Hi, I’m Jill Hughey, and like some other authors, I’ve made missteps when it comes to covers. I’ve done it all, from having the wrong cover professionally designed, to designing the wrong cover myself, to finally biting the money bullet and having the right designer create a beautiful cover. I’m going to tell this a bit out of order because that is how I lived it.
To start, I’d like to show the cover of my new release, Little Witch: Historical Romance Novella.
This the fourth book (fifth story, but we’ll get to that) in the series. However, the groundwork for this cover was laid with the cover of Vain, because that was when I bit the bullet to hire Rae Monet. I chose Rae because I liked the work I saw in her portfolio, specifically the covers that incorporated several elements from their stories, and because she sent me a LONG questionnaire about the book. I took this as an indication that she actually cared enough to make the cover relate to the story as much as I did, so I hired her!
For our first project, Vain, I told Rae that red cloth with gold embroidery was important. I had already created a lightbox on Dreamstime, and from that, Rae chose the couple. (See stock image at http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-kiss-image9296065.) I also told Rae what I didn’t want: castles and knights in armor, because my books are set in the 830s and 840s in France and Germany. She found the little cluster of small stone buildings that is the perfect element to establish a setting for the reader, and is a piece shared by all four covers.
The first draft of the Vain cover absolutely blew me away. I was so excited! My requests were to change the font for the title which was initially much more curly and fancy, to move the red drape a little to the right, and removed some shading from across the couple’s faces because it did not look right on the print version.
I was so proud to release that book. But, I was then faced with a problem. I had two prior books in the series with covers that, quite frankly, looked like crap next to Vain. So, I bit the bullet really, really hard and asked Rae to dress up the whole series.
I had had a local graphic designer create the cover for book one, Unbidden. I had been happy with it. The major flaw was absolutely my fault: I didn’t want my romance cover to feature a half naked dude or some woman falling out of her corset. Unfortunately, the result had no elements that would inform a potential reader that it was a romance.
Makeover time! I told Rae I was thinking of a green theme, that grape leaves would be meaningful, and found this couple on DepositPhoto http://depositphotos.com/21103849/stock-photo-Young-couple-relaxing-on-a-sun-bed-and-kissing.html. The first draft was super but too much like a couple in a California vineyard so I sent the sword image I bought for the first cover to Rae, and that gave it just a little edge — no pun intended. I also wanted to keep the Herculanum font.
Unbidden went from confused gray to gorgeous green!
I’m pretty embarrassed to show the original cover for book two, Redeemed. I did this one myself. I was making no money on my writing gig, and I really didn’t feel I could afford to spend anything on the cover. The first one was a catastrophe, but I pretty quickly incorporated the hero’s face into the cover while keeping the gold satin to make it soft and romantic. He is the villain from book one, so I used his face twice to try to convey that he was sort of divided between good and evil. But again, the main mistake was that it doesn’t scream romance.
Rae worked on Redeemed at the same time she did Unbidden. I like the yellow idea, and told her coins and a quill would be meaningful.
Anyway, here is Uglier, Ugly, and Redeemed Perfection!
So, you can see that the first three books in the series now share a very similar layout. My newest release, Little Witch, definitely relates, but the moon was important and I liked a picture with the woman looking up as though at the moon http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-18717094-girl-and-boy.php?st=23a964c, so Rae had to shift things around a bit. The cluster of buildings became more prominent. For color, we seemed to be using gem-tones so I suggested something blue. I absolutely the love the soft almost-periwinkle shade Rae chose. I think the word “little” was originally smaller and in white which made it almost disappear so Rae changed that, and I was a little fussy about the lighting on the stock photo that glared from right. She did a great job toning it down, and though it is hard to tell, she made the woman’s eyes yellowish, because an important element in the book is the heroine’s striking eyes.
I mentioned before the Evolution Series actually has five stories. One of those is a short story. I’m selling it for 99 cents and, being a realist, I know that I will probably never make my money back on a cover design for it, so that is one that I did myself. It obviously does not relate well to the others, but, in a way, I don’t mind because the story is much, much shorter, and has a lower heat rating than the others. I’ve recently incorporated it into my series bundle so I’m toying with idea of just using it as bonus material in that and no longer selling it as a stand-alone story.
I hope my journey is helpful to other authors. As I start to plot my next series, I’ve already started a lightbox of character images on DepositPhoto, because I now know I need to be thinking about the covers from the beginning. Conveying genre and a cohesive theme throughout the series are super-important. And it is a real pleasure to put a product up for sale that you feel proud of! My old covers still show up on places like Goodreads which just makes me sad, so, if at all possible, bite the bullet and get the cover of your dreams the first time.
Jill Hughey and her books can be found at http://jillhughey.blogspot.com.