I’ll confess of the more than sixty books I’ve written, I’ve had good covers and not-so-good covers. I’ve had a few great ones, too. Not surprisingly, those books sold the best. Have I made my point succinctly? Covers make a difference. A very big difference. And sometimes it’s hard to get them right.
When I decided to publish my two out-of-print Avon releases from the mid 1990s as eBooks, I had an ace in the hole. My lovely and talented daughter-in-law who just happens to be a graphic designer. Tina was excited about the chance to create new covers, and I was even more excited about letting her do them.
You might ask why I didn’t just use the originals, which, while a bit outdated are still quite lovely? While I own the “words” and received the rights back to them once the novel went out of print, I never owned the art. So it was up to us to create our own.
I learned immediately that “concepts” aren’t as easy to show as they are to verbalize. The two novels have a “fantasy” twist of sorts. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to wake up in another person’s life. Haven’t you wished you could walk through someone else’s days, just to see what the world looks like from a different perspective? In Once More With Feeling and Twice Upon A Time, I imagined just that. So when it came to covers, I thought of shadows and blurred images. Something to show the “fantasy” premise of the stories.
Two problems cropped up immediately. First, my idea was nearly impossible to show in a way that would make sense to a reader looking for a book to buy. Second, although the premise is unusual, and let’s face it, impossible in real life, the stories are classic women’s fiction. The premise is the only fantasy element. The stories are about women discovering who they are and what they love.
The covers, then, needed to show the stories for what they really were. Tina and I searched for photographs that would convey the feel of the novels. Twice Upon A Time was the easiest by far. In the novel, Mary Kate McKenzie, who wakes up after a near-death experience to discover a completely unfamiliar life, also discovers that she’s in charge of a community garden run by a group of nuns, a vocation she once aspired to. The problem, of course, is that Mary Kate despises dirt and, apparently, loves men, since she finds she is mysteriously pregnant with no father in sight. Mary Kate’s transformation is, I hope, poignant, romantic and humorous. Since much of it takes place in the garden among a patch of sunflowers, the moment we stumbled on this photo at istockphoto.com, we knew we had our background. The photo said everything about Mary Kate’s new life.
From that point on, Tina worked her magic. Mary Kate is a redhead with curly hair. Tina touched up the photo so the woman’s longer blonde hair doesn’t show under the hat, and created more sky for the title. Next the font for my name. We settled on one similar to the one used by Mira Books, to provide some continuity. She chose an italic for the title and tag line that was similar to title fonts of my other books, but not identical. The idea was for readers to recognize this as an Emilie Richards cover, without mimicking.
The result was exactly what I’d hoped for.
Once More With Feeling, the first book of the two connected stories, was much harder. For the most part, Once More is an urban novel taking place on Long Island and Manhattan. I wanted contrast between the two books, but the same basic feel. Easier said than done.
Next Friday I’ll show you our journey and the magic Tina worked to make those ideas spring to life. Can you tell this has been a learning experience? I have a new respect for the cover art department at my publisher. Now I know just how hard they work. One thing’s for certain, though, I couldn’t have been luckier. Working with my daughter-in-law was a dream come true. I’m looking forward to more collaborative ventures in our future.