New Cover!

Seeing the covers of my books for the first time is normally for me one of the more exciting parts of this whole writing gig.  It’s a thrill to see my stories come, kind of, to life.  I’ve never gotten upset if the hair color or style is off, or if the clothing is the wrong color because those things aren’t all that important.

My editor made a comment to me once about covers being merely “representative” of the story, and that makes sense to me. They’re not trying to exactly match details in the book, they’re trying to give a “sense” of the story.  I’m sure that’s why we end up with the wrong color hair or too pregnant of a heroine or other discrepancies.

Although I have to admit that when I saw my first cover – TREASURE – the very first thought that popped into my head was that Jake would NEVER wear red.  And when they absolutely, positively nailed Erica for NEXT COMES LOVE it was quite a thrill.

That said, I usually end up loving my covers for reasons other than what the hero and heroine look like.  In fact, I truly can’t pick a favorite out of all of my covers because I like so many of them so much.  I’ve discovered that the background, for me, is what cinches the deal.

I just got the cover for my next release, THE PURSUIT OF JESSE, coming in July, and it’s the first cover in a long while that I’m not entirely crazy about.  In fact, I’m not sure I like it at all.  While Jesse and Sarah look good and I love the flowers, I really don’t like the background.

Trust me, I don’t envy an art department’s job of putting together covers.  Think about how tough it would be to develop a visual representation of a story you’ve never read.  Now maybe they read some of the books of big authors beforehand, but I doubt it.  I think they’re more often than not working blind.  Well, almost blind.

In my case, I fill out what’s called an Art Fact Sheet.  It’s an online file that the Harlequin people use to come up with a cover and back copy.  Maybe our covers are only as good as the info about characters and setting that we impart in our AFSs?  I don’t know.  I do know those AFSs are nail-biters for me because I try so hard to only include info that’s important to the story, making sure I don’t give them any visuals that I’d hate to see in the background of the cover.

The AFSs ask us authors to describe three key scenes and presumably one of those scenes will make it on the cover.  They even go so far as to ask what the hero and heroine are wearing.  Normally, I try not to get specific with colors.  There’s really no point. The art department has to, ultimately, choose colors that are visually pleasing with regard to the rest of the cover.

In this book’s case, what I really wanted to see in the background was the heroine’s house.  This is the picture I had taped up the entire time I was writing this book because the house plays such a key role in the story.

Instead of a small Victorian, I got party tents.  Party tents?  They’re never mentioned anywhere in the story.  And I’m not even sure anyone will be able to identify exactly what is in the background of this cover without picking up the book and looking more closely.

Hey!  Maybe that was the intention!

Actually, the heroine is a wedding planner, so maybe they were wanting to play up that aspect of the story.  It’s mentioned in the back cover copy, too.  Is the heroine being a wedding planner a hook that might get readers to pick up the book?  All I know is that I wanted gingerbread trim, and instead, I got barely identifiable, bunched up, white cloth.

Authors, I think, tend to be the most critical of covers.  They know the story better than anyone, and trying to put form to their vision is, at best, a difficult task.  I have taken to emailing my editor pictures here and there of things that are significant to my story.  None of my pics have made it into the final cover, but at least I’ve tried.

Maybe the problem is having too high of expectations for my covers.  So maybe I’m being overly critical of this cover because I got too specific in my head with gingerbread.

So what do you think?  Do you like my new cover?  When you look at a cover, any cover, do you focus in on the hero and heroine or does the background play a role?  Do you have an all time favorite book cover?  Why do you like it so much?

And authors out there … how to you deal with your expectations with regard to your covers?  Do you have a favorite cover for your own books?

And if you are so inclined … THE PURSUIT OF JESSE, HER SURE THING and REDEMPTION AT MIRABELLE are now available for pre-order at Amazon or your fav online location!



About Helen Brenna

Helen Brenna is the RITA award winning author of romances for Harlequin's Superromance line. Three more books in her popular Mirabelle Island series will be release in July, August and September of 2011. For more information, check out her website at
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16 Responses to New Cover!

  1. leannebanks says:

    Helen, your people are gorgeous, but I’m with you on the Victorian house. I covered this a little yesterday with my current Special Edition cover. I was expecting to see a baby gnawing on the heroine’s stetson on that cover! I love this series of yours. You give such a wonderful sense of place. The setting really is a character! xo, Leanne

  2. michelehauf says:

    Helen, the cover is beautiful. The colors in it really make it pop. I agree, after designing a few covers for myself, that the cover artist tends to go more for a ‘mood’ than actually trying to get the details right. Because that way lies madness, if you tried to match it all. Just ain’t gonna happen. So be happy that it’s just lovely, and ignore the tent. 🙂

  3. Helen Brenna says:

    Place is key in this Mirabelle series, so thanks Leanne!

    And thanks Michele. You can never see your own cover again for the first time, so I think we tend to carry our first reactions for some time. The colors are bright!

    The more I think about it, the more I wonder if they weren’t going for the wedding planner hook. Heck, if it sells, that’s the most important thing!

  4. Helen Brenna says:

    And oh, crap! I totally spaced, Leanne, that your topic was your cover just yesterday! Well, one thing is for sure … shows you how keyed into covers we writers can get.

    • leannebanks says:

      Helen, my topic was all over the place yesterday. I just whined about my cover because I wanted a baby on That said, your cover really is gorgeous, but so is that house and I can’t blame you for wanting that house on your cover. I would just like to have that house period!:) xo, Leanne

  5. lois greiman says:

    Covers! You love ’em. You hate ’em. Sometimes it seems to have nothing to do with whether the book sells well. And sometimes I think if the characters have the right hair cover that’s as much as you can hope for. You got pretty people on your cover…so as far as I’m concerned you win.

  6. cindy gerard says:

    Awe, Helen. Covers – the boon and the bane of a writer’s existence. In your case, that great title and your name on the cover will sell the book! But you’re right. Your gingerbread house would have made a much better background. Had I not known from your post that the heroine is a wedding planner, I would have assumed …oh, I don’t know… Laurence of Arabia was going to show up somewhere along the way?? :o0
    Having said that, however, the people are great and that’s always a plus and yes, the colors are very nice. Over all, it’s a winner!! congrats.

  7. Helen Brenna says:

    They are pretty, you got that right Lois. And they have the right hair color and length, so I got that going for me!

    Lawrence of Arabia!! Cindy! Now I really hate those tents! lol

  8. Helen Brenna says:

    Oh, and I meant to say that the title I had suggested was Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Jesse. They shortened it, and I’m so glad they did.

  9. Kathleen says:

    I cannot wait until these books come out… love the Mirabelle Island series…

  10. Helen Brenna says:

    Thanks Kathleen. It’s so nice as a writer to hear that a series is hitting its mark!

  11. Keri Ford says:

    It is a pretty cover. and a pretty cover will catch my eye.

    now that I’ve thought of it, I don’t think I’ve ever finished a book and then looked at the cover again to see how it matched or what have made it better. …will keep that in mind when I get a cover I’m just so lost and confused on.

  12. Betina says:

    Count me in the “I really like it” category! I don’t think the tents are bad on the front– they connote a special event and that means a good time had by all! And the people are great, so I’m sure it will do well. Your readers will find you, Helen. We love your books!

  13. Betina says:

    You know, the first time I’ve ever complained about a cover was my most recent one and it didn’t do any good at all. Several people said they liked the cover and I was just one of three authors. . . it went as was and I got used to the look. I’ve had a few I could have complained about over the years, but in the end, it doesn’t change anything. However, a dear friend and her agent complained about a fairly nice cover and– wow, the house she’s with redid the entire thing! Took it a whole ne direction: new painting, different tone. . . the whole thing was done over from scratch. She’s still scratching her head trying to figure out what happened. Most publishers don’t take an author’s complaints so to heart!

  14. Kylie Brant says:

    I think you nailed it, Helen. The couple’s great…but the background detracts from them by being too busy and uninteresting. It’s not, by any means, a bad cover…I’ve got a few of those I can show you 🙂

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