The Art of Cover Art by Amanda Cabot

I would like to welcome Amanda Cabot back to A Bed of Roses…Thorns Included. She’s written a great article for us about cover art.

From the time that she was seven, Amanda Cabot dreamed of becoming a published author, but it was only when she set herself the goal of selling a book by her thirtieth birthday that the dream came true. A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages. She’s delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian historical romances. Her Texas Dreams trilogy received critical acclaim, and Waiting for Spring, the second in her Westward Winds series, was just released.

The Art of Cover Art
We’ve all heard the adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but reality is, we do. A good cover will make us at least pick up the book, and if the back cover copy and first couple pages are as intriguing as the cover itself, we may buy it. So, how are those covers created? I asked Cheryl Van Andel, Revell’s Art Director, that question. I already knew that it was a collaborative process, but her answers revealed just how much effort goes into a cover design at Revell. (Please note that other publishers may have very different processes.)
It starts with the author. Sounds intuitive, doesn’t it, but some publishers do not involve authors in the cover design process. Revell does. Each author is asked to complete a questionnaire, describing not just the main characters’ physical attributes but also their personalities. This helps in selecting models and gives the photographer guidance for the model’s expression. If you look at Waiting for Spring, you’ll see that Charlotte appears pensive, perhaps a bit weighed down by life. That’s exactly her state of mind at the beginning of the book.
The type of clothing the characters would wear and landmarks or other background suggestions are also part of the questionnaire. Since the Westward Winds books take place in real locations, I sent photos of those places instead of simply describing them. I was shocked but also thrilled when Revell used one of my photos for the background of Summer of Promise, so I sent another for Waiting for Spring. Cheryl used that one, too!
No work on the cover begins until the book has been titled. If you thought that authors chose their titles, you’d be only partially correct. Although each author is asked to suggest possible titles and the reasons for choosing them, the final decision is made by a committee which includes Sales and Marketing as well as Editorial.
Once titling is complete, Marketing and Editorial discuss cover direction based on the information they’ve acquired from the author and/or from reading the manuscript. This determines the market and what “look” sells best to those book buyers. Final title and cover direction is then given to the art director to be assigned to a cover designer who specializes in that particular line of fiction; e.g., contemporary, Amish, historical, Western. If the designer does not do his or her own photography, the art director hires a photographer for the shoot.
Based on the author’s info, model and clothing options are gathered and emailed to the art director, who finalizes the selection with the marketing director and acquisitions editor. Many times, clothing options are sent to the author to verify that the style is correct for a certain time period. I can’t speak for other authors, but I’ve enjoyed being part of this process. I was able to select the dresses for each of the Texas Dreams books, which was fun, but the real thrill was choosing the gown for Waiting for Spring. The designer could not find an appropriate gown, so he had one custom made. Cheryl sent me a number of possible designs and allowed me to pick not just the design but the color. That was definitely a highlight of 2012 for me!
Once the gown and model have been chosen, the photographer often shoots several hundred photos, which the art, marketing and editorial directors narrow down to two or three for the designer to use for creating initial cover options. The designer then provides three or more options which follow the initial cover direction; e.g., size of model, color scheme, background. He or she selects the fonts, design elements like the fancy ribbon on the Texas Dreams books and the position of type and images, unless otherwise specified by the art director.
For Revell fiction, the art, marketing and editorial directors tweak one or two designs until they believe the covers are ready to be shown to others. These covers are emailed to the rest of the Revell team, meaning all Revell editors and the marketing staff, and narrowed down to one design. This design is sent to all of Baker’s sales reps for feedback. If the majority of reps are okay with the design, the cover is sent to the author and agent for feedback.
And even then the process is not complete. Sometimes the feedback doesn’t help. When I saw the first design for Summer of Promise, it had a pale blue sky. I pointed out that a Wyoming summer sky is a deep blue, so Cheryl had the designer change the cover. Wrong move. The sky was authentic, but the vivid blue drew attention away from the model and the title. Fortunately, Cheryl knew exactly what was wrong. The final version, with its sunset sky, is simply gorgeous – the result of weeks and weeks of work by Cheryl and the rest of the team.
As you can see, designing cover art truly is an art.

Thank you, Amanda, for visiting A Bed of Roses…Thorns Included. I found your post to be enlightening. 

Did you all know there was such an “art” to the beautiful covers we see?

Monday, January 7th I will be posting my review of Waiting for Spring. You can see my review of Summer of Promise here .



3 thoughts on “The Art of Cover Art by Amanda Cabot

  1. Love this blog post! (and your Blog Title 🙂
    This is a fascinating topic and thanks for covering it so thoroughly.
    Susan Karsten

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