July 29, 2012


Author Stephen Bly
Stephen Bly
by Stephen Bly

I've often gotten asked, "Do you do your own artwork for your book covers?" or "Why did you decide on that particular cover?"

So, I reckon I'll write about book covers.

How a book's designed is usually under the control of the publisher. The contract the author signs spells out the details. When I first started out, I was so thrilled to get a book published, I didn't worry about the cover. In those days, the publisher had full control. I had no idea what the book would look like until it arrived. That's fun. And scary. If the cover's great, it's a delight. If the cover's weak in some way, I'd be a tad disappointed.

As I got more experienced, I negotiated a different contract that included a "mutual agreement" clause. Both the publisher and author must agree on the cover. Even so, some of my suggestions never got used.

Since some have asked, here's three of my covers I really liked ...

The Lost Wagon Train, novel by Stephen Bly
The Lost Wagon Train
The Lost Wagon Train from Retta Barre's Oregon Trail Series is a personal favorite. It has the wagon train, but also the artist's rendition of Retta Barre is exactly the way I pictured her. She's rebel with short hair and no bonnet. Many times a cover can misrepresent the protagonist. But Retta is perfect. That's my girl. I love this cover.

Paperback Writer
Another of my favorite's is Paperback Writer. No image of the protagonist, Paul James Watson, is included. Just old typewriter font letters. A steaming cup of coffee. A shadowy figure in the lower right hand corner that hints of mystery and suspense. And then if you hold it to the light, you can see the coffee cup stains. Makes you think you left your mug on the top of the book. You can't tell what is real or fake. Just like the plot in the book. The cover reflects the story.

The Outlaw's Twin Sister, novel by Stephen Bly
The Outlaw's Twin Sister
On the cover of The Outlaw's Twin Sister (Belles of Lordsburg Series), this likeness is truly Julianna Ortiz. I love the town in the background, the dress, her hair, the eyes, and most of all, the melancholy look on her face. No fake grin for the portrait artist. She's had a tough life. Then along comes a nephew to raise (the capricious Paco). And she runs into the mysterious DelNorte. Both these events change her life forever. And I like the tagline they added in the upper left hand corner: "Hers wasn't the life little girls dream of. Not yet anyway."

What's one of your favorite book covers and why?

website: http://BlyBooks.com
Blog: http://BlyBooks.blogspot.com  


Molly Noble Bull said...

I guess every author either loves or hates his or her book covers. I like all of mine, and I also like all the covers connected with your article. But to be honest, I would have to say I like my book covers beter.
The cover I like best of all the covers on my published books is the cover for Sanctuary, my long historical set in France in 1740. An artist sent several possible covers to my publisher, and I got to pick my favorite. I think I made a good choice.
If you go to my website, scroll down and click Molly's books, you can see that beautiful cover as well.

Janet Chester Bly said...

Molly: Thanks for your note. Yes, the cover for Sanctuary is excellent--very well done. Thanks for sharing.

For His Glory said...

i like this article as i've often wondered about cover art. sometimes the art just doesn't seem to convey what i'm thinking the character and/or setting is. guess that's another way of God showing how different we see things. thanks for the post, enjoyed it!.

Janet Chester Bly said...

For His Glory: Thanks for your comments. Glad you were able to get a behind the scenes view of how covers are created.