your Own Cover Model!
JMS Books have an interesting method – they give you a list of the stock photo sites their cover artists, Written Ink Design, uses and let you go searching to find models or other images you’d like on your cover. The artists then turn that into a cover. You can never complain about the cover model that way! The person who knows best about whether a model matches your idea of the character is you, after all.
Though you do experience some of the frustration of cover artists trying to find a model who matches the spec from the author. And there is some weird stuff on stock photo sites. Some very weird stuff.
The model I found for the Smoke in My Eyes cover is a great match for how I picture the lead character. Finding him sweating away in running gear, which he does in the story, was a bonus! The one for Loose Cannon, which I am very chuffed with, has the distinction of being my first cover with women on it, being an F/F story.
No people? No problem!
More anthology covers, this time for Dreamspinner Press and both by Paul Richmond. Very British looking boys on the Not Quite Shakespeare cover, with their office-wear. And the one for Hot Off the Press I absolutely adore, even though it has no hunky guys on it. It’s another one well worth zooming in on to see the details of all that beautiful old fashioned lead type.
My first individual cover with Dreamspinner is for my short novella Immutable, that comes out this summer. They sent me three different drafts of cover ideas by Maria Fanning, and this one jumped right out at me as being perfect for the story and also absolutely gorgeous.
It’s got a beautiful back (as a change of pace from a beautiful chest) and a colour scheme that fits the story very well. I am also madly in love with the lettering of the title.
Now I’m waiting on tenterhooks for my next cover, for Mapping the Shadows, out in July from Loose Id. Hoping not to break my streak of absolute winners.
Love your cover art?
- Show it off! Put it on a Pinterest Board or a Facebook Album – or both.
- Use as big a version as you can without being obnoxious, so people can see it in all its glory.
- Appreciate your cover artist! Always try to find space to credit them, even if it’s only in the screen tip.
Cover artists, you’re one of an author’s best friends. Thanks to all of you for the great covers.