I’ve always found the process of creating cover art fascinating. Last year, Elizabeth Hoyt’s publisher offered readers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the cover for SCANDALOUS DESIRES, and I loved watching the video and seeing the models dressed up and posing for the gorgeous final cover and stepback.
Now that I’m going the indie route, I’m in charge of everything for my books, including cover art. If you’re like me (and I’m pretty sure most of you are), a beautiful cover that is evocative of the story inside is important to the total package–at least, in drawing you to the book in the first place. The difference between most indie books and traditionally published books, however, is that traditional publishers usually commission an exclusive photo shoot and cover for each book (such as Elizabeth Hoyt’s SCANDALOUS DESIRES). Many times, especially for historical covers, the photo taken is rendered as a painting by the individual artist who was commissioned. Because indie authors operate on a much smaller scale, the avenue which is much more reasonable for us is to find an image we can work with from a stock photo or to pay a photographer for exclusive rights to one of their photos. Sometimes we can request that a photographer shoot a certain type of photo (which I’ll get to later on), but many times we just pick through what is already available. The trick, you see, comes in the design afterward.
When the decision was made that THE SINNING HOUR, the first story in my new Victorian Unmasked series, should become a full-length novel, I knew I had to change the cover art to fit with the other covers I had planned. This meant the cover needed to be changed from a picture of a mask to a picture of a woman. I thought you might be interested in seeing the original photo we worked with and learning about the process we (designer Carrie of Seductive Designs is amazingly talented) went through to get to the finished cover.
Here is the original photo, taken by another amazingly talented woman, Jenn LeBlanc of Illustrated Romance. This was a photo I commissioned from Jenn, which means I told her I wanted this sort of pose (back to the camera) and that I wanted pearls. From just those two qualifications, she came up with this:
Now here’s the process of how we went from this photo to the final cover (below):
1) Decided on color of dress. I had played with colors for this photo before using PhotoShop and happened upon a gold-orange simply by experimenting. As soon as I saw it, though, and how it looked with the pearls in the picture, I knew that was it.
2) Decided on background. Honestly, I think backgrounds are the hardest to choose for indie-pubbed books, because again, you usually just have to work with what you can find. I had already worked with Carrie in designing the second cover for the series, COVET MY HEART, and was inspired by the textured background of Loretta Chase’s upcoming book, SCANDAL WEARS SATIN. Thus, because this book is part of a series and Carrie advised that the covers should look similar in theme (again, love her), we knew the background for THE SINNING HOUR would be textured. I just had to decide on which texture to use. And because I’d already had Carrie design COVET MY HEART with a monochromatic design of red and pink, she advised that the background for THE SINNING HOUR should also be similar to the color I’d chosen for the dress. After I decided on the particular texture and color, I asked Carrie to experiment with shading at the edges to convey more of the darker, emotional tone of my books. (Note: the shading of the background also affects the light on the model.) This may sound simple, but I am a perfectionist–which is another way to say I’m sure I drove Carrie nuts, because we went back and forth on everything until I was satisfied. A designer who is willing to do this, in my opinion, is worth their weight in gold. =)
3) I asked Carrie to edit the original photo to remove the seams in the gloves, the seams on the shoulder straps, make the dress fuller and in more of the shape of a gown worn during my specific part of the Victorian era, and to smooth the glove on the right hand where it’s bunched at the wrist. I also asked for hair down the back to add better balance to the photo and to cover the shoulder blades.
4) Once the actual image and background were finished, Carrie added the text for my name and the title. (I scrolled through hundreds of fonts for both and she helped me narrow them down by showing how my favorites would look on the actual cover.) We spent several days discussing and passing back and forth options for text color. Although I really liked the idea of a blue or purple (because to me these were more appropriate for the title, THE SINNING HOUR), I couldn’t deny that the white/ivory was the easiest to read.
5) Carrie added the “An UNMASKED novel” and the quote from one of my absolute favorite authors, Julie Anne Long. We actually had to change the shading to the cover’s left corner so the quote would be visible.
6) A stripe had been added to the right earlier on because she knew I wanted one, but this is the point when we finalized the stripe’s color.
7) Finally, Carrie worked magic with her software program to soften the cover with a “painted” effect.
And the final result? A cover I love. I hope you do, too! =) (Here’s the original again for comparison.)
Now you know how the cover for THE SINNING HOUR was designed. I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes peek! =) Are you a cover fanatic? What type of romance covers (landscape or people, facing forward or away, couple or alone, etc.) do you like the best? Any particular colors? Have any recent covers stood out to you as especially eye-catching?