Choosing a cover…

Aah, fall and winter. When my day job keeps me so busy that all I’m capable of doing is chowing down a quick dinner before falling into bed at night. Fortunately, spring is around the corner, and I can see some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel!

The last week or two, I’ve been entering the truly fun portion of the book release process– picking my cover!

I used The Book Designers, and they did an AMAZING job. I fell in love with the covers on their webpage the minute I saw them, so it was a no-brainer for me. Yes, they were a bit pricey, but whether you believe the old adage or not, people WILL judge your book by its cover. I might have bought more self-published books myself the last few years, but some of the covers I’ve seen have been downright awful.

Since this is my first self-publishing venture (but not my first PUBLISHING venture), I didn’t want to be treated like a red-headed stepchild. I wanted my book to be indistinguishable from that coming out of the major houses– in terms of my writing, and in terms of the cover. Considering roughly half my rejections were for stuff like “I don’t know who this person is and I’m not sure why I’m supposed to care” (even though she really existed and lived an amazing short life), I decided to concentrate my marketing efforts toward the Classic Hollywood fandom community. It’s an entire subculture, and I knew that was there my audience lay.

I was allowed three iterations of the cover, but I had a definite vision. I was to email them my most recent manuscript, my most recent synopsis, covers I like, covers of books that fall in the same family as mine, and my vision for it.

Some of my qualifications were:

    • Sepia sepia sepia (you couldn’t guess that from my blog title, could you?) – There’s just something about those hazy black/white/gray/dull brown scenes on covers that takes me to my happy place. The Alienist? Devil in the White City? Yup. Keep em comin!
    • An actual photo of Olive in that sepia tone. Whichever one I could get licensing for.
    • Some possible background images of old-time New York, the Ziegfeld Theatre, etc.
    • An image of an old ocean liner, signifying her trip to Paris.
    • An old-fashioned silent movie camera.
    • A decorative graphic frame type element.
    • A design that can be easily duplicated and modified for future books on the actresses I’m planning. Think of how readily identifiable the books by Christopher Moore, Carl Hiaasen, or Philippa Gregory are.

Then, I let them go to work. Here are some of the ideas, and how I came up with the final product. There were two that arrived with these that I discounted right off the bat. They had some strange rose designs over the top of the whole thing that didn’t work for me at all. Didn’t want them to keep working that angle. But these others were possibles:

1. #3

I like the graphic elements, but they’re a bit more 30s than teens, and I’m not fond of the font at all. Next!


I like the film strips down the side, but #1, the woman in the picture isn’t Olive. #2, I’m still not fond of that font. But I think the film effect would look great on a back cover.

3. #7

I like the colours, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald-y font, but it’s just lacking something for me.

4. #6

This was generally the second favorite among friends and co-workers. But being a period purist, I was bothered by #1, the Hollywoodland sign went up in 1923 (3 years after Olive’s death), and #2 the picture of Hollywood with the searchlights and palm trees would be more suited to the late 1920s and after. Not the dusty, orange-grove filled place it was when Ollie knew it. Plus, her face is upside down! Why?

5. #5

The favorite among just about everyone. I wasn’t crazy about the purple and blue, and the camera in the bottom left looks like someone dripped water on the cover, but I knew this one had potential for multiple designs in the future– especially the top graphic element portion. And I ADORE this font. It also looks good in thumbnails, which are your selling point on Amazon.

So another tweak, and I had this:


I had suggested the warm colours from the other designs, but figured there would be a gold along with the green and orange. To me, the green and orange by themselves were a bit too fluorescent marker-ish. And the fact that Ollie got the green and orange filter too was a drawback.

I asked them to PLEASE make Ollie sepia-toned again, beef up the contrast, and make the frilly parts off-white again. I thought the green and orange on them was a bit much.

So one LAST tweak, and we arrived here:


It’s so gorgeous, I can’t stop gazing at it! The reception so far has been overwhelmingly positive. I posted it in one of my Facebook groups, and have already had a PM from a complete stranger squeeeing over its release, asking how they can get a copy, and wondering how they can spread the word. I’d call that successful.

How have everyone elses’ cover designs gone? Stories to share? Funny tales of designs gone wrong? Or perfectly nailed? Share them with us!

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