What Makes A Good Cover? What Makes Us Pick Up a Book?

I don’t know about you, but after months of quarantine, I’m finding it hard to find anything to say.

These days our house is much quieter than usual. Proman and I have little new to share because we’re together all the time. No exciting pickle ball games to recount, no lunches or Mah Jongg games with friends to discuss, no trips in our future to plan for.

Of course I know that if that is all I have to complain about, I am supremely lucky. I feel that, too. Still, it does make coming up with something to say on the blog rather difficult.

Last week I came up with…nada. This week I thought you might like to share my latest venture.covers

I’ve told you about the reissues for this fall, two so far with one more, Fugitive, available for pre-order now. While I wrote forty romances at the beginning of my career and five novellas, not all of them will see the light of day again. I’m reissuing the stories that are enough like my mainstream women’s fiction to still interest my enthusiastic readers. I thought the Homecoming series held up well enough to be on sale again. There are others, too, which you’ll find on my book pages.

While reading Fugitive I realized–almost belatedly–that a character in the story was actually the hero in another book. That made choosing the next books to reissue easy. Desert Shadows, and it’s sequel Twilight Shadows, were the two books I needed to put on sale next. I’m delighted to say they’ll be out next year.

Reissuing a book is an interesting but time consuming process. For me, it goes like this:

  • Choose the book I want to reissue
  • Have the book scanned so that I–and sometimes another professional–can edit it. Since all my books were written on a computer, why is this necessary? Because word processing systems change as years pass. While I still had the books on giant floppy disks, I had no way to read them. For some of my books I had even used word processors that no longer exist. Scanning the pages of an actual paperback using specialized equipment is the simplest way to get a manuscript to work with.
  • Edit the book. When a book is scanned, mistakes occur. It’s my job to make sure o’s weren’t scanned as c’s, for instance. Above I mentioned “another professional.” While every one of my books was edited several times when it was originally published, for some of the older books, substantial changes were needed for this next go-round. When that’s true, I use an outside editor in conjunction with my own edits.
  • Designing a new cover with a professional designer.

The covers for Palm Springs Confidential (the Shadows books I mentioned) are all done now. Once I complete the editing, they’ll be ready to republish. For now, though, and because my cover artist is so good, it’s hard to get on her schedule, my next job is to help her design two more covers next week.

So here’s the fun (?) part. We’ve created a look for all my reissues. If you look at my book page–scroll down to ebook Classics–you’ll note that each one has a ribbon ending in a little heart across the top third of the book. The ribbon says “USA Today Bestselling Author” and the heart has “Classics” inside it. While the covers are all different, the ribbon is the same, a clue to readers that they’re looking at one of my reissued romances.

Up next week are covers for From A Distance and Somewhere Out There. From a Distance was one of two books for which I received a highly coveted five stars in Romantic Times Magazine. Melinda Helfer, the reviewer, was enthralled by the story. Both books were a real flight of imagination for me. This time around I’m calling the series Beyond the Stars.

That leads right into why designing the covers will be interesting.

Both books are built around a UFO sighting.

Having said that, and now that you’re over the shock, I’ll add that these are not science fiction. The stories are romances that deal with things we understand and things we don’t, things we agree on and things we don’t, what makes a good marriage, a good relationship, about trust and loyalty and letting down our barriers.

Great, huh, but how do I communicate all those things on the covers? The two covers pictured at the top are the originals for From A Distance which was reissued in early 2000 by my publisher. You can see how hard the cover artist worked to give readers the sense that these romances had a bit more going on, something a little paranormal, perhaps, but they were still  solid romances with the same issues and themes they loved.

Simple, huh?

Next week, Karri and I will explore how to do that, too. I want my readers, even the ones who think they don’t like anything “out of this world,” to give the books a chance, because I think they’ll be happy they did. On the other hand I don’t want to pretend the stories aren’t a little unusual.

Now you understand the challenge, one I never fully appreciated when other people had control of my covers. Designing covers is hard work.

For the record? This past week I also saw the new cover for The House Guests, coming out in June 2021 by Mira Books. I’d seen a mockup, made suggestions for what I thought were improvements, and they listened. I absolutely love what they came up with and the changes they made. I’m not sure I can share it yet, but stay tuned for a cover reveal as soon as I’m able.

Meantime, do you have thoughts on how to convey a sense of something “Beyond The Stars” on these two covers without making them look like Star Trek spinoffs? Have fun with the idea and let me know.


  1. DELORES on October 14, 2020 at 2:57 pm

    I am probably the most unimaginative person out there so absolutely no help in designing book covers. I always enjoy what you decide on!

  2. Judy M Zell on October 14, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    “From a Distance” and “Somewhere Out There” were also great song titles. “Somewhere Out There” is “our song” for my daughter and son-in-law, because he was from India, and during part of the year he was half a world away. Just make sure you put a starry sky on both covers, because “beneath a starry sky” is the second line of “Somewhere Out There.” You can also put a small UFO in the starry skies.

    • Emilie Richards on October 16, 2020 at 11:30 am

      Yes, and how convenient for me that they were songs of the period. Both of them are so perfect title for me in so many ways. Stars for sure, and colored lights, I think–which figure into both stories. But I don’t want the covers to be dark. That will be fun.

  3. Kathryn Trask on October 14, 2020 at 3:30 pm

    That is a lot of commitment to reissue the books. I am happy that you have done so from a reader perspective as I never got to read your earlier romance books. I know it is most likely very satisfying but I also hope it is economically rewarding as well. Covers are funny things, I take little notice of them but something subconscious probably comes into play. One thing I did notice about the Homecoming books and the New Orleans Nights, they tend all to merge into one because of the colours. I hope different colours for this set of books. I don’t mind a bit of paranormal – I have grown into it a bit!
    I feel for you not being free to move about easily, so limiting indeed. But stay clear!!

    • Emilie Richards on October 16, 2020 at 11:28 am

      Those six books are romantic suspense, so we wanted covers that signaled the suspense element. The Homecoming series has the torn family photos on front and different focus with houses instead of scenes/people. But these books are not suspense and now I’m trying to figure out how to have stars without the covers being dark. As for whether they’re financially worth it? They do generate some income, but they also generate a lot of work. So we’ll see. I love having them back in print, so that’s important, too.

  4. Idell J Martinez on October 14, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    I’m with Judy on the starry sky .. You and your artist should go to NASA.com and find their REAL photos of space for the backgrounds. My late husband worked in the U.S. space program and he received many of those photos. They will blow your mind!

    • Emilie Richards on October 16, 2020 at 11:26 am

      I definitely will have stars, but I’ve also realized that there are colors in the sky in both novels, so think maybe colors, too. Bet those are gorgeous photos.

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