• A new setting — urban instead of rural
• A new set of foodie issues — urban instead of rural
• A new cast of characters — while encouraging cameos from the previous series
• A new length — 55,000 words instead of 75,000
• A new look — clearly a new series while reminiscent of the previous
Most of those decisions were clearly up to me. The Farm Fresh Romance series had started life as a three-book series that expanded to six, but this time I knew I needed the foundation for at least six books from the outset. That meant any “best friends” I might give the first book’s main characters had the potential to star in their own story later. This required the creation of a loose plan and cast of characters from the get-go, plus a solid foundational community setting.
The new look, however, was up to my cover designer and illustrator, aka my daughter. The first question was, “How well has the illustrated look been working for romance covers?” The answer is, short of a complete rebranding or an A/B split test, it’s impossible to know. There have been a very few would-be readers who told me they looked like children’s books. I’ve also had dozens of compliments. Most of the many thousands who’ve read my books haven’t commented either way. Would different — more traditional — covers appeal to more people? Maybe. But the illustrated covers don’t seem to have hurt sales, and they do stand out from the crowd. So we decided to stay with illustrations.
My daughter set up a photo shoot at her pastor’s home with a couple from her church. Why that location? Because her pastor’s wife keeps the same breed of goats that are featured in Secrets of Sunbeams! Thankfully the models were happy to pose with a goat. My daughter, Hanna, and I chose the image from her shoot that we preferred for the cover, and she ran up the preliminary sketch.
To this point we were in familiar territory (except for the goat). Now, how to make it clear that this was not a Farm Fresh Romance story? What could we do to set the tone for a new series?
• Different background
• Different fonts
• Different layout
My new setting is in a semi-fictional neighborhood of Spokane, Washington, that I called Bridgeview. My daughter created a stylized backdrop for Secrets of Sunbeams with a city skyline and a bridge. This background will be used across the series for instant recognition.
Hanna spent hours narrowing down new font choices then presented me with a dozen of her favorites. I plugged the six Urban Farm Fresh Romance titles I’m already committed to into each of the possibilities. Some didn’t play well with a capital F (Flavors of Forever) or even a capital S, and were easily eliminated. We finally agreed on the font choices you see in the completed cover.
We agreed that the book number should appear on the front of the cover, not just the spine, and I didn’t argue when she preferred to write it out rather than use the numeral. ;)
The last stylistic decision was how and where to place my author name. We decided on a stacked name to one side in a fun font. Here’s a quick video about the cover design.
The Farm Fresh Romance paperbacks each have a solid colored spine, which seemed fun in theory but hasn’t worked out so well in reality, as the printing job is not always accurate. So the other thing we analyzed in advance this time was where and how the front cover elements would carry across the spine and onto the back without a full separation. I don’t have a full wrap to show off yet, but I really like the preliminary sketches of how the full effect will be.
Just as writing the next few books in this series will be easier — and hopefully quicker — now that the groundwork has been laid, having the cover style created will speed the process for all the other covers in this series as well. We’re already playing with ideas for Book 2, Butterflies on Breezes!
Secrets of Sunbeams is only available in Whispers of Love, a box set with 12 brand new books from bestselling Christian romance authors. Whispers of Love releases June 28 at 99 cents. You do not want to miss this fabulous deal, available for Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iBooks.
Secrets of Sunbeams will release solo in late July, with Butterflies on Breezes hot on its heels about one month later.