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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Covers with Curb Appeal

by Rain Trueax

From the the time I decided to become an indie author, I wanted to do my own covers. Being a painter and sculptor, I thought how hard could a cover be? Naive is one word for where I was back then. I thought my first covers were fine-- looked like my characters. My painter friend loved them. It turned out readers-- not so much. To them, they were amateur looking and made them expect the books to be inferior. From that day began a learning process that has been ongoing

I thought I'd write about some of that process with my first indie published book, one that has undergone maybe the most changes.  

Desert Inferno is a contemporary adventure romance set on the border in Arizona.  I don't know how many covers it's had. Some changes were tweaks, others major shifts in what part of the story would be emphasized. 

The story, in terms of a cover, has a major complication in the hero. He is big, powerful, tawny haired, and most (not the heroine) see him as ugly. Romance heroes are almost never ugly. Models for these covers are never ugly. Jake is that kind of ugly that can also be seen as beautiful. Artists, like Rachel, its heroine, know there can be a thin line, very thin, between the two. I wanted the cover to be true to him.

One of my attempts used Jimmy Thomas, as handsome as men come, and gave him a big nose. When Jimmy saw it, he wasn't thrilled, felt an ugly man would not draw in readers, and suggested I find something that didn't show the hero's face. Two of those came next (showing one here). I wasn't happy with it but had no better plan. For awhile, I used a sunset-- pretty but wrong vibe.

It only dawned on me this month that I didn't need the hero on the cover. It could be the heroine-- after all, it begins with her and she faces one of the greatest challenges in the book.

So, with my Deposit Photo Plan in hand, I found Rachel. The photo is dark for a cover, but my intention was always to take it to Dreamscope where they offer apps to turn photos painterly. The one I have been favoring is Oil Pastel Portrait. My first try came out great until I looked at Rachel's hair. While she might have reddish highlights, she is not a redhead.

If I have learned one thing in the five years since I began, it's that a cover, with hero or heroine on it, better have images that match the characters in the book. I went back to the photo and darkened her hair... That time, the app turned her hair white... It is an AI tool and has its own reasons behind what it does-- no arguing with that. I darkened the photo's hair again and sharpened the image. Eureka!

Will readers like it better? I have no idea. Art is not a particularly objective field. It pleases me... for now.

I see a little irony in this as I have come full circle back to more painterly covers. The difference now is I have a lot more tools to use. I don't know if I will redo some of the other covers using Dreamscope, but probably not as I'm currently satisfied with most of them. As to how readers see them, I am still mostly guessing. For now, I hope Desert Inferno has had its last change as this seems true to the book.

Besides Amazon, Desert Inferno is available at other sites as well as a paperback (although it'll take awhile to get the new cover there
Links to heat level and buy sites at: Romances with an Edge.
My blog is at: Rainy Day Thoughts


  1. Looks like you're having fun with your Deposit Photo Plan. I like the painterly look of the final cover. It's eye-catching and unusual. Good work!

  2. Thanks, Sandra. I also get a lot from a membership in Stencil. Some do well with using scenery on their covers. It's always trying new things. Where for me, working with covers is fun, it is a nice break from writing and editing.

  3. I hear your pain and confusion on the cover issue--also the frustration with resources. The first thing I learned is that what I like is not what the cover should be. This still annoys me, and I've compromised to market requirements on all books except my Honey Beaulieu series. She is what she is.

  4. I understand that, Jacquie. The irony is what a reader likes today they might not tomorrow. I do think we have to balance it out. By the way, I like your Honey Beaulieu covers and they are different but so is Honey :).

  5. I'm not sure, Rain. I love the background and the title colors, but I think I would like her a little less "painterly". My books with covers from Kim Killion do best. Lately I've used Skhye Moncrief for covers.

  6. Most publishers give you a sheet to fill out about your character and what you'd like to have on your cover. You still get what THEY want and have no voice in the matter. Take it and love it. In my few self-pubbed books, I've hired someone to make my covers. I'm not as creative as you are. Can I sigh with envy here??? I'd end up spending more time making and correcting a cover than it had taken me to write the book! Congrats on your self-designed covers.

    1. The thing is, for me, Vonnie, it's my time with art. I used to spend time painting or sculpting but those take too much time away from the writing. So basically I consider this my fun time. I always hope it'll meet what the readers like but I don't like a lot of the covers they do. So not sure I have good judgment on that. I know the latest look is very photo oriented except for some that only have a landscape, which looks very idyllic. I didn't have good luck with the landscape ones but then I think they didn't suit my books, which are not sweet. It's always a balancing act for me. If I bought one, I'd probably want to change it at some point lol and then I'd have to buy another. I tend to see my own books through different eyes as I go along.

      I also like Killion images and have bought some that are still on some of my books, but they have to suit the characters and to have an ugly model just doesn't happen. It is possible that women don't like an ugly hero either, but I wanted it and sometimes you have to write your story not necessarily what you know might sell more books. I feel the same way about the covers. I have to feel they are true to my vision.

  7. Interesting post. My daughter is an artist, but she's also a graphic designer. From her, I've learned that the audience for paintings may not be the same as the audience for book covers.

    I think it's a good idea to see what books are selling best in your chosen genre. Make a list. The covers of those books were responsible for readers being interested enough to read the blurb then the blurb probably caused them to click BUY. But the cover is what attracted them initially. If your cover doesn't make a reader stop browsing long enough to read the blurb, then it's not working for you.

    Analyze those book covers and find the commonalities in the covers. Model that in creating your own covers.

  8. Good wisdom, Joan. I find that the covers I see like say in the store don't appeal to me at all. I do like a guy on the cover sometimes with no shirt, but it seems there is a plethora of bodybuilder abs and oiled, waxed torsos, which are a turnoff to me. I do look at what is out there. In the end, you have to suit yourself as well as the reader.

    I had a book, when I started out, that got such negative vibes from readers on the cover that they even mentioned it in the reviews-- model wasn't pretty enough etc. I changed it to landscape, and still had those who hated it. Finally I got something I like and no more negative comments-- but it also doesn't sell well either ;).


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