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
“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.