One great thing about being an indie author is flexibility when it comes to a book cover, and the ability to change it fast when a problem comes up. Today, I’m going to show you the cover for my next release, but I’m also going to show you some of the less tidy bumps in the road I hit on the way to the finished product. I thought folks might like an inside look at this process, and I promise it’ll be faster for you than it was for me. ;)
First up, I should probably tell you what the book is, shouldn’t I?
My Bittersweet Summer
Young Adult, Contemporary Romance (Upper YA)
Releasing June 1st, 2015
Add it to GoodReads here:
About the book:
Margaret Walsh worked for six years to overcome the trauma she endured at the hands of bullies as a kid, and graduation promises the chance to start over in college and leave the past behind her for good.
What was supposed to be her last summer of fun before moving to Paris turns into a nightmare as her parents announce they’re taking over management of a restaurant in the New England beach town where she spent her childhood. For them, it’s an amazing possibility. For her, it means confronting memories– and people– she’d rather forget.
Margie’s all grown up now, but some things never change. When Zach Robinson insists he’s not the bully she remembers, it’s all she can do not to laugh. Still, if she’s learned anything over years, it’s that everyone deserves an opportunity to be better.
Even lost causes need second chances, but with her heart on the line, asking her to bet on a long shot might take more faith than she’s willing to give.
This story is close to my heart, as it reflects a little of what I experienced growing up as a bullied kid. In many ways, it’s my “it gets better” book, and I hope it speaks to a younger audience dealing with some of those same issues. There’s lessons on second chances, deciding who you want to be, overcoming peer pressure, and pursuing your dreams despite the naysayers. Shutting out the voices telling you that you can’t isn’t easy, but it can be done.
So now let’s talk about the cover. I sunk I don’t know how many hours into this one. I struggled for a long time trying to find the right image that embodied the feel this story has to me. It had to say “summer,” but it had to be sweet and personal. When I finally hit on an image I thought was a perfect fit, I was ecstatic. Here is version one of what I designed for the cover:
It definitely had the nostalgic feel of summer and first love. The colors popped beautifully, the font had a younger feel that looked like it could’ve been something scrawled on a photo by a teenage girl, and the lighting gave it a nice, warm highlight.
Why is this not the final cover? Well, I wasn’t the only one who thought this photo was perfect. Not a week after “finishing” this version, I see these same feet on another cover, transferred into a field instead of on the street. I was willing to ignore that, as it was different enough from mine, but a few days later, I saw ANOTHER book with this same photo used in its entirety. It’s the hazards of relying on stock photography, but there’s not much I could do about it at that point. And so, it was back to the drawing board.
What sucks most about losing the first cover, is that the tea blend I created for this book now has a label that doesn’t match the cover. *sigh*
This one went through about a million color variations and additions of swirly bits after I finally settled on this image. Honestly, I think most of the problems with this one are 1) I was SUPER in love with the first cover and not much was going to top it, and 2) I was desperately trying to hang on to the typography of the first version. I call this version of the cover My Strawberry Lemonade Summer. LOL
So why didn’t this one work? Well, for the two reasons I stated above, but it had a few other issues. First, the clothing looked more autumn than summer to me. Second, Margie’s more of a shorts and t-shirt girl, though she’s not opposed dresses or skirts. Third… this one’s harder to pinpoint, but the feeling of the couple is off for me. In this shot, it feels more like the guy is the one being supportive here, and while that’s not untrue of Zach in the book, Margie is equally (maybe more) the source of change and support. They both go through some personal issues in the story, but this particular photo doesn’t really capture the feeling of their relationship for me. The more I looked at this cover, the less I liked it. And so, the hunt began once again.
The next phase began a series of long, excruciating hours of sifting through endless stock photos and lots of frustrated cursing at the screen. Nothing was working. Nothing looked right. I went through no fewer than TEN full iterations between the second version above and the final version I’m about to show you. I spent a whole day trying image after image, layout after layout, and concept after concept. I went to bed completely irritated and no closer to done than I was when I started.
But giving up wasn’t an option. With the release date so close, I didn’t have time to put it on the back burner, nor did I have time to scrounge up a model that would work for cheap that fit a specific look and take my own photo, and looking into buying a photo from the photographers I know is out of my budget (plus there was no guarantee I’d find what I was looking for there anyway). It was mid-April and I needed the cover done immediately. I’ve never been that close to release day and not had the cover ready. Admittedly, I was starting to panic.
I awoke the next morning and took a deep breath. I finished up my second-to-last editing pass on the story to reconnect with the characters. And then, I let everything go. The typography I loved, the image I couldn’t use, the coloration… all of it. I decided I’d been hanging onto every last vestige of that first cover, and it was hampering my ability to move forward. I wasn’t treating myself the way I do my clients. When you detach from the “this is my baby!” feelings of a book, it’s much easier to design something objectively, with a mind to appeal to readers rather than the author who wrote the thing. It’s a forest for the trees problem. Stepping back from the project clarified a few things for me and made it easier to design something that speaks to the story, reaches the audience I want to reach, and highlights what’s important. That’s what a cover is supposed to do.
Now that you’ve waded through all of that mess, here’s the final version of My Bittersweet Summer‘s cover.
Summer. Young Adult. A young woman hiding behind sunglasses, not yet ready to let others see all of her, and that the story is from her point of view. That’s what this cover says, and what it should say. The description fills in the rest of the important bits, and the book tells the full story. The more I look at this version, the more I like it. While I do still miss the feet and feel of the first cover, I’m completely comfortable with this one as well.
So that’s my epic saga of The Great Battle for the Cover. It was a hard-fought war with many stock photo casualties, but I think I won in the end. I hope you’re all looking forward to the book! June 1st is right around the corner!
Other Bits and Pieces
Lex Talionis is now live in ebook form! If you’ve been impatiently waiting to get your hands on it (or for it to be available in Kindle Unlimited), the wait is over!
- Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U6GT05Y
- Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00U6GT05Y
- Amazon Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00U6GT05Y