I'm most recently a writer. In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot. As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades. An unwilling transplant from the South, twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US. Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect. When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do. Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Let me tell you a little story about the evolution of my covers. It's not pretty, but I'm probably not the first to survive this kind of journey, judging by the frequent posts on the KDP forums titled "Please take a look at my cover. Honest opinions welcome!" or my all-time favorite, "Does my cover really suck?" Indy authors have several choices, none of them ideal--design their own cover art (bad idea unless you happen to be an artist), hire a professional graphic designer (which many of us cannot afford) or purchase a stock cover which may or may not depict anything remotely resembling your characters or story but is at least eye-catching (naked male torsos and/or long-legged women seem to be considered sure bets for these relatively inexpensive covers).
Hearts Unfold --was quite honestly a learning experience and a bit of a disaster. It went through several revisions but still said nothing about the story and was frankly ugly. I liked the image of the farmhouse, however, and we decided to use it as a faded background on the back of the paperbacks, which I think is just the place for it to live out its usefulness. We were better prepared for the next cover--for the first edition of Heart of My Own Heart--and I loved what my son put together, especially the sign he drew for Valley Rise Farm. I was much happier with this cover, but not so happy that I wasn't willing to throw it under the bus when something better came along. That sign, by the way, graces the back of Christmas at Valley Rise.
Last summer, when I separated Hearts Unfold into two volumes and decided I had a series going, I knew I needed to find covers that said more about the characters and the story and most of all screamed series on sight. I could visualize exactly the sort of thing I wanted, but I had no clue how to get it. Hours and hours of eye-strain later, I found my perfect couple in a royalty-free shot online. Now bear in mind, I would recognize Stani and Emily blindfolded in the dark. They live and move in my head down to the last freckle and eyelash. So when I started searching, I was sure I'd never find them and certainly not together in one picture. Imagine my shock when late one night, bleary-eyed and disillusioned after staring at the wrong faces, wrong hair, wrong expressions and not enough clothes on hundreds of models, there they were! Triumphant, I paid my hard-earned dollars for that image of two sweet young lovers and moved on to Step Two. I needed four pictures depicting scenes at least reminiscent of the Blue Ridge. The search was not as lengthy and the results not quite as costly. Images in hand, or in a file on my computer, I turned to my son for the actual designs.
Now understand our process has developed over time, like everything in this endeavor. I've learned the best results are achieved when I hover over his shoulder while he works his magic with Photoshop. A hint here, a nudge there, and we eventually end up with something that pleases us both. Unfortunately, my OCD plays a role in this, too. I know he gets annoyed with me at times, but he knows better than to ask me to settle for less than my vision. I'll just come back asking for more of his time later.
It's gotten easier as we've gone along, thank goodness. Last summer, when I was holding three finished manuscripts with no covers, I nearly threw in the towel. No covers, no books, no hope! I suspect I couldn't see the forest for the trees, but there was a bright side to my despair. Brainstorming with my husband, we decided while we were going through so much agony over the covers, there was one more thing to consider--a title for the series other than simply Hearts Unfold. When we decided on something involving the farm--Valley Rise--and what happened there with some regularity, the word miracle kept coming up. I even did a search for the number of times the word appears in the books and in Hearts Unfold alone it shows up over thirty times. The addition of that title at the top of our covers seemed to be the perfect final touch. The Miracle at Valley Rise Series was off and running and we've never looked back.
I love my covers. Maybe they can't compete in a lineup with those naked torsos, but to my eye they say much about the story inside, reflecting the beauty and spirituality of two people deeply in love. You can check them out by going to the Books page above for a closer look. And keep checking in here for a preview of the cover for Shannon's Daughter, coming soon!