indie publishing

Inside Scoop: Creating a Book Cover

ella sheridan, author, writer, romance author, erotic romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, coming soonEven before I became a writer, I was fascinated with how writers do things. I guess maybe it's like those behind-the-scenes features on DVDs, the ones that tell you how all the special effects were created, what the actors thought about their roles, the other actors, et cetera, what went into the making of the set and script and movie itself. I can't get enough of those "sneak peeks," and since I'm a lifelong reader, it makes sense that I'd feel the same way about books. Authors don't usually have much of a say in their book covers -- did you know that? But this year I got to do something very exciting; I got to help create my own book cover! Now, I didn't actually do the drawing or Photoshopping or whatever myself, though some authors have the skill to do so. I hired someone to help me create a cover for Teach Me, the first book in my new series, Southern Nights, which premieres October 28th. The entire process, though, was eye-opening, intimidating, and often just plain amazing! Want to hear about it?

No, no, you don't have to beg! I was gonna share with you anyway. ;)

There are several steps to creating a book cover, but two things are necessary from the outset: a book (of course!) and a cover artist. So I started there. Once the rough draft of Teach Me was complete, I began the hunt for someone to help me bring those characters and their story to life visually. And let me tell you, the process was not easy. What was the process? Here are a few of the stops I took:


  1. I started by reading articles on creating book covers, what worked for different genres, what to look for in a cover artist. Have you ever compared the cover on a historical romance and a paranormal? They "feel" different, don't they? So I educated myself on how a romantic suspense novel was supposed to "feel" when you look at the cover.
  2. I also visited the Amazon top 100 romantic suspense book list several times, making notes on which covers I liked and why. I did the same with my favorite RS authors' websites.
  3. I visited cover artists' sites recommended to me by fellow authors, as well as some I saw in online forums, and many I found just by googling "romance book cover artist." Ultimately I went to over two hundred sites.

Sound tedious? That's because it was. :) What was I looking for? Ultimately I was looking for an artist whose covers drew me. If I went back to a cover again and again, if it caught my attention, I knew the artist had the potential to create the same effect with my cover. That's what I wanted, but as the saying goes, I had to kiss a lot of metaphorical frogs (or look at a lot of covers that didn't quite fit me) before I found a prince of an artist -- or princess, in this case. That's how I ended up with my fantastic cover artist, Kelli at Book Cover By Design.

The next thing I did after contacting Kelli was to fill out a questionnaire for her. This gave her the blurb for my book, info about my characters, the genre of the book, the "mood" or feeling I wanted to convey (remember that comparison we talked about?). When a reader looked at my cover, I wanted them to see dark, mysterious, steamy, sexy. Filling out a questionnaire helped her understand what I was going for. She even read an excerpt of the rough draft.

Of course, there was one more important piece to this puzzle: the cover model.

Finding the perfect representation of the character that has lived in your head for so long is NOT easy. :) In this case, Conlan had been with me for over four years, since Teach Me is the first book I completed (though it has been through many incarnations since). As with cover artists, I went through hundreds of stock photos looking for the perfect man to represent my hero. (For more on that search, see my awesome blog post Finding Hotties. ;) ) Conlan had to be dark, broody, masculine. Oh, and he couldn't look like he was seventeen years old. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find stock photos of a model who doesn't look like he hasn't been out of high school more than a few weeks? To represent a man who was ex-military, in his early thirties, who had seen combat and was now a bodyguard and security specialist, I couldn't settle on a baby face. I needed a strong, handsome man -- and I did eventually find one! Here he is, as a matter of fact:

ella sheridan, writer, author, erotic romance, romantic suspense, southern nights, conlan james

Yummy, isn't he? Kelli looked at several different poses from the same model, combined them with her ideas for the background of the cover, added the title and author name in fonts that would enhance the mood we were going for, and then sent me a couple of examples to look at. These "mock-ups" weren't official, but were the first step toward what would be the finished product.

What happened next? Well, I responded to Kelli with the particular example I liked. There were some things I wanted tweaked, of course -- every author has particulars they want just right. We added a tagline, a single sentence that summed up the story for the reader (and hopefully makes them want to read the book. And no, I'm not telling you what it is yet! :) ). We added a cover quote from my good friend and fellow author, Gina L. Maxwell. We even created the spine and back cover, including the blurb for the book (or back-cover copy) and images, so that I can offer Teach Me in paperback as well as e-book format. And when it all was finally complete?


I'm not ashamed to say that, once we got a final version settled on, I cried. This isn't my first book cover -- I have three published books already -- but this was the first one I had a hand in designing, the first one where I chose the model and could get what I considered the perfect representation of my character in front of my readers. It was an amazing feeling; it truly was. I cannot wait for you all to share it with me!

And where is the cover, you might ask?

Well...I can't show you yet. *ducks to avoid various objects flying at my head* I know; I know. I want so badly to share this with you, but I can't! Teach Me will go up for preorder -- get this! -- on September 28th, exactly one month before its release. And on that same day, I WILL REVEAL THE FINAL COVER. All that hard work, all the decisions and the searching and the angst (I do have a few bald spots now, lol) will finally be over, and I'll get to share with you the results.


Will you be waiting? I know I am! I have the file in my hot little hands (metaphorically speaking), and I can't wait to let it out into the world. I hope you love it as much as I do. But I guess, like you, I'll have to wait a little over two weeks to find out. :)

~ Ella

A cover reveal isn't all I've got going on in the rush up to Teach Me's release! Want to find out what other fun we'll be having? Be sure and sign up for my newsletter and get first access to all the details!