by Mary Jo
Once upon a time, in that distant day before the internet and .jpg files and indie ebook publishing, receiving your cover from your publisher was a very big deal. You opened the envelope breathlessly, then studied the cover flat with joy, horror, or something in between. You flashed your cover proudly at conferences if you liked it, or moaned and asked for commiseration if you didn't.
The original cover of Uncommon Vows is not a favorite of mine. It was fairly eye catching, I like the colors, and it fulfilled the basic requirement of getting hair colors right: he's a very fair Norman blond, she has dark hair like the half Welsh heroine.
BUT–he looks like a 17 year old California surfer dude with a pompadour. A convincing and deadly knight? Not so much. Plus, in the first version they sent, you could see the angled raglan seams on the shoulders of his sweatshirt. I howled about that (raglan sleeves????) and they changed it, but still. Not to mention that with those slashes in his shirt, why no blood?
The heroine has dark hair, but instead of being a slim, fey forest sprite, she looks like a busty barmaid who has been around the track a few too many times. And with the falcon on her unprotected arm, again there should be blood! There's a reason why falcon handlers have leather arm protectors. <G>
Later on, my publisher reissued all my backlist books over time with new budget covers that have objects rather than people. The effect is neutral, though not very grabby. There is a silver mirror in the story, so this one is okay. But it's so neutral I almost forgot this cover's existence!
Move along a number of years. Uncommon Vows went out of print and I got my rights reverted because MINE. This didn't mean much until ebooks came along and all of sudden, we could republish our back list, yay! UV was not one of the first books I e-published because it's a standalone, not part of a series, and it's my only medieval.
I was lucky to find cover artist extraordinaire Kim Killion early on and we figured things out together. In those early days, the biggest challenge was to find good stock art to use on the covers. Finding an appropriate medieval image was REALLY hard!
I eventually settled on this image of a hooded man with a sword and a woman watching warily. The art is attractive and the content kind of worked because when we first meet Adrian, he's in a monastery with the intention of taking final vows, hence the robe. And wariness also works because this is my "subversion of the captivity fantasy" book and Meriel doesn't want anything to do with Adrian for a good part of the book.
But I was never fully satisfied with the cover because it could be interpreted as having a slightly creepy vibe–a vampire or BDSM or something, which isn't true to the story. So even though artistically the cover was very effective, ultimately I never used it. When I finally got around to publishing the book, I went back to Kim and started looking through the stock image sites for a better picture.
This one is a great improvement. Kim used the same styling and colors from the unused cover because I liked that part a lot. In this cover, the characters are clearly connecting with each other and she's wearing a lovely medieval style gown. He's not wearing much at all <G>, but he's good looking and Kim was able to lighten his hair to Norman blond. But I HATED the buzz cut!
Still, it was a pretty good cover and I used it for years. But when I decided to make Uncommon Vows the first in my program of Print On Demand titles, it seemed like a good time to update the cover. I started searching at Period Images, a stock photo site that does a good job with historic costumes.
In the medieval section, I found this excellent image of a knight and a petite lady and turned it over to Kim so she could work her magic. First of all, she flipped the image from right to left. Then she turned the lady's platinum blond hair to black (not easy!), and lightened the man's dark blond hair because much is made of the fact that Adrian has very blond Nordic hair.
And lo! the results are above! I love this cover for the tenderness between the two, and the fact that they look a lot like my characters. I had Kim use the same colors and styling and fonts because I like them so much.
AND I have my Print On Demand edition! These are big books, 5" x 8.5", and because they are produced more or less to order, they are expensive: $14.99 is the list price at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But they are beautiful, and I'll give one of these to on US reader who comments between now and midnight Tuesday. (If someone outside the US wins the drawing, I'll send a gift e-book.)
I hope you enjoyed this cover journey! Is there one version you particularly like? You know which one is my favorite, but I never expect everyone to agree with me!