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PONDERING BOOK COVERS By Beth Daniels, aka Beth Henderson, J.B. Dane and Nied Darnell

The old saying runs “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover”.

Well, I have to admit that a cover is probably what leads me to pick a book up in the bookstore or click on it to read the description at an online book retailer, be it for an ebook or an actually printed on paper edition.

It was a book I bought this past week that really drove this home.

I was purchasing the 3rd book in a series that had 6 titles available. And the reason I was attracted to it was the cover. All one saw was a guy in boots, a black suit and a six-gun in his hand. He was leaning back against a wall that shouted 19th century to me. When I read the description of the storyline, I snagged it for my Kindle. And when I started reading it – well, I REALLY liked the characters, the style, the storyline, and went back and bought the first book in the series.

The one with the cover that HADN’T attracted me.

Well, neither did the one used on the 2nd book in the series. Which means, if the publisher hadn’t come up with the cover that REALLY appealed to me, I would still be clueless about this author’s work – which would have been a shame. Both for me as a reader and them as an author looking for book royalties on sales.

The week before I’d been cruising publishers’ websites looking for one to submit my latest historical romantic adventure to. While Writer’s Digest’s 2020 edition of Novel and Short Story Markets had just arrived but listed very few publishing houses (which means I won’t be purchasing other editions in the future), I did find a lot listed in blog entries various places from which I made a list then worked my way from one website to another looking both at submission guidelines and the covers of the books they’d released.

And it was the covers that had me scratching off one place after another. Totally hated the covers shown.

Heck, I make up better looking covers on the Indie releases I do. I’m a hybrid sort of author, but I did time in the past doing advertising layout so designing covers is playtime for me.

After scrolling past one horrible cover after another, I felt like I should give these publishers a link to my “how to build a cover” page on my non-fiction website.

I’ve had several traditional publishers in the past and most of them asked for suggestions on cover ideas. Back in the mid-1990s when I was first picked up by Harlequin/Silhouette, they had pages upon pages of questions to answer concerning what the characters looked like, what they wore, a particular scene that I might suggest as good for a cover. Actually, they USED my scene suggestion a couple times. My editor at the time said it was probably because I never suggested a clinch scene and that appealed to the forces that be as making my covers jump out from the others. Not that they were that amazing. With one I suggested the couple and the heroine’s little boy sitting on the floor before a roaring fire with a clock showing that it was nearly midnight. There were party hats because it was New Year’s Eve. With the story that was a spin-off of this book I suggested the scene where the hero had shaving cream on his face and the heroine’s two older early elementary school-aged children also had shaving cream on their faces and the heroine was in the doorway behind them looking very amused. Probably the best part was that they found some really good-looking men to be on these covers…particularly MR ANGEL, the one with the shaving in process.

When I began writing urban fantasy, my publisher asked me to look for a clip from one of the royalty free graphics companies to see if I could find a guy to stand in for Bram Farrell. I hit 4 different sites and spent over 5 hours looking at pictures of good-looking men with dark hair and two-day old scruff on their faces.

Yeah, a really tough assignment, wasn’t it? When I sent my editor the link to the guy I thought worthy of the cover, she emailed me back, “I really like this guy!”

Lord alone knows what we’ll end up doing with the second book’s cover. I’m curious to see whether I need to begin looking at pictures of handsome young men again for RAVEN HEART.

Of course, that brings us to another thing about covers.

If you have a trilogy or a series or are part of a “package” or imprint a publisher uses (like the various niches at Harlequin for Special Editions, Desire, etc.), there is a “look” used that ties them together. It’s probably a combination of font style, placement of title and author’s name, similar look, same cover model, or same style of clothing on current cover model, whether there is a “logo” – I use one on my Steampunk novellas – or an arch or frame used that the other elements sit under or within.

I’ve tried to do these things when I put out-of-print titles back in print: same font and similar placement of where the title is and author’s name, similar layout, similar colors. With the historicals, the look I’ve liked best is with women in corsets, at least part of the title in a flowing script (Vivaldi, I think) and my name running up the binding side (left-hand side) rather than at the top or bottom. For the Steampunk novellas (looking for a publisher for the novels) it took a while to find something I really liked to be the “uniform” but I finally came up with something that I’m proud of.

Naturally, the covers I create myself are ones that I’d be attracted to purchase.

Now, I have a question for you.

Is it the cover or the blurb or the description or the reviews that are the first thing that lures you into buying a specific title? Or do you simply buy by author or by niche? I certainly know there are readers who have a standing order for every release from the various Harlequin lines because I used to know a bookseller who immediately pulled copies for certain customers every month. The piles were huge, too!

As a writer, it isn’t ideas for covers that get us in a publisher’s door or attracts readers to the titles we release Independently though. It’s whether we’ve written the type of story that these readers enjoy…and the editors go to contract on.

How do you know whether you’ve got that right?

Well, if you join me for my next workshop here at Savvy – “Reverse Engineering the Novel” – you can find out! I’ll be in the virtual classroom March 2nd through the 29th. Join me!

Visit Beth at!

Nikrova’s Passion

Anne Larkin was in London to soak up atmosphere. The trouble was the wrong atmosphere could get a girl killed!

It was just a post-graduation trip to England to wallow in museums and see the sites. Or it was until Anne Larkin landed in the wrong place at the right time and was mistaken by one man to be a thief’s cohort, and by the thief to be a police plant. And both men decided that romancing her was the way to keep his nemesis from the reportedly cursed and very valuable alexandrite stone known as Nikrova’s Passion.

Set in 1989, NIKROVA’S PASSION is a fast-paced romp with danger, deception, romance and love. Originally published in 1990, the current edition has undergone a bit of tinkering by the author, though not with the era itself. Just stylistic changes. Fear not! Barely 5% of the tale shifted wording. No part of the original story sustained injury in the process.

While NIKROVA’S PASSION was Beth Henderson’s first published novel, her foot stayed firmly wedged in publisher’s doors and she has written over 30 romances, though some have been under other names, and danced from the romantic-suspense-comedy of NIKROVA’S PASSION to contemporary romantic-comedy, young adult romantic-comedy and historical romantic adventure.

Buy this book!

Long time Savvy Author workshop presenter, Beth Daniels, got her first call from an editor offering a contract early in September 1989 and continues t...