What’s had me too busy to write a blog lately? As of January, I’ve requested and received rights reversion on all my titles published through Champagne Books and Kensington’s Lyrical Press. I regained my rights to the stories, but not any rights to the cover art the publishers had supplied.
That was okay by me. Those original covers might be of professional quality, but they lacked any cohesive, branded look – at least within a series, and most of them seemed too generic to give potential readers a real clue as to what to expect from the stories.
For instance, the cover of Spirited showed a blonde woman running in a night-time desert setting. Never mind that she showed a closer resemblance to one of the antagonists than to the heroine – there was nothing in the image to tell the reader that the hero of the story was a magical djinni – a feature that distinguishes this story from the majority of other urban fantasy/paranormal romances.
If a reader were actively looking for a romance featuring a djinni, there was nothing on that cover to let them know this book fit the bill.
The Team Guardian novellas involved members of a near future crime-fighting team composed of people with super human powers – yet nothing on the covers pointed to the presence of special powers, or the superhero nature of the characters. Some readers reported taking the covers as ordinary contemporary romances. I enjoy a good contemporary romance, but these are not that. Readers looking for contemporaries would have been disappointed; readers looking for superhero romances might not have guessed they’d find them behind these covers.
The novellas were all related, but their covers had no unified or cohesive look to them.
Wonder Guy’s original cover suggested a superhero – but missed the element of magic and the whimsical tone of the story that are among its key features.
In short, everything I’d had published needed new cover art.
Creating new cover art for the Team Guardian stories represented a challenge. My first thought was to go for a ‘comic book’ look. I started with Sweet Mercy. I liked the colors of the original cover a lot, though the character shown was presented as much more vampish than the story’s heroine – a yoga-practicing empath whose power to project serenity and compassion could tame evil doers.
My first attempt at a comic-book-style cover was too simplistic and for one critic too dark. The complaint was that it conveyed ‘horror’ or suspense more than romance.
I added a male companion beside the female caped hero, but the whole graphic style still seemed wrong.
More feedback told me my next, more realistic effort looked ‘home made,’ too blurry, with unprofessional typography.
I tweaked the art, sighing at letting go of the ‘painterly’ background effect I liked that had come across as ‘blurry,’ going for a clear, night cityscape, and trying out several fonts for a combination that looked professional and could work across the set of three novellas. I finally came up with versions that fit the bill.
I had never liked the cover of the Team Guardian omnibus volume, featuring postage-stamp-sized versions of the three original covers slapped onto a plain black background. The one thing I did like about the cover was the addition of a logo for the Team.
Because of copyright issues, I came up with my own version of a team logo for the new covers and used it on each one to help tie the series together visually.
For the new omnibus cover, I borrowed a panel-effect from the comics genre, taking slices of art from each of the new covers for the novellas, and framing them against the night skyline of Minneapolis – the main setting of all the team’s adventures. I stuck with a modest Century Schoolbook font for the title and used the same cross-series font Naomi Stone now gets on all her covers.
Spirited was a stand-alone book (not to say there might not be followers to come). The story is rated ‘R’ and the hero is a powerful djinni – therefore a bare-chested djinni on the cover gives the potential readers some idea of what to expect. But the first attempt at a new cover got more negative than positive reactions on Netgalley – even from a reviewer who loved the story itself. Feedback was vague. The art was among the batch labeled ‘blurry:’ another of my attempts at a painterly effect that didn’t make the cut. For a revised version, I used hi-res source art and multiple layers of background effects to replace an overly abstract attempt at indicating time travel by a fade between a modern cityscape and an ancient desert. The new background emphasized the magical powers of the hero.
The font choice for the title was the one element I’d retained from the original cover. I now de-emphasized its drop shadow for a subtler effect and for author name chose a simple sans-serif font that could carry across my various series to bring uniformity in author branding.
I did some further tweaking after a few more comments and lengthened the djinni’s ‘tail’ of smoke and made the tagline text more legible.
This brings us to the set of Fairy Godmothers’ Union stories. Wonder Guy is the only novel in the bunch (yet – I’ll tell you later about my plans for future books). Originally, Wonder Guy was published by Lyrical Press. I signed the contract over to Kensington Books when they acquired Lyrical as their digital-first imprint.
I liked the concept of showing a man as he transformed to a superhero – but not this man, who wore a business suit! Greg, the hero of the story, is a geeky grad student described as wearing t-shirts printed with physics or math-based jokes – something like you might see on The Big Bang Theory. And there was nothing tying this cover to its Fairy Godmothers’ Union series or suggesting the link between superhero powers and fairy godmother magic.
During the brief period between Lyrical’s buy-out and my signing with Kensington, I designed my own version of the cover… though recently, I decided I wanted something that did even more to suggest the fantastical nature of the story.
Meanwhile, the Fairy Godmothers’ Union story collections needed a remake as well. The original covers were very abstract. At first I wanted to stay somewhat abstract. I thought close-ups of roses would suggest romance and sparkly light-effects would suggest magic, and I would frame the covers alike to tie the series together. I liked the effect well enough but got a lot of negative feedback on it, and I realized that they had a point about the typography being illegible at smaller sizes – and I realized that while the look might fit short story collections, it wouldn’t carry across to the novels I have in mind for future inclusion in the series.
Sigh for the roses – especially the large bunch of cream-colored blooms used for the cover of the brand new omnibus edition incorporating all the Fairy Godmothers’ Union stories to date.
I needed something that did more to convey modern fantasy fairy tales.
I did a lot of browsing of covers through Amazon’s Top 100 in related categories and got a good sense of what was selling. The new cover art for Granted Wishes is the result – and I just love it.