As many of you know already, I’ve been posting informational updates about the process a new novel goes through after it is written and until publication. I started writing about this with MERCY ROAD’s developmental editing stage, which I’m still in the middle of. I’ve received an overall assessment already; now I’m awaiting a line critique, due to me January 7th.
My publisher also started talking about covers a month ago, much earlier than I had expected. Covers hadn’t come up for my other novels until the book was all the way through the editing process, but I was happy to dive into concepts as soon as possible. Often readers ask me how much input an author gets in terms of cover design, and many think we get to choose it all. The truth is much more complicated and involves a design team, marketing, and perhaps even a photo shoot and contract designers. The design manager looks for an attractive cover that is perfect for that book but is also thematically and visually in line with an author’s other titles.
I’ve been asked for my input regarding all my historical fiction covers, and in some cases, I’ve been able to choose from different options. Authors with Lake Union are also asked what other books’ covers we like. This time, however, was the first time I made a photo suggestion before any work had been done.
While researching female American ambulance drivers in World War I France, I happened upon an amazing photograph taken in 1917 featuring a driver standing on her floorboard and leaning against her ambulance while staring at the camera in a most intriguing way. Most photos of that era are stiff and posed and frankly not all that interesting except in the historical sense. But I fell in love with this photo and suggested it to the team as soon as possible. They loved it too, and after some clearance by the legal team (the photo is a part of a Library of Congress collection) it was decided that we will be using the photo. Hurray!
But the photo/art/image is the first step only. Everything from how much of the image to show to text font, background, colors, borders if any, and so much more are taken into consideration. So I’m also eagerly awaiting the first cover concepts using the vintage image. It’s an exciting time.
For a fascinating and hilarious take on what it is to be a book designer, give yourself a few minutes to watch this: https://www.ted.com/talks/chip_kidd_designing_books_is_no_laughing_matter_ok_it_is?language=en
The next phase I’ll be writing about is copyediting. Please stay tuned!