How to choose a cover design…

Path through bluebell woods in early morning sunrise

Wish You Were Here is now safely off being copy edited- which means I need to think about all the other millions of tasks that need to be completed in order to get it onto the virtual bookshelves at the end of October. Highest on that list is the cover.

I’ve developed a good relationship with the freelance designer I used for Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry, but Wish You Were Here is different- we’re going almost immediately to print on demand with this one- as well as all digital platforms- so there are different specifications required for the cover. For starters, she’ll need to design a back cover, and a spine, as well as a front cover that will look great as a thumbnail. Also, the print version of the cover won’t be able to be nailed down until the file is converted and we know how many pages there will be. Yep, I agree- it all sounds a tad too hard.Big Girls Don't Cry

So, what do I tell my designer? As much as I can. The more information she knows about the book, the genre, the location, the themes, the characters, the better. The basic specs are relatively easy:

  • Title: Wish You Were Here
  • Author: Joanne Tracey
  • Tagline: yet to be determined
  • Notes on text: Please use same fonts as on Big Girls, but switch the size so my name is larger than the title this time.
  • Front cover to be 2500 pixels tall, 1563 pixels wide and no more than 2MB.

As for the rest, I’m after a cover that’s in a similar style and theme to Big Girls Don’t Cry. I want it to have the same sense of place. Where I used one of my own photos in the cover for Big Girls (a Balinese rice field), I can’t for Wish You Were Here. The book is largely set in a fictional village named Brookford in The Cotswolds.

Early morning view looking across to Chalford

Brookford could be an amalgam of any of the villages we visited when we were over there last year, but it’s somewhere near Cirencester and Stroud, close to Sapperton and Frampton Mansell.


I tried to take some photos of the landscape in and around the farmhouse we stayed out just outside of Chalford- and some of the cottages- but the light was so dull and flat, that none of my pictures are usable as high res images. I wanted that soft light that warms the yellow of the Cotswold stone- on both the houses and the stone walls.  I need the light to show promise and the potential of a happy ending.

As a result, I suspect I’ll need to purchase extended licence stock photos instead. But again, of what? There’s a pivotal and emotional scene set in a bluebell wood that I’d like to capture the moment and mood of…

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

The book is also partly set in Queenstown- a place where I have plenty of great landscape shots- all in good light- yet, that’s only part of the story and this is contemporary women’s fiction- not travel.

Like I did last time , I went searching for covers- what else is out there? What’s been winning the contests? What’s coming up on my Amazon searches? What can I pin to my pinterest covers board? (If you want to know how else I use pinterest in my writing, check out this post).

I googled the top contemporary romance books on Amazon and saw absolutely nothing that I ended up pinning. I checked out last year’s winners  of the Romance Australia cover contests and pinned a couple. Tears of the Cheetah won best romantic suspense cover. It’s a lovely cover, but it tells me nothing about the book or genre other than where it’s set. It could be a travel book. Luna Tango won the contemporary category. I love everything about that cover. This year’s winners are here.



Next up was best-selling Aussie contemporary writers. I liked Rachel John’s covers, but again, didn’t get that sense of place I was after. The ones who do that best are the rural romance girls. The majority of covers I pinned were in that genre.

One thing, though, they all had in common was a picture of a person- or persons. I get that this immediately tells the reader that there are romantic elements within, but it causes me even more indecision.

In a not very scientific poll, I asked the question of Facebook and Twitter friends: do you like people on the front of your books? Generally the answer was no, yet there is virtually nothing on the romance shelves that doesn’t have a picture of either the gorgeous guy, the thoughtful heroine, or the happy couple. People say it turns them off, yet this is what readers seem to be buying.

Escape Publishing, in particular, have a thing about showing full faces (see Evan and Darcy on the pinboard), Momentum (for Pan Macmillan) do the same (see The Peppercorn Project on the pinboard). It obviously works for them, but do I want to put a pre-conceived picture of Max and Richie into my reader’s minds? I’m not sure about that.

The other questions Jacinda usually asks  in order to get a feel for the story and the design are:

  • What are some of the most powerful/ important scenes/ ideas of the book?
  • What feeling are you trying to get across in the book? (Name 3 emotions you would describe your book as)
  • Is there an item or concept that is thematic in the piece?
  • What’s your target market?

As for the answers to these? Well, that would be too much of a spoiler alert!

Sunrise near Frampton Mansell
Sunrise near Frampton Mansell

2 Replies to “How to choose a cover design…”

  1. Found you!

    I actually contacted some book designers association last year and requested a contact person to interview them as I wanted to talk about book covers but I didn’t hear back. I later even tagged them on Instagram but still heard nothing.

    I can’t imagine it’s even vaguely an easy decision.

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