Book covers are an enduring subject of interest and debate for both authors and readers. Receiving one's first book cover is a moment of high anticipation.
Is the cover attractive? Does it accurately represent the type of book it is?
Do the models look anything like the characters within the covers?
Does the heroine have three arms? (Yes, that happened, and no one noticed until the book came out. <G>)
I've had some very good covers in my time, some that were mediocre, a few that made me cringe. One of the great joys of indie publishing backlist books is being in charge of our own cover designs. If they don't work, we know who to blame. <G>
But in recent years, I've entered a new phase: plot points inspired by the finished artwork. Kensington, my publisher does covers very early to use in promotion, so I get emails from my editor asking what the characters look like and can I suggest a scene for the cover? I'm usually wandering in the woods of early pages and not good for much except physical character descriptions.
So when the cover arrives, I usually say, "Oooh, pretty! How can I incorporate this s scene into my story, which isn't written yet?" The fun of this is that the ideas sparked by the cover art have sparked some very cool story elements.
For example on Once A Soldier, the heroine is holding a sword in both hands as if making a presentation. She's wearing a yellow gown, the setting is a Spanish style hall, and the cover is all golden. So the Muse came up with a scene where Athena is indeed presenting a sword, wearing a yellow dress, and the ceremony of presentation is a nice addition to the story that I probably wouldn't have thought of on my own.
Since the first Rogues Redeemed cover had a heroine with a weapon, that became a theme for the series covers. A good part of Once a Rebel is set in the War of 1812 and the heroine experiences the burning of Washington and the Battle of Baltimore. As a city burns in the background, Callie is holding a pistol at her side, so I made sure she knew how to use it, and had occasion to do so.
The Once a Scoundrel cover shows the heroine, Rory, clasping a cutlass while perched in the ship's rigging. She's no swordswoman, but I conjured a scene where she's imagining herself as a lady pirate, which fit the great cover illustration. Gabriel was explaining to her how to hold and use the weapon. <G>
Once a Spy was set around the edges of Waterloo and both hero and heroine become involved in spying. I suggested the heroine could be on a horse, and sure enough she is, even if her riding position is more than a little odd. Suzanne is wearing a what looks like a scarlet ball gown that had the long sweeping skirt of a riding habit. There's a cannon in the background. I tried to figure out how I could get her on the field of Waterloo in ball gown, and failed. But I did figure out how to give her a good reason for wearing a scarlet gown, and I produced a white horse for her to ride. Very intrepid was Susanne!
Most recent was the cover of Once Dishonored, in which Kendra, the heroine, is dressed as a swordswoman and holding a fencing foil. The whole fencing salon subplot camn from that cover, and Wench Andrea's lovely blog on the real Angelo's Fencing Academy. A lot of interesting scenes took place at that fencing salon!
How much does it matter to you if a cover illustration represents the story well? Is 'attractive and the characters have the right coloring enough,' or do you want more?
Mary Jo, who likes the cover to represent the story well