Cover Chaos

I really love the process of book cover art and working with my designer.

Until recently, that is.

I’ve worked with the same designer since I got the rights back to my Mystery Writer’s series. We decided we liked the idea of the chair on the cover of FICTION CAN BE MURDER which the original publisher had used, so we revamped that theme, using a different chair for each cover.

My sleuth Charlee Russo in the Mystery Writer’s series is a—surprise!—mystery writer so a cozy reading chair made sense. FOUL PLAY ON WORDS takes place at a writers’ conference in a hotel in Portland, so that’s the chair on the cover. A pivotal scene in METAPHOR FOR MURDER takes place around an outdoor firepit, so the Adirondack chair is perfect. And a Christmas play is the catalyst in POLICE NAVIDAD, so Santa’s throne is the obvious choice there.

My new soon-to-be-out Sugar Mill Marketplace series was a bit harder, but after a few stabs, he and I got something we both loved.

To refresh your memory, this will be a 15-book series, essentially five trilogies set in the same place with a huge cast of characters. The Marketplace is home to a bookstore, bakery, cheese shop, photo studio, and chocolate shop—and others, but these are the core businesses.

I wanted something other than the cartoony covers, maybe something a bit avant garde, at least in the world of cozies. Each trilogy had to be tied together, but at a glance, I wanted all fifteen books to be obviously part of the bigger series.

Here, the first three books center on Dena Russo and her used book store. I gave her the color blue, which you can see gets lighter as her trilogy goes along.

The bakery trilogy will be pink (probably), with a different storefront and the name of the bakery, and the cat and dog silhouettes in different positions. Same with the cheese shop, the photo studio, and the chocolate shop. I haven’t finalized their colors, but I want them to all look good lined up next to each other, nothing jarringly out of place. A lovely rainbow of book covers.

But before I could pull the trigger on the first cover, I had to make sure all fifteen would work. All the titles are one word and have to do with both the shop and the crime in the book. The three bakery books are BEATEN, FROSTED, and BURNED. The photo studio books are EXPOSED, SNAPPED, and MANIPULATED. The cheese books are CHEESED, GRILLED, and SMOKED. And the chocolate shop books are FUDGED, SUGARCOATED, and DROPPED. So I had to make my designer plop in the longest title and the shortest title to make sure they were all going to work in the template.

When we were happy with that, we found five stores we liked, and then fifteen different dogs and cats in different poses. Actually, we only needed fourteen German shepherds because Twist doesn’t show up until book #2.

But we finally got it all worked out … easy peasy, and relatively painless.

Then I had to decide how I wanted the cover of RAT RACE to look. It’s the bridge novella linking the two series together. I mentioned Charlee Russo in the Mystery Writer’s series. She lives in Denver and is the daughter of Dena Russo, who owns Thrice Sold Tales in the Marketplace series. RAT RACE stars both of them solving a mystery while Charlee is visiting Dena in Santa Fe, and Dena’s subsequent move to Sugar Springs, Colorado and opening the bookstore.

I had the brilliant idea of creating a cover that had elements of both series because technically, RAT RACE is book #5 of the Mystery Writer’s series and book #0 of the Marketplace series.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of how to pull this off. And neither could my designer.

Here’s a tiny sampling of our efforts …

You can see the first try was horrendous. We tried combining the chair with a weird Santa Fe background. Nope.

Then I sent him the historical building I was kinda-sorta basing my Marketplace on. Okay … maybe. We used the font from the Mystery Writer’s series and the tilt of the Marketplace series. There are three important things in the novella: a diner, a birthday gift, and a rat. The diner stool hearkens to the chair on the covers of the Mystery Writer’s books and the road shows the Marketplace is in a different place from the diner, so that’s cool, but that gift bag looks weird. The box looks even weirder. Not entirely happy with that rat hanging off the edge, and can we do something to make it look like a birthday gift?

I sent some screenshots of real-life gifts bags to my designer that I thought looked particularly adult-gift-bag-worthy, so he created a festive polka dotted one. But I couldn’t find a rat I liked better. The white tissue paper looks like part of the clouds, and can we add some curling ribbon and a “happy birthday” tag? Oops, forgot the subtitle. Oops the subtitle is wrong. Oops, the subtitle is still wrong.

But finally, after a barrage of emails, designs, ideas, suggestions, screenshots, and a few tears on my part (and maybe his), we got it right.

Or as close as I’m going to get!

The RAT RACE process was so frustrating because it’s the first cover where I had no idea how I wanted it to look. Zero, zip, zilch. And it’s only a 99¢ novella … just 120 pages! How can it be so hard??

It’s finally out to my Review Crew, and the first three in the series will be released in the next couple of months.


My fragile ego can’t accept criticism of my covers at the moment—mainly because I already paid for them—but I will accept gushing praise, true and heartfelt or not. I’ve got to admit I don’t care much about book covers, as long as they convey a sense of the story, a hint of the genre. I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder to design them, though. But I am curious … how important are covers to you when choosing a book? If it’s an unknown author to you, is the cover more important than if you aren’t wild about a cover from an author you already know you like? Do you buy books simply because of the cover, or conversely, refuse to pick one up and explore further if you hate the cover?  

40 thoughts on “Cover Chaos

  1. I have to say, your final cover for Rat Race is adorable! I read 90% of my books on my Kindle because I have eye issues and the ability to adjust the brightness and the font size is a true gift. I hardly ever see covers, and when shopping for a book I focus totally on the little blurb about the book.
    I have read all your books and can’t wait to sink my teeth into the new series.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, Carol … I LOVE YOU SO MUCH RIGHT NOW!! Thanks so much for all your support. And I hear you about the Kindle. I read a lot on my Kindle too, and sometimes have to actively search for the cover.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. You’ve made an old lady very happy, JC! Honestly, I’ve looked at all these covers so much lately that I’ve lost all perspective, so it’s truly rewarding to hear from someone with “fresh eyes.” Thanks so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the RAT RACE cover is adorable, Becky.

    I must say a cover will not make me buy a book or not. It will sometimes affect whether or not I pick it up – but sometimes, I have to pick up a book with a cover that is just not my taste if only to see what the book is about. And based on the description on the back and the first few pages, I may buy it, even if the cover is not to my taste.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Bless you, Liz! I think maybe I don’t care much about covers because I rarely just go browsing for books anymore. Probably 99.9% of my reading pile are books written by pals or recommended books or “assigned” books for book club. Realistically, they could all have blank covers and I’d still read them!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wonderful concept for your covers, Becky! The Rat Race cover is very clever–it was worth all the effort. I’m not swayed by covers and a lot of them I find lacking (maybe that’s because I’m a painter?). How I gauge a book is the first sentence then the first paragraph–if I like the writing, it’s a go.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Karen! I’m not artistic in that way at all so I have to try and paint a picture with words to share my vision with my designer. Sometimes I send him oodles of images of other covers and say, “I like the font on this one, the color on this one, the style of this one …” But it’s never as easy as just liking one aspect of each. It’s a fun process, but I begin to feel very nit-picky! Luckily he’s very patient with me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Covers are important to me, if they don’t call out to me, I move on. That is until an author becomes an automatic buy for me, then, covers be damned… I’m buying the book regardless. Welcome to the club!

    Also- I’m team praise for your covers. I love them. They call out to me, but we both know I’d be buying the books if there were no images.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Jen … it’s a wild ride, that’s for sure! And it’s funny you mention that about the ribbon because I was trying to think about how I decorate gift bags for people and I don’t think they’re finished until I add the curling ribbon! Glad you agree!


  5. I am so impressed–and a bit astounded (can one be “a bit” astounded?)–by your organizational skills and ability to plan and plot out this new 15-book series. Just wow. And the covers are terrific: eye-popping colors and design, and a wonderful sense of continuity (and I do love the adorable rat on the cover of the novella. Can’t wait to read them all!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aw, shucks. Thanks, Leslie! The rat is cute, but my problem with him is that if any rat perched like that on a gift bag, the entire thing would smoosh. I wanted him standing, pulling down an edge of the bag and sticking his long ratty nose inside. Plus, he looks more mousy than ratty to me. *shrug* I’m over it, though …. kinda.


  6. Becky, I am in absolute awe of what you’re accomplishing. It boggles my brain. In terms of covers, I’m loving yours – the cute mouse on the novella and the general tone of the new new series. Covers do make a difference for me, particularly when I’m browsing new authors. A cover I find appealing with inspire me to read the back cover copy, which can lead to a sale.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow, Becky! So many things to juggle–it’s impressive. I do care about covers and think it’s great that you get to have final decisions on yours. Ended up with something adorable and the font is really pretty too (yes, am font geek).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Cynthia. Yes, it is fun to get to make all the decisions, but that also means I have nobody to blame if I screw up! (I’m a total font geek too … so many cool ones!)


    1. Aw, you’re sweet, Barb! But I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything these days. In fact, I just made a 2-page list which I titled “Becky’s Horrible, No Good, Very Bad To Do List.” Kinda makes me want to cry ….

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Becky, I LOVE it, and I’m not just gushing because you told us to. It’s all kinds of fabulous, and I’m so excited about (and IN AWE of) this series!!!

    As for whether covers influence my buying decisions–10,000%. And you can check my math on that. Besides imagery, I think typography gets short shrift in the cover art convo. The right (or wrong) font can make a big difference in tone. Ditto palette! It all matters–and you got it all right!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ohmygosh … thanks for saying that. I know you have expertise, so it means a lot, Kathy! You and me and Cynthia should have a slumber party and discuss fonts and palettes all night long. I’ll make brownies and you bring the licorice! Oh, and your math tracks, but you might have forgotten to carry the three.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Covers do matter. I do not like cutesy, cartoonish, animation looking covers. I was very disappointed when one of my favorite authors about halfway through went from great covers to cartoony ones. I still bought them because I love the author but was disappointed. I love your chair covers.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Great covers, Becky–worth every tear. (Right? Right?) Love the cute rodent and the intriguing building in the background. I am soooo amazed and impressed with the entire cozy universe you’ve created in Sugar Mill Marketplace. Brava!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Love the final cover, Becky! It’s fun to be able to have a loud voice in what you want–until you don’t know WHAT you want! Happened to me on Shear Misfortune. Great job!


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