In the Great Distribution of Skills, the art muse forgot me. I’m barely capable of drawing stick figures. Nevertheless, I love studying cover art for books, determining what works and what doesn’t and how specific covers convey concrete information about a book’s contents.
A couple of years ago, as I prepared to launch my first self-published book, my number one task was finding a cover artist. I was fortunate to discover Reece Notley, an incredibly talented artist and designer who gets the function of book covers. Reece and I have worked together on several trilogies and stand-alone novels, and I am always in awe of her talent.
But last year, I threw Reece a curveball. (Yes, when you write the Diamond Brides Series of romances built around the (imaginary) Raleigh Rockets baseball team, you use a lot of baseball terms in your day-to-day life.)
I told Reece about Diamond Brides. I asked her to work with me, developing a cover concept for the series. We had some challenges:
1) There are nine books in the series. Nine. Gulp. Nine. Each book has to look distinctive, but it also has to look like it’s part of the whole.
2) Diamond Brides is a bit of a departure from most of my other novels – the books are hot contemporary romance instead of light paranormals. Therefore, the covers must specifically inform readers that they’re getting a new type of Mindy Klasky book.
3) The most common symbol associated with baseball – a bat – looks phallic in virtually every possible placement on a book cover. The other common symbol – a baseball – looks identical from every angle. Less common symbols – bases, catchers’ masks, etc. – are truly less common and not certain to be recognized by readers who aren’t already baseball fans.
The first series concept we developed played off the heat of the romance. The cover showed only the hero (no heroine), standing in a “body-builder” muscle-displaying pose, naked except for a pennant across his waist that stated the name of the book. Each volume in the series would have a different man, and each volume would be shaded in a different dark color.
That plan went out the window relatively quickly. The covers were too dark, too brooding. They didn’t convey the sense of humor in my books, the fact that baseball is a game, not a deadly paranormal pursuit. The only concrete reference to baseball was in the font on the pennant, chosen to resemble the lettering on traditional baseball jerseys. Moreover, the dark shades were different to distinguish (because, let’s face it, there was no way we could use greens or yellows, without the hero appearing ill…)
Back to the drawing board.
And then Reece hit on a design that worked: A green grassy background. A hero and a heroine in a hot embrace. A baseball symbol (bat or ball or, for the book about the catcher, a mask), displayed prominently in the foreground. A font that connoted baseball but wasn’t actually, literally, the lettering found on jerseys.
As soon as I saw the first draft, I new we could work with the new design. Reece and I consulted on photographs of couples. We earmarked some for later in the series. We discussed placement of that ever-phallic bat in others. We tweaked the back cover of the print editions, so that the grassy background enhanced the cover copy rather than overwhelming it.
We’ve still got nine books to design. But now we have multiple elements for each cover – a hero and a heroine, a variety of poses beyond a simple body-builder’s display of muscle, and a baseball symbol (or multiple symbols).
We’ve got three books down, along with a “boxed set” omnibus edition (for the first three books sold as one volume.) The boxed set presented its own challenge – vendors are moving away from accepting covers that actually look like a boxed set of books, so Reece needed to apply her magic to connote “three-in-one” without showing a three-dimensional box.
I’m thrilled with the overall series design – it connotes baseball and fun and hot, steamy romance. How about you? Are there romance covers that you think capture a series perfectly?
About the author
Mindy Klasky learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her she could travel anywhere through stories. As a writer, Mindy has traveled through various genres, including hot contemporary romance. In her spare time, Mindy knits, quilts, and tries to tame her to-be-read shelf.
PERFECT PITCH (A Diamond Brides Romance) by Mindy Klasky
Reigning beauty queen Samantha Winger is launching her pet project, a music program for kids. All she has to do is follow the pageant’s rules—no smoking, drinking, or “cavorting” in public.
That’s fine, until D.J. Thomas—God’s gift to baseball—throws her a wild pitch. He slams her in an interview, and the video goes viral. Sam’s no shrinking violet. She parlays D.J.’s apology into a national T.V. appearance—and a very unexpected, very public kiss.
Soon, paparazzi catch the couple in a steamy make-out session, and Sam’s music program is on the block. The blazing hot relationship is threatened even more when D.J.’s son begs to trade in Little League for music class.
Can Sam and D.J. sizzle past the sour notes and find their perfect pitch?