Wednesday, November 20, 2013

#WWW The Joy & Agony of Cover Art - Katherine Grey #WritersLife

I'm thrilled to have romance author, Katherine Grey, sharing today about the joy & agony she experienced during her cover art experience. 

For me, it hit REAL close to home ...


As a reader I often wondered why an author would choose a cover that either had little to do with the content of the book or depicted the main characters in a way that didn’t match the descriptions within the story itself. One of the first things I learned after receiving my first contract is that in most cases authors have little control over the covers of their books. Of course, self-publishing is a different matter as the author is able to control every aspect including the cover art.

When I tell my reading friends and family members this little known fact, they’re surprised by how little control the author has. I’m not saying this is true of every publisher, just that it seems the norm.  

In the instance of my publisher, the author is sent a fact sheet to complete regarding the basics of the story to help the cover artist design the cover.  Questions include what the hero and heroine look like – eye color, hair color etc., the time period of the story, where it takes place, how the characters would dress and so forth. Completing the form doesn’t always work out the way one expects.

For my latest release, An Unexpected Gift, I received a beautiful cover showing the ocean with a tall masted ship off to the side, a compass and an embracing dark haired couple.  It was beautiful and I would have been thrilled to have it as my cover except… there is not a single sentence in the book about sailing or ships and my heroine had blonde hair which was mentioned at various times throughout the book. I contacted my editor who contacted someone who contacted someone and I received an email back stating they would re-do the cover deleting the ship and anything sailing related. Since they were already revising the cover, I asked if the heroine could be depicted as a blonde. The answer came back that no changes would be made to the couple. Luckily, I was just finishing up final edits so I went back through the entire manuscript and changed anything mentioning the heroine’s hair color from blonde to brown to match the woman on the cover. The revised cover is what you see today. It’s still a great cover, but what if it had been too late to change the heroine’s hair color? Not a big deal, you say. I know authors who’ve gotten scathing reviews because the male and/or female on the cover of the book doesn’t match the description of the character within the book.

I have a friend who writes lovely contemporary romance novels where the love scenes end at the bedroom door. When it came time to give her publisher some ideas of what she would like for a cover, she had only one request – no clinch covers. (A clinch cover is where the hero and heroine are depicted in some sort of embrace and sometimes in a state of undress.) She received a cover of a very good looking couple in an embrace and neither the male or female had a shirt on. To say she was horrified is an understatement. Not because the couple was undressed, but because she was worried that the cover depicted a level of steaminess that the reader would not find within the story.

And of course we’ve all heard about Christina Dodd’s infamous cover of her novel, Castles In The Air, that depicts a heroine with 3 arms. Now I’m sure the cover artist didn’t decide a 3 armed heroine just had to be on that cover. It was a mistake that didn’t get caught in the proofing round, but it’s a fun example of one of the strange things an author might see when she opens that email announcing the cover of her next book.
What I’ve learned through the whole process of publication is that some things we have little or no control over once we sign that contract and cover art is one of them. When dealing with cover art, I’ve learned to hope for the best and prepare for the worst and always to be surprised. Thankfully, most of the surprises have been good.


An Unexpected Gift

Known only as Lazarus to the band of cutthroats and thieves he leads, William Prescott will do anything to find his missing sister, even blackmail a fragile young woman into helping him. But he never plans to fall in love with this mysterious woman with a troubled past. 

Haunted by the memories of war, Olivia St. Germaine wants nothing more than to live a normal life. But when her brother, a doctor, suddenly leaves town without a word, she is forced to use her medical knowledge to help an injured man who puts her life in danger. Can she keep herself safe as she tends Lazarus, or is her heart more vulnerable than she realizes?


Removing her hat, she crossed to the dressing table and pulled the
pins from her hair, letting it tumble down around her
shoulders. She massaged her scalp, then ran her fingers
through the thick strands.
 “Watching you do that could give a bloke ideas.”
 Olivia whirled around, her hand pressed against her
chest. Her heart stuttered for a moment, then began
racing like that of a runaway horse. She reached behind
her and grabbed her hairbrush. As a weapon, it was the
best she could do. She scanned the shadows for the
 Lazarus lounged in her favorite reading spot, his
feet crossed at the ankles while he rested his elbows on
the arms of the chair. Situated as it was near the
window, his dark clothing blended in with the shadows
among deep blue drapery. He watched her over his
linked fingers.
 “Aren’t you going to ask why I’m here?”
 She didn’t answer; the warning she’d received
earlier replayed itself in her mind. Fear ran its fingertip
down her spine.
 “Shall I tell you then?” He stood with slow careful
movements, then advanced on her until there was no
more than a hair’s breadth between them.
 She took a step back and banged into the dressing
table, setting the small collection of bottles jangling.
 Olivia shook her head. “Of course not.”
 “You should be.”

When Katherine started talking to her friends about the characters in her head as though they were real people, she decided it was time to start putting all those people populating her mind along with their exploits down on paper.  A chance meeting with another writer led her to seriously pursue a writing career. Her debut novel, Impetuous, was released by The Wild Rose Press in August 2011. Friends have gotten used to Katherine’s imaginary friends but still often ask, “Wait, is this a real person?” whenever she mentions someone they don’t know.

She lives in upstate NY with her family, but threatens to move South at the beginning of every winter season.

You can contact Katherine on Facebook  or her Blog.


  1. Through all the challenges with your cover, it turned out beautifully from a reader's viewpoint, Katherine. Hope the next experience goes more smoothly. I love the story of Catherine Dodd's cover. That one certainly has become a legend LOl. Best of luck with your book! Barb Bettis

    1. Hi Barbara,

      Thanks, I think it's a good cover too. I especially love the hero, he looks almost exactly how I pictured him when I was writing the story. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I'm sorry you had such a difficult time with your "blonde" cover. I know each publisher has certain limitations when using public images and that covers are expensive to create. But really, not able to change the couple portrayed? I wish you all the best with this release and with your future covers!

  3. Hi Barbara,
    Thanks. I think it's a good cover too. It just struck me as funny that the first one had a ship on it and nothing in the story has to do with sailing. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. You had to go back and change her hair color - wow! Then again, I never pictured the fighter ships on my first cover as quite so round and added that when doing revisions. (My writing is light on description anyway.)
    Never heard of the three armed woman. Now I have to go look.

    1. Hi Alex,
      I think Christina Dodd has the cover of her book depicting the three-armed woman on her website.

      I guess we were both lucky that we were able to still make revisions to match our covers. Thanks for stopping in.

  5. This is a great article, because I have had readers complain about details on the covers of my books. I always want to say, "Yes, but what did you think of the story? That was my work!" Your cover is beautiful!

  6. I'm currently with two different publishers...with one, I've been fortunate to have a cover artist that has really worked with me, up to and including changing the heroine since I felt she looked more YA than adult, and while the covers may not be what I originally envisioned, I've been extremely pleased with the result. As for the second publisher, have yet to receive the cover art but have been given the impression that not many changes are made, so fingers crossed. Your cover came out beautifully :)

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  8. Katherine, I'm glad you had a chance to change the heroine's hair color. Though I may not comment to the author or place that in a review, minor things like like the hair color are noticed and it does throw me off. I'm glad you like final cover.

  9. Your cover is beautiful! I've had great luck with my covers from The Wild Rose Press so far and I love them all.

  10. Great excerpt and a beautiful cover. Best wishes

    1. Hi Angela,
      Thanks for the good wishes and for stopping in. :o)

  11. Great excerpt and a beautiful cover. Best wishes.

  12. Hi, Katherine. Great post, and so true. I had something similar happen and, like you, I had time to go back and make a change to the text so that the scene on the cover had some relationship to what happened in the book (actually, the only way I could manage that was to make the scene happen in my heroine's imagination.) The senior editor told me if I had been a few hours later the manuscript would have already gone to a proofreader and it would probably have been too late to make the change. I'm glad your cover more or less worked out, and it is a lovely cover, even if you did have to change the heroine's hair color. Like Alex, I hadn't heard about Christina Dodd's 3-armed heroine, but for some reason I think I might have loved having a mistake like that on my book cover. I mean it's probably pretty traumatic for the author when she first sees it, but then (in my humble opinion) it becomes so funny that at least it might be the kind of mistake that will bring people who might not otherwise have paid attention to your book to take a look at it and maybe (fingers crossed here) even want to pick up a copy.

  13. I love the cover you got, Katherine. I bet the other was lovely too. :) For Home I got a long blonde heroine. My heroine was actually a black-haired gypsy. I was told it couldn't be changed, but I couldn't change my heroine's hair color in the story either. Thankfully the kissing couple is faded and in the background, more unnoticeable than yours. But for Risk Factors it's perfect. My heroine is a blonde veterinarian and my hero has light brown hair. He's an mediflight emt-p so the helicopter over their heads makes it. :)

  14. Fascinating insight Katherine. So far I've been extremely lucky with my covers, but I think it helped that the cover artist had read the whole book. A striking cover is so important to selling the book, but equally we as authors like the cover to reflect the story as that is so close to our hearts. From the look of your cover now, it seems to do both wonderfully well. Congratulations

    1. Hi Kathryn,
      I agree a cover and make or break a book in some ways. I know I've left a book on the shelf because of the cover even though I know the author may not have had final say in how it turned out. Thanks for the good wishes.

  15. Great post, Katherine, as always. Love the cover.
    I had a less than positive experience with my first cover, with a publisher who shall not be named. I was given a similar sheet of information to fill out and was requested that IF the artist wanted to put a police officer's hat on the cover that she please use a grey stetson--which is what New York State Troopers wear. I offered to send a picture for her knowledge and information. Nope, she didn't need it.
    Imagine my dismay when I ended up with the hat worn by Little Joe Cartwright from the Bonanza TV series--about as different from a grey stetson as you can get. when I politely raised my hand and said, 'excuse me, but . . .' I was informed if I complained the book's release would be canceled. I caved in.
    For my second book, I was contractually bound to offer this publisher the right of first refusal. they took the book--but this time I was blessed to have a different--and wonderful--artist who gave me the cover of the century.
    What a difference.
    good luck, K

  16. Great post! I had a WONDERFUL experience with my cover/cover artist at The Wild Rose Press - Debbie Taylor did such an amazing job and I couldn't be more pleased! I hope I never have an experience like you did :(

  17. I love that you went back and changed the hair color, Katherine. I would have been nervous making that kind of change at such a late date so probably would have just seethed while wringing my hands. :-)

  18. That is such a great cover! Neat excerpt.