The Beauty of a Book Cover

Yes, it’s the story inside the book cover that matters. But we book lovers also know how a beautiful cover can beckon a potential reader to give a novel a shot.

That’s one reason why I hired a professional cover designer to create my short story covers, like this one:

My Sister's Demon book cover

And here are some of my favorite book covers for books I’ve read in 2014:

Favorite Book Covers 2014

Aren’t they pretty?!

Given how helpful a quality cover can be in bringing in a reader, I wanted to share with you the annual contest my local Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapter hosts. Here’s the information provided to me with permission to post:

Since 2005, Houston Bay Area RWA has been proving that you CAN Judge A Book By Its Cover. JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER CONTEST 2014 is open for entries.

Your covers will be judged by booksellers around the world, and the winning cover in each category will be featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April 2015 Romance Writers Report.

Again this year, we will also feature the Reader’s Choice Winners from each category on our website. Hundreds of thousands of votes were cast for the JABBIC 2013 covers during the Reader’s Choice voting!

IF YOUR BOOK IS SELF-PUBLISHED, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO GIVE CREDIT WHERE CREDIT’S DUE (YOUR COVER ARTIST OR YOURSELF).

Entry Deadline: Entries must be received by January 15, 2015

Entry Fee: $15

Eligibility: Published in 2014

Enter: The cover of your book or novella published by a traditional house, self-published, ePublisher, or POD during 2014

Entry Format: Electronic files (JPG or GIF) only

Categories: Contemporary Series, Single Title/Mainstream, Historical, Romantic Suspense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Paranormal, Sexiest Cover, Young Adult and Inspirational

Judges: Booksellers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia

Top Prize: Winners will be featured in a full-page color ad on the inside front cover of the April 2015 Romance Writers Report

FMI, entry form and rules, visit our contest website.

Even if you don’t have something to offer, make sure you participate in the Reader’s Choice awards. I’ll make sure to plug that here when voting opens.

Now what are your favorite covers for books you’ve read in 2014? If you’re a published author, what cover of your own is a favorite? And how was your week?

♦   ♦   ♦

ROW80 Update

1. Edit, polish, and release two more short stories in my Paranormal Playground series. I have edited two stories, and one is in the capable hands of a critique partner.

2. Read 12 books. Read another nonfiction title, plus The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. That takes me up to nine.

3. Attend Immersion Master Class and follow-up. I completed Immersion and (yay!) made edits this past week on Sharing Hunter.

The Paranormal Playground: Cover Reveal

I’ve been talking on my blog about short stories I plan to self-publish this year. Well, the first one is coming out very soon. Sometime this month.

Each of these six stories is a young adult paranormal told from the point of view of a teenage girl. Beyond that, they don’t really have much in common. Indeed, I’ve named the series the Paranormal Playground*, because that’s how it feels — like I toured the playground of the paranormal, spending a little time with demons and then fairies and then ghosts and so on.

The first story released will be My Sister’s Demon, and I’m thrilled to share the cover and the blurb. I feel like there should be a drumroll, so just imagine a bbbrrrrrrrrr pish in your head, please.

Book cover for My Sister's Demon short story

Every teenager thinks her older sibling is possessed, but Courtney’s actually is. When big sister Nickie shifts from sweet homecoming queen to evil mischief-maker, Courtney alone discovers the true source of change—demon possession. With Hell invading her home and no one to turn to, is she seriously the only one who can exorcise her sister’s demon?

Cover by Book Cover Corner

That’s it! I hope to release one story every 4-6 weeks and at the end put out a box set. It’s been a challenge and a joy writing short stories. I’m eager to share them with readers!

ROW80 Update

1. Read 12 books. Finished Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro. By the way, I don’t know how this YA contemporary novel got on my radar, but I really enjoyed it. 4 of 12 done.

2. Finish editing SHARING HUNTER, a young adult contemporary novel. Well, I’m on fire for this goal now! Here’s where I struggle about announcing good news: I never want to come across as bragging (because I totally hate that). But hey, I submitted the first chapter to the Utah RWA Great Beginnings Contest and received 1st place. And that’s exactly the impetus I need to get me back into the story to polish it up and send it off! A bit of progress.

3. Edit one short story to publication quality. I was struggling with a plot hole on one story and finally figured out the problem involved my not understanding my antagonist well enough. At the suggestion of fellow writers, I wrote the murder scene from the point of view of the villain. It was an exercise just for me, and I felt sick to my stomach when I was done. But yeah, great writing exercise — because it totally cleared up some questions. When I returned to the story, things fell into place, I fixed the plot hole, and I got through one full edit. Major progress!

4. Publish and promote two short stories. Tweaked the book cover with my designer and chose colors for each short story. This series of shorts will have a standard image book cover, with variations of tone and title to distinguish them. I’m hoping to release the first short, My Sister’s Demon, in mid-May. On track!

5. Stay on top of ROW80 sponsor duties. Visited 10 blogs this week. Done!

*Major thanks to Melinda VanLone for suggesting this title while we were brainstorming together. It fits perfectly!

No Second First Impressions: Book Covers

You’ve heard that line:

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

I read a great book years ago, still on my bookshelf, titled You’ve Only Got Three Seconds, about making that first impression in your business and social life. It was written by Camille Lavington, a woman whom executives hired to “enhance” their image. As Camille presented it:

“Get used to it. The real world has your number. It only takes people three seconds to know where you’re coming from. Within a few seconds they can size you up. It’s not a comforting prospect to be judged so hastily, but that’s the way it is.”

She goes on to describe how quickly and automatically we really do size each other up, trying to glean information about others from clothing and hairstyle, posture and carriage, grooming and accessories, manners and mannerisms, etc. Of course, we hope to adjust our impressions as we learn more or discover discrepancies with our assumptions, but if we think we aren’t making those snap judgments, we’re fooling ourselves. Some scientists suggest this tendency is a survival instinct, which allowed us to quickly determine friend or foe and act accordingly.

Like it or not, we draw conclusions based on first impressions. And we give first impressions too — intentionally expressing our personalities and priorities by how we wear our hair, what clothing we put on, the jewelry we choose. The expensive-suited man with custom cuff links and well-trimmed hair driving a Jaguar is saying something about himself to the world, while the black-clothed, multi-tattooed and pierced man riding a motorcycle is saying something else altogether. And while it’s only a glimpse into who they are, it still suggests something about the person inside.

Which is why book covers matter.

Book cover examples
Stories I’ve Read Recently

Of course, the book cover is just a glimpse, but it makes a first impression — another promise about what the novel itself will be. You can even look at many covers and know their genre. Otherwise, why bother with the shirtless, muscular man and his swooning, bodice-ripping lady? Or the warrior holding a gleaming sword? Or the rusty ax and the blood-dripping font?

I’ve been following a marvelous series of blog posts from the marvelous Melinda VanLone of Book Cover Corner about book covers and what they should include. I encourage writers to check it out: The Amateur’s Guide to a Professional Book Package: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four to Come. As a book cover designer, Melinda understands the importance of making that first impression and gives authors specific tips on what to look for when designing or requesting a cover.

Book covers have also been on my mind because my local RWA chapter, Houston Bay Area RWA, hosts the annual JABBIC (Judge A Book By Its Cover) contest. Official judging of submitted covers has ended, but now it’s time for Reader’s Choice voting. I encourage you to vote your own first impression on the book covers there. Here’s the official announcement:

Judging for the Readers’ Choice Award in Houston Bay Area RWA’s 2013 Judge A Book By Its Cover contest is now open. The Readers’ Choice winners will be featured on HBA RWA’s website at hbarwa.com.

Anyone can judge, so spread the word. Voting will be open until midnight CST on February 9, 2014. We will announce the Grand Prize Winners, judged by booksellers, as well as the Readers’ Choice Winners on February 10, 2014.

The following link will take you to the Readers’ Choice page. Follow the instructions there to vote on all the covers.

https://jabbic.hbarwa.com/readers/

Vote quickly. Judging ends tonight at 12:00 midnight Texas time (CST).

ROW80 Update

Speaking of judging, I’ll let you be the judge of how I did with my writing goals this week. Following is my regular update for A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Here are my goals for the round:

1. Read 12 books. I finished book #6, Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza (fiction), and also read half of #7, Making Love in the Microwave (nonfiction), by Aja Dorsey Jackson. On track.

2. Complete two drafts of short stories. I wrote a little more on one short story, but not as much as I’d hoped. A little off track.

3. Take care of ROW80 sponsor responsibilities. Visited blogs on Sundays and Wednesdays. What’s amazing about this particular challenge is to see writers at all stages of the journey: from first draft of first book to multipublished authors! And everyone supporting each other each step. On track.

4. Edit at least once through Good & Guilty, young adult mystery. Deep edited two chapters. I also won a first chapter critique from a fellow author, so I sent those pages to her for feedback and received some great tips. On track, but I wish the train moved faster.

What’s your opinion of book covers? Are you swayed to read a book or even the book blurb based on a fabulous cover? And how was your week?