But I wanted to explore further. (I am lazy but incurably curious. <G>) In the beginning we were all paddling around among the sea dragons.
Though the ebook revolution wasn't that long ago, it was like the Wild West. Those of us interested in exploring this new frontier passed around information like chocoholics passing around sources for the Good Stuff:
"There's a guy in Canada with a program that will format books, but it only works with Macs."
"I've had a fair amount of computer experience, so I'll see if I can figure this out."
"What is Calibre? Smashwords? Going wide?"
"Anyone know a good cover designer?"
"Well, there's a woman called Kim in my RWA chapter who is a designer…."
This last one led me to the amazing Kim Killion, who was as new to ebooks as I was, but we figured it out together, she's done all of my covers since, and she has become the Goddess of Cover Art. I am eternally grateful to Pat Rice for pointing me in Kim's direction!
In the space of just a few years, an army of new businesses grew up to produce ebooks: scanning, proofing, cover design, formatting, uploading, marketing, and some companies that did all those things, from soup to nuts.
My next step after Regency Reads was to put my contemporary trilogy out there. While there was a potential for reselling backlist historical romances to a traditional publisher, I figured my agent and publisher wouldn't mind if I self-published my contemporaries, (Above left is my first round of contemporary covers from 2011.)
So my Circle of Friends stories were released way back in 2011 as contemporary romance. The books were as much women's fiction as they were romance, so a couple of years later when it was suggested that the book could be given new titles and released as women's fiction, I figured it was worth a try.
So The Burning Point became Stirring the Embers because it was about explosive demolition, and about a long divorced couple thrown together again. The Spiral Path , which used a labyrinth as both symbol and reality, became Phoenix Falling because the hero had gone from a horrendous childhood to international famous movie star fame, but now it's all falling apart again as a consequence of making a movie with his soon-to-be-divorced wife.
My working title for the third book had been An Imperfect Process which I thought did a good job of describing the plot, which was about getting a wrongfully convicted man off Death Row, and a heroine who really didn't know how to fall in love.
Unfortunately, the publisher didn't like the title and it was released under the very generic title Twist of Fate. This reissue gave me the chance to give the story the title I'd always wanted.
The series had a good run as women's fiction with a series title of Starting Over. (The covers for that 2014 iteration are above to the right) Last year I decided it was time for another change and the books came down for about six months, and now I've just released them for the third time with still another set of covers and finally going with the titles I like best: The Burning Point, The Spiral Path, and An Imperfect Process under the series title Circle of Friends again. I swear, no more title changes after this! (But I make no promises about the covers. <G>)
A major change in the last years is that there are now a lot more cover images available to choose from. Not that covers are easy–they NEVER are! But the vastly greater number of images does help.
For the first go around, I spent countless hours searching for suitable cover images, with regular pauses for hair pulling. Kim and I went through many variations for each cover, as many as 20 in some cases.
I realized that I wanted my covers to show the emotional moment–the complexity of the characters' feelings. Someone called it "the moment before the kiss," which I like as a description. And it's never easy.
This third time round with new covers was the quickest yet, not just because there are more images available but also because we've all learned a lot over time. Even so, cutting off heads is still necessary in some instances. <G> But you can see above how covers have evolved. So have marketing and pricing.
What hasn't changed is the stories themselves. My characters still deal with wrenching challenges, and become better, strong, more loving people along the way. And I hope that readers are still enjoying the journey.
Do you have a preference for one set of covers over the others? There are no right or wrong answers here, so feel free to share your opinions!
Mary Jo, also adding the new cover for the related novella, A Holiday Fling. The protagonists put on a show, get to wear papier mache dragon heads, and generally have a good time! And I put my beloved cat Grady in the story under the name Plato. <G>