One of the “rules” of indie publishing is that writers shouldn’t make their own covers.
I imagine some writers who have done just that to great success are shaking their heads right now. The reason I put “rules” in quotes above is that really it’s just a suggestion (albeit, a strongly worded one, sometimes). Indies have the freedom to choose for themselves. Ultimately, our accountability comes in the form of reader response to our work. Some writers create covers that readers love.
As someone with an artistic eye, I thought I might be one of the exceptions. However, as soon as I tried to design a cover that captured my idea, I realized I, in fact, was not among that multi-talented group. At least not when it came to realizing my vision for To Bring You Back.
I wasn’t going to include my failed attempt, but we’re all friends here, right? So, here you go:
There are some things I like about the cover. The font ended up being pretty similar to the one the designer eventually chose, and there is also a lake and a couple almost-kissing on the final cover (that’s what the silhouette overlaid on the picture is supposed to be). But in the end, the design didn’t match up with my vision and wasn’t what I wanted to represent this story, which I loved so much, to the world.
So, I started snooping through copyright pages of books with covers I admired, checking to see who designed them. Once I had a few designers in mind, I looked each of them up and browsed their other work to get a broader feel for their designs.
Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations stood out, and I hired her to create not only the cover for To Bring You Back, but also covers for the rest of the series.
When it came time for the covers to be designed, I put together a design brief. To start off the file, I provided my designer with a file that included pictures of covers I admired. I included my favorite covers for books by Melissa Tagg, Tari Faris, Becky Wade, and Susan May Warren.
Based on what seemed to be popular in my genre, I asked for a script font and a pastel color scheme. I also asked for the background of the photos to reflect something about the season and/or setting of each story. Specifics about each story from back cover copy to pictures of actors and models I thought had the right look for my main characters rounded out the document, and I sent it off.
And then, one day, the cover for To Bring You Back landed in my inbox in all its glory.
I was smitten.
Because Gannon, the hero in the story, is clean-shaven, I did ask if it was possible to edit out the model’s facial hair. When it wasn’t possible, my designer sent me mockups of the same cover with other couples, but, that one small detail aside, this model looked more like Gannon to me than any of the others.
So, we went with the original.
Once we had that design nailed down, my designer moved on to the other covers.
For An Awestruck Christmas Medley, I asked if we could change out the model. (It’s petty, but I couldn’t picture any of the guys of Awestruck wearing that scarf. Not that there’s anything wrong with it… Maybe John would wear it? Have you read the series? Who do you picture that guy to be?) However, with the stock photos available to us, we didn’t find one I liked better, so we went with the original.
The woman on the cover of To Belong Together originally wore a strapless dress (I assume—it didn’t show in the original cover design at all), so I asked for a strap to be added. Also, she didn’t have bangs, and the man in the background had facial hair. In that case, the designer was able to make the adjustments.
Similarly, I asked for a strap to be added over the shoulder of the woman on To Begin Again.
To Believe in You has the cover that changed the most from original concept to final version. The initial couple was different. The man had too much of a clean-cut office vibe for my imagining of Matt, the reformed bad boy of the series. Also, I had asked if the picture on the bottom could depict a small town around a marina, which is where most of the story takes place. My cover designer did what I asked for, but I felt the end result was busy.
So, I asked for a different couple and gave other ideas for the scene in the bottom, including fall leaves (because of the time of year when the book is set) or sunflowers (because there’s a sunflower field next to Matt’s family’s business). The end result was well-worth the back and forth, and it ties with To Bring You Back for my favorite of the series!
Now that the Rhythms of Redemption are all out in the world (and newly available through Kindle Unlimited!), I’m working on my next series, The Many Oaks Romances.
With the new series, I’ve decided to circle back to the idea of creating my own covers using what I learned through the process of working with a designer last time. In my post next month, I’ll share a behind-the-scenes look at how the cover for the prequel novella came to be! (I hope you’ll find my design skills have improved!)
In the meantime, which of the Rhythms of Redemption Romances covers do you like best? Or, what style of cover do you prefer? (Some options are ones with photographs of people like mine, covers with photographs of people that don’t include their faces, covers with photographs of settings, illustrated covers with people, illustrated covers without people-think flowers, birds, or objects.)