Book cover art can be evocative, intriguing, and delightful—or confusing, dull, and even off-putting. I've had covers on both ends of the spectrum. (Live and learn, fortunately.)
Here was my very first book cover, from the fall of 2010.
Looking at it now, nearly three years later, I still love the idea of it—the beautiful blues, the arched window, the exotic city outline, the streaks across the sky that lead the eye into the story. But I never loved the font. I tried a ton of them and couldn't find ones that I loved. So I decided to commission someone to do a new cover, and found some stock art people I wanted to use. The result was one of my very favorite covers, even though I've since replaced it:
This cover delighted me…the graphic artist did a wonderful job with the color scheme, the stars, the doorway and the city outline, and they all matched the idea in my head and meshed together. I got a lot of compliments on that cover, at a time when a lot of indie covers were getting roundly booed.
And then I finished revising Kismet's Kiss‘s prequel, The Source of Magic. I had a vision for that one, too, and wanted to see if I could do it myself. Here was the result:
The text still bothered me a bit, so after a few months I did some tweaking:
I loved #2. Flat-out loved it, if I do say so myself. And I got a lot of compliments on that cover, which made me very proud since it was homegrown. Yay!
Hmm, Cate, you say. If you loved Kiss #2 and Source #2, why did you change them?
I reeeeally wanted to keep them. In fact, I did for a long time. But take a look at them again… you'd never guess those two covers belong to the books in the same series, would you?
I knew there was a problem, but I was in denial.
Next I finished a prequel to Source and Kiss called Swords and Scimitars. I thought I knew what I was doing when I made that cover, but in hindsight…
This cover is boring. Yeah, hindsight can be blunt. I still love the deep red, and the cover model looks just like I imagine Kismet did just before he left his mortal life behind. Even so, it's blah.
So I hired a talented cover artist to do a new one:
No question that it's a huge improvement. But…I didn't like the direction the artist and I were going with the mockups for the Swords and Scimitars sequel, Sword and Lute. And I couldn't figure out a way to visually connect either of those covers to The Source of Magic and the Kismet's Kiss covers, either.
Ugh, back to Square One.
And that's when, after much frustration and brainstorming, I figured out a cover style I felt could work for all of the Alaia Chronicles series covers. I wanted something that would connect the books in the series and could be easily changed for each book, both with different bold colors and with an image particular to each book.
Here's what I did for Kismet's Kiss and The Source of Magic:
I kept my favorite pieces of the original cover for each one. For Kismet's Kiss, it was the romantic couple, because these two people look exactly like the Kuramos and Varene in my head—plus they're in a very characteristic pose for that book, with Kuramos wanting Varene and being his sexy and tantalizing self, and Varene yearning for him too, but doing her stubborn best to resist.
For The Source of Magic, I kept the hands reaching for each other, just like Jilian and Varene reached for each other across the worlds between them.
I like those two current covers for sure, but I can't lie—Kiss #2 and Source #2 are still my favorites. 🙂 But series branding rules the day.
The fun part was that as I kept writing, I got to add new covers that matched:
Since Swords and Scimitars had two brothers at odds and was more romantic fantasy than fantasy romance, the crossed scimitars seemed to fit well. (I had a heckuva time finding scimitars I liked, and ended up doing a lot of work in my graphics program to make the image. Again, live and learn…)
For Sword and Lute, I ended up slogging through a LOT of stock photo sites for just the right people. I am very picky about the people on my book covers. If they don't look like the ones in my head, it's a no-go. Fortunately, these two were a great match. I love how they fit into the heart, too.
Next came Kiss That Frog. I wanted a different look, since it's a standalone fantasy romance that isn't part of the Alaia Chronicles series. White seemed like a fun change, although getting the dark borders to show up in some posts and at Amazon has been quite a thorn in my side.
So here we are, with these final six covers being the ones I'm keeping.
For now, anyway. 🙂
UPDATE: Yep, I commissioned new ones for the Alaia Chronicles series in 2014. I heart them and I'm keeping 'em! (Famous last words? LOL.)
I think you made a great choice with your final covers for the series. They are interesting, eye catching and as you aiming for, obviously part of a series. I envy your graphic skills. I will definitely have to hire an artist – I’m terrible at graphics!
Thank you for the compliments! I know just enough about graphics to be dangerous, LOL.
And now, here’s the irony: I think I’m going to get this series’ covers redesigned. 🙂 And by someone who’s not me, LOL.
I still appreciate the eye-grabby colors, but I don’t think the “hearts” covers are doing the job they need to do, especially at the teeny little thumbnail size that’s so important at Amazon. And since I have run out of ideas (and being stubborn and a perfectionist, I have tried a lot of those), I want to see what someone else can do. Someone with actual graphics skillz.
So…more to come on the Cover Saga!
And as visitors can see, I changed the covers yet again! The new ones can be seen here: https://caterowan.com/novels/. I think they’re both gorgeous and effective, so I have no plans to alter them. (That said, should the effectiveness ever wane… Never say never. 🙂 )