Romance author Lark O'Neal gives us insight into the challenges authors face in choosing their unique cover images. Her latest release in the Going the Distance series, "Brilliant," is available for pre-order now.
One of the great challenges for an indie author is getting the right cover art. We do not have access to entire departments of artists and graphic designers with decades of experience in designing covers for books. On my journey through indie publishing, I’ve made just about every mistake you can, but I’ve also had some great covers on indie books.
How do you know when a cover works? The book sells. With my New Adult Going the Distance series, I knew the first two covers for Random and Stoked weren’t working because…well, they weren’t moving. I loved the font choice and the basic design of the cover—it was the photos that were not right.
The challenges in getting covers right are numerous—font, photos, typography, design and layout; making sure the cover looks great in both thumbnail, medium scale, and paper editions; making sure the cover appeals to the right audience and doesn’t look too similar (or too different!) to other covers in the same arena.
I loved the font choice and the basic design of the cover—it was the photos that were not working. You can’t build a great cover without great art, and every time I found models or poses I loved, someone else had already used it for a cover. The other problem was that I needed several covers with the same model or models, and similar tone, and I’m fussy about lighting.
One night, after I’d sifted through yet another thousand (million) photos of models who were not right, I realized I already had a photo I loved of the main character, which I’d put in a collage:
The photo of the girl looking at the camera kept me focused. (This is actually a collage I made for Epic). I found the photo on Deviant Art, a site packed full of fantastic, experimental, vivid art of all kinds. This photo had been on my desk top for months—and a light bulb went on. Maybe I could approach the photographer and see what else she might have and if she’d be willing to work with me.
A couple of friends told me some of the DA artists didn’t want to be on romance novel covers. Another problem was discovering that sometimes the artists had not checked in for a long time, maybe years, and even if I adored a photo, I wouldn’t be able to use it. (This happened with a great shot that eventually represented my idea of Kaleb in the series.)
But I got lucky. It turned out that the young Danish photographer, Amanda C Johnson, whose photo so inspired my character, had done a lot of self-portraits. Not selfies, but beautiful, moody, elegantly-lit shots of a stunning young woman who could easily play Jess in a movie. They also have their own voice and tone—shaped by the way she uses light and sees the world, which would be great for branding my series. I sent her an email through the site, crossing my fingers that she still checked in.
Luckily, Amanda was willing to work with me, and within a few weeks, we’d worked out a deal and I licensed the photos for a period of time. These are the covers we created, all Amanda’s photos:
Gorgeous, right? I also love the fact that I am supporting the vision of a young artist, on a series about new adults.
Interested in romance? Sign up for Romance Delivers, a weekly email featuring the best in romance each week - from weekly booklists to deals and exclusive content from authors.