For any author, book covers can make or break the book. Traditionally published authors often get little say in the final result. Sometimes that's a good thing; other times, it can cause a maelstrom of controversy -- especially if the cover tries to cater to a PC mindset (blond-haired, white MCs, for example) when the actual story is anything but.
Authors who self-publish have the luxury of adapting a cover to the story as they see fit. Sometimes this means working directly with a professional design artist. Sometimes it means working with the design software yourself.
For the Steel Magnolia Press (SMP) books, we're swinging both ways. We've bought a couple of premade designs from a talented design artist and tweaked the titling text ourselves to get a feel for what we're happy with. Jennifer wanted a signature font and styling for the author name on her books, and we settled on a feminine cursive design that can work with anything from historicals to contemporary. We've also progressed to buying a premade design and letting the designer run with the titling text to stunning effect. I'll have more on the topic of finding a cover artist and the different types of cover work, along with examples, in a future post.
Some covers we keep in-house. A Vision of Sugarplums, a reissue of an award-winning novella by Jennifer Blake, is one we produced ourselves. Jennifer found a stock image that she knew captured the essence of the story perfectly. All that was needed was to make it Christmas-y. I suggested the santa hat and another SMP author, Kathy Faucheux, suggested the bow on the teddy. And to make things even more perfect, while Jennifer was updating the story to account for technology changes since the story was first released, she changed a ragdoll the baby carries around to a teddy bear. Having that kind of flexibility is priceless.
The image went from the standard stock image to the final cover with only one wrong turn along the way. (I seem to need to create one stupid draft first before understanding how obviously bad it is. Let's just say my skill with design software is maturing.) Another opportunity we had was to create a nice title page that plays off the design of the cover. For those of you self-publishing, the advantage to uploading directly to vendor sites such as Amazon and BN rather than going through an aggregator like Smashwords is being able to create nicer-looking interiors (even though there are still tight limitations on what translates over to the e-reader). It's double work to produce two different master copies, but some things are worth the extra time, you know. For instance, that pretty title page in the Smashword's editions is plain text, nothing more.
So What's The Free Gift Already?!
Among the romance reading audience, Jennifer's name is well-enough known that folk will readily pay traditional publisher prices for her new releases. In-store promotions helped rocket her recently released The Three Graces trilogy to thousands sold over the last few weeks. When I published A Vision of Sugarplums to BN and it went live yesterday morning, the cover image -- which is served out from a separate server from the rest of the information -- hadn't even populated onto the page yet and the book was already selling. A Jennifer Blake ebook for 99 cents had been unheard of before now.
Jennifer, though, wants the 30,000-word novella to be free -- a gift to her readers for their support, not just over the years, but for following her across publishing models. We're working on making that happen. For now, you can pick up your free copy -- in Kindle, epub (nook, Sony, iPad, etc) or PDF format -- at any of the following sites:
Steel Magnolia Press (Don't forget to sign up for the newsletter while you're there!)
All Romance eBooks (I uploaded the "pretty interior" versions here)
Smashwords (These are the "dumbed-down interiors" required to get through Smashwords' ebook converter, affectionately known as the "meatgrinder")
Here's the tease (see, you WILL be required to write a pitch at all different lengths even once your book is published!):
Enjoy!Meghan Castle is a real Scrooge about the holidays ... until she finds an abandoned baby in her store on Christmas Eve. Change is certainly in the air — especially when customer Rick Wallman agrees to watch the baby with her. But the secrets they're hiding could destroy the fragile future they start to build together.