How a Book Gets its Cover

Ever wonder how a book gets its cover? Especially when the hero of a book has a blond buzz cut, but the man on the cover rocks long, flowing, inky black hair? Well, I can’t speak about other publishers, but I can talk a little about the process at Carina Press.

The first step is the Art Fact Sheet. It comes to the author via email and asks for such basic information as where the story takes place, the time period, character descriptions and interesting visual elements. I pull descriptions from the book and add photos that inspired me. That’s the easy part.

The Art Fact Sheet also asks more difficult questions like what is the “mood” of the book. Now, you’d think a writer would ace this question. But by the time I’m finished with a manuscript, I’m so close to it that I don’t know if I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. I might be shooting for light and sexy or dark and sexy, but did I succeed? So I always, always get my editor’s input on this. And she always nails it in just a few words. She described Waiting for Ty as “longing and secrecy, with high sexual tension.” Yay, that was my intent!

Since the creative folks in the art department don’t have time to read every book they design for, they also ask for a one-to-two paragraph synopsis and a two-to-three sentence elevator pitch. This is where I get really creative with grammar, because it can be insanely difficult to condense an 80,000+ word novel into two paragraphs, much less three sentences. Honesty forces me to admit that my elevator pitch for Waiting for Ty was seven, rather lengthy sentences. Yeah, I cheated.

When the Art Fact Sheet is complete, I email it back and begin the long, excruciatingly suspenseful wait … because the cover is as important to authors as it is to readers. It’s the visual manifestation of our words. We indulge in cover reveals and buy promotional materials featuring the cover. We are cover sluts, pimping it wherever and whenever we can. We love our covers!

Finally, months after submitting the Art Fact SheetWaiting for Ty Cover, the preliminary cover arrives via email. For me, no matter how beautiful the cover, it never looks the way I imagined. But the art department doesn’t want to know that. They simply want me to point out any glaring inconsistencies with the story. So I must set aside my expectations and look at the cover with a more objective eye. Is the hair color right? The eye color? When I received the cover of Waiting for Ty, there was a tat on Ty’s hip. It was a great tat, but there was a problem: Ty doesn’t have any ink. The artist removed the ink and voilà, the sexy cover you see here. Let the pimping begin.

Now that you know how important the cover is to the author, tell me how important it is in your decision to read a book.

This post first appeared at The Contemporary Romance Café.

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