Creating a Cover

For the past month, I’ve been involved with designing two books covers, or rather, I’ve had two different cover designers creating them for me.  In both instances, I had an original vision, but in one instance, I had created an earlier cover myself and tried to go forward with that design.  Thus, that’s the journey I report here.

Once upon a time, I published a book that I titled Fuss and Feathers.  I loved that title.  She was the fuss and he was the feathers, but the editor didn’t.  As a result, Fuss and Feathers became

The Man on the Romance Cover 2The Man on the Romance Cover, and it became the first book to launch the new line of Moonlight Romance by the Starlog Group, creating a romance book in a magazine format.

Personally, I hated the title.  I hated the cover, too.  As the author, I had no artistic control over either.

While the characters matched the faces I envision—after all I had sent magazine ad tear sheets of what I imagined these characters to look like—I didn’t imagine them in this state of undress . . . especially her.

That was the era of bodice rippers.

Then, I got my rights back but was busy with school—writing papers for classes, teaching, and fulfilling my role as administrator—so, the book got shelved for the time being.

Then self-publishing became easier to do.  I thought, why not?  The story was still good.  I’d have to change the cover, due to not owning its copyright, and I wanted to change the title, anyway, along with my name and getting rid of the previous marriage pseudonym.

So, the new book with a new cover became

DH Diana's front coverDetermined Hearts.

At the time, I liked the cover.  I spent time learning new software and probably should have spent more time with the software.  I published it on Smashwords hoping for the best.  Unfortunately, there were no sales.  Nothing.  Of course, I wasn’t promoting it, and now that I think back on it, I can say my not liking the cover probably influenced my lack of promotion.  Consequently, I unpublished it.

Which brings us to February 2016.

I was ready to do the book justice.  The story was still good after I re-read it, at least in my opinion, though it did need updating and having errors that six other editors didn’t catch, fixed.

I contacted a designer, telling her that I wanted to put my hero in the background and possibly add a camera, placing it on the rock.  After all, the chipmunk, camera, and eagle were featured in the book, so why not?

We ended up with this:  Determined Hearts - Cover Final High Resolution

While said I was okay with the image as it had been my vision and we’d gone to a LOT of trouble finding the right body and matching it with a different head (the wonders of artistic manipulation!), there was something not right with the picture.  And, I couldn’t determine what that something was.

I knew the eagle wasn’t right, nor the camera, despite how many times we tweaked it and how much I wanted them there.  Even the bright light in the background bothered but I couldn’t say why.

And then, I saw the entire flat – the back and front cover combined, with the designer having chosen the back cover landscape. (But yeah, overall, it doesn’t look good, does it?)

Determined Hearts Full Cover - Flat with old ebook cover

Immediately, I knew what was wrong.

The back didn’t match the front and I loved, loved, LOVED the back cover landscape.  The front cover landscape was okay, but I loved the other more.

And then, she showed me the entire flatWooded Scene

and I was enamored.  This was my cover!  By now, we were both giddy about the future composition.

I wanted him placed on the front cover still, but up in the trees, reducing him in size.  We decided to place the chipmunk on the log.

Determined Hearts - Prototype Cover 2 (5)

The result:   A man who looks like he wants to ax murder a chipmunk!!!

(Are you laughing yet?)

I still laugh every time I look at this picture.  In all honesty, I can’t blame the designer.  She was following my wishes, my design.  Actually, she must have been cringing all along the way, wishing I wasn’t so stuck on my choices.

The landscape still looked good, but my hero had to go.  He was starting to look too angry, with an ax to grind.  (Groan.)

I needed a different hero.  In fact, I decided that the cover needed a couple.  The designer liked that idea.

I sent her a picture that I absolutely loved, asking if it was possible to use them on the cover even though they didn’t have legs showing and the fact that her hair was auburn rather than the blonde tresses that my original heroine was born with.

The designer sent me this. Determined Hearts - 1600 Cover eBook Final

Immediately, I knew this was my cover.

It was far easier for me to change the color of her hair within the pages then it would be for us to try tweaking the image.

And so, the cover was finished.

What a journey.  Probably close to 100 e-mail exchanges over several weeks, but we finally arrived a final product.

Behind the scenes, for any author who is self-publishing and working with a cover designer, there are a lot of decisions that go into creating a cover.  And, it’s always a collaboration—not always an easy one, but one that is totally worthwhile when the results are this fabulous.

Oh, and now we’re into the era of embraces and washboard chests.  I’m okay with that.

Update:  Determined Hearts is available for sale.





About Diana Stout

Screenwriter, author, former English professor
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