Happy Ever After has sailed through the structural editing process and is now waiting to be copyedited – which means I need to think about all the other tasks that need to be completed in order to get it onto the virtual bookshelves in October. Highest on that list is the cover.
Like I did with Wish You Were Here, I’ll be going to all digital platforms and print on demand with this one – so we’ll need a back cover, and a spine, as well as a front cover that will look great as a thumbnail.
While ideally, I’d like Happy Ever After to have a similar look on the virtual shelf to my other books, there are a couple of key differences between this book and my others – my protagonist is 50 and has grown up children. Plus the storyline is definitely more mature. The style is different and the cover needs to reflect that.
You’ll notice that the cover design for each of these is similar. The font is the same and water features on each – as do legs. The protagonists are all in their late 20s or early 30s and looking to make that first big commitment.
Wish You Were Here is a little different. When the story starts my protagonist, Maxine (Max) Henderson, is married.
When we did the cover for this we really wanted to show a sense of place – the fictional village of Brookford in the Cotswolds. I think we absolutely did that. We also wanted something that wasn’t as light and breezy as the Melbourne girls series – Max’s story is a deeper than that. With Max I’m also straying into what is known as “food-lit”.
Happy Ever After also falls into the food-lit genre. It’s set mostly in suburban Sydney with a key location in Kate and Neil’s story being the Royal Botanic Gardens – specifically the Moreton Bay Fig that sits high and proud above the Opera House. That’s it below.
The light in my photo is too bright and harsh, but I did, however, find the pic below on deposit photos. It’s not my tree, but it is the gardens. If only I could find a great upper image it could almost be perfect.
What about a face?
When I look at the top-selling contemporary romance books on Amazon, virtually all have a picture of either the gorgeous guy, the thoughtful heroine, or the happy couple – all stock photos.
I get that this immediately tells the reader that there are romantic elements within, but it throws me off because very often the image on the front cover is nothing like the person between the covers. It’s just a random twenty-something woman.
Just as I haven’t wanted a random twenty or thirty-something face on my cover, nor do I want a random fifty-something. The reasons are the same – none look like Kate.
I contemplated finding an image of someone sitting thoughtfully looking out at…what? Their life? Their loves? Out to sea? Nope, that didn’t work for me either. It’s been done and done and done. And Kate never ever gazes out to sea. It’s not her thing. She’s more likely to be found baking or with her head in a book. And yes, I’ve looked for those images too.
What else is out there?
I got scientific about it and researched best selling women’s fiction on Amazon and their “also boughts” ie what people who bought these books also bought.
As opposed to contemporary romance, contemporary fiction tends not to have the stock image of a person on the cover. If there is a person it’s often in profile, from the back or illustrated. I like these examples by Sheila O’Flanagan.
The exceptions are historical stories – such as these below – where the image provides a real sense of the time, place and style.
Another popular format is the single image and clean font. This is especially effective for those books that are a bit twisty. Good examples are these ones by Liane Moriarty…
and these ones by Jane Fallon… As an aside, Jane Fallon has nailed her look.
The mix of cursive and print works well in these ones by Jane Green.
The English market tends to lean towards illustrations – think Marian Keyes, Cathy Kelly, Jo Jo Moyes.
As for the authors I’d identify with most? I hate that question, but would probably say Erica James, Elizabeth Noble, Jill Mansell and Debbie Johnson. Maybe even Cathy Kelly. These are the ones I’m most likely to run out and buy to read too.
Like the examples above, their covers always seem to be more frivolous than the story is. Below are the covers from their most recent books.
So where does all of this leave me? No flipping idea. I won’t be going the way of the illustration. Perhaps a cross between what Jane Fallon and Jane Green are doing? Perhaps something like Sheila O’Flanagan? I love “Letters To Iris”, so maybe something like the vintage image I’ve used as the lead pic to this post? I’m writing in a different style, so maybe I show that in my cover?
Or do I persevere and try and find an image to match a location shot to fit in with my other books?
Any suggestions will be appreciated.