Friday 4 August 2017

Behind the Scenes: Cover Cues

In the past eighteen months, my understanding of the world of publishing has undergone a massive learning curve. So many things I never knew even existed have now become familiar as I’ve been stretched (and stressed!) beyond my snug little writerly world of pre-contract / pre-published days. Today I'd thought I'd share a little about some of the behind-the-scenes development of a book, particularly in regards to marketing and cover design.

For each of my books, my publisher's marketing team have sent a questionnaire about what sorts of things I would like to see incorporated into the design direction of my Regency-era novels. These questions relate to title, tone of book, elevator pitch, back cover, target audience and cover direction. Having said this, my publishers are very aware of the market where they are trying to promote my books (the US Christian market), and have years of experience in design and promotion, which means my ideas may simply remain my ideas. In addition, there are certain constraints because my books are part of a 3-book series, so particular efforts have been made to keep the style familiar for readers to identify each book as one written by Carolyn Miller’ 😀 But for each book I’ve been really pleased with the way my answers to their questions have been interpreted in the final covers.

So what are those cover related questions, I hear you ask? Have a read of the following, and consider how they might relate to your work in progress, or perhaps a recent book you’ve read.

1.     Symbols/Themes - Please list and describe any objects, visuals, Bible verses, or themes that illustrate or clarify the book’s objectives and would be appropriate for cover art.

2.     Competing Titles - Please list any books that have been published within the last two years that might compete with or target the same audience as your book and/or has cover design elements that you like (or don’t like). Paste links to covers you do/don’t like.
3.     Cover Direction - While we can’t promise we can/will incorporate every suggestion, we do want to consider your design direction. Please feel free to share your cover suggestions.

For my first novel, The Elusive Miss Ellison, I had found an image on Pinterest I thought suited - it’s amazing what you can find when googling 
‘Regency gown’! On the right is the original image: 

In my notes in response to the above questions I wrote:
I’d really like to see the protagonist (Miss Ellison) on the front cover, dressed in a Regency-appropriate gown, walking away (face not seen), holding a basket, which alludes to her interests and her ‘elusiveness’. In the book she is depicted as slender, fair, copper-blonde hair, grey eyes, wears shapeless grey gowns (which points to her lack of vanity).

Compare the original image with the one near the top of the article -  I think the tweaks the designers did fit the brief perfectly!

For my second novel, The Captivating Lady Charlotte, I again found an image on Pinterest that I loved. I included the following in my answers to the questionnaire:
I thought I’d send a pic of the image I think best epitomises the novel. It’s proved my most repinned image on Pinterest, and to me sums up both the character description and setting…and implies big house, money, the feeling of being trapped, and pensive choice making…

 I was very fortunate for my publishers to gain the rights to use these images.

For my third novel, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, out in October, the designers had a bit more work to do to pull off my ideas, but still managed to create something that fitted the look of the previous two books, while also hinting something of what the novel might be about.

My comments to the designers:
I would love to see Miss DeLancey standing at a cliff top, facing the sea, while a glorious sunset gilds the sea. This alludes to several significant clifftop moments that occur in the novel, and the sunset references the global phenomena caused by the 1815 Mt Tambora eruption. It is set near Brighton, so the cliffs should look somewhat chalky...This novel is a little darker in some ways, but the depiction of light symbolizes hope…

Again, I think the designers succeeded – but maybe I’m a little biased! ;)

So, over to you. Have you thought about what you do and don’t like about covers? What images would best portray your WIP? Why?

Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. Together with her husband she has pastored a church for ten years, and worked part-time as a public high school English and Learning and Support teacher.
A longtime lover of romance, especially that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s Regency era, Carolyn holds a BA in English Literature, and loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her debut Regency The Elusive Miss Ellison released in February 2017, and her next, The Captivating Lady Charlotte released June 27, with The Dishonorable Miss Delancey releasing October 24. All are available from Amazon, Book Depository, Koorong and more.

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  1. Really interesting to read the process you have been through, Carolyn, with the beautiful covers of each of your novels. I think your publishers should be very grateful to you for doing lots of the work for them, even to the point of finding those Pinterest images! Sure saves them time and effort.

    I'm glad too that I have liked all my book covers, most of which required input from me, as yours did. For all but one of my novels, I avoided front-on views of the main character--I prefer my readers just to use their own imagination, with the help of any description I might give in the story. And for my two non-fiction, I came up with the ideas, although different images were used in the end. I particularly love the cover of my last book, 'Becoming Me', because I feel the image of the Russian doll we used perfectly encapsulates the whole idea of getting rid of the layers in our lives that hinder us from becoming that person at the core of our being whom God created us to be. On non-fiction covers, I like the idea of using an image that gets to the heart of what the book is about.

    1. Thanks Jo- Anne! I agree with your thoughts on your cover for 'Becoming Me' - very apt! Appreciate your comments :)

  2. I love your cover images - I'm impressed you found two of them yourself. I am not going to ask how long you spent on Pinterest for that to happen ...

    1. Hi Iola - yes, best not! (It wasn't days...promise!)

  3. I think it is pretty unusual for a publisher to give you this much input. I've never heard of that before for a traditional publisher. I've only had 'right of veto' but only a bit because they've often been 'running behind' and so there is limited time to change things. Or my books just haven't been that important compared to others. I've had much more input on my Chinese covers - it helps that I'm 'in country'. I especially love book 2 cover

    1. Thanks Christine. My understanding from some other traditionally published authors is that there is a degree of input, but I'm sure it depends on the publisher :)

  4. I especially love the idea of your covers presenting a trilogy. Their similarities yet their differences according to the heroine and the background scenery. Each of them are so delicate and the titles manage to give a clue to the plot. Well thought out Carolyn!

    1. Thanks Rita. Yes, providing subtle nods to content is a bit of an art!

  5. Carolyn, I'm so impressed how involved you were in the covers, in fact, your images were the basis for 2 of your novels.

    They're all beautiful covers, BTW.

  6. Beautiful covers, Carolyn, and fascinating to find out the process behind them. Thank you!


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