The Evolution of a Book Cover Design

by M.J. Hearle

I was very pleased with the covers for Winter’s Shadow and Winter’s Light. Many readers and reviewers commented on how beautiful they were. My publisher did a bang up job at creating something that would appeal to the books targeted demographic. If I have a criticism, it would only be that they were a little too generic. Certainly, they weren’t the first paranormal covers to depict a girl against a moody backdrop .

I went out of my way to make sure the stories weren’t just generic paranormals – no vampires or werewolves (shirtless or otherwise) – so felt that maybe the covers should have reflected this. Perhaps sport a design that was a little more idiosyncratic. A little strange. Like the stories themselves. I raised my concerns, but in the end, deferred to my publishers judgement. This was the right decision.

Before I set out to write Claudette in the Shadows I decided I would take a more active role in the eventual marketing. I may have even mocked up some cover concepts before typing the first word. Blame my advertising background for this. In our industry we routinely put chickens before the eggs.

When Momentum agreed to publish the novella, I wrote an email outlining my thoughts on Claudette‘s cover – specifically the fact I wanted to design it myself. My publisher, to their credit, told me to have a crack at it.

I started with this sketch.

Claudette_in_the_shadows-cover-design_01As you can see, I’m no great artist. I’m definitely more comfortable with words than creating pictures. For one thing, I screwed up the clothing on the figure. A long slinky dress is far too contemporary considering the time period of the story (late 1800’s). However, I think I got the posture right. The attitude in her face and body feels like my Claudette.

After scanning the sketch into the computer I brought it into photoshop to see if I could add some texture. It was important that the cover have a very rough, imperfect aspect to it – partly to cover my lack of artistic ability, and partly because perfect art doesn’t interest me. I like my art to be messy. A technically perfect drawing leaves little room for the imagination to flex its muscles and I like to indulge my imagination whenever I can.

This is what I managed to create in photoshop:


All that was left was to add a type treatment. Normally, I would have liked to spend some time developing the typography, maybe offer a few examples, unfortunately I was facing a deadline so in the end had to just pick a font and run with it. The name of the font is ‘Nosferatu‘ which may have had something to do with my selection.

Here’s the the finished cover layout with the type treatment that I sent to my publisher.


I added the smoke thingy in the background at the last moment. If I spent a bit more time I might a figured out a way to incorporate it more creatively. Regardless, my publisher was very positive about my design and I left it in their hands to tweak or ignore as they saw fit. Secretly, I figured they’d scrap it and go with something like the other Winter covers. I wouldn’t have blamed them. It definitely would have been a safe marketing decision. You can imagine my delight when I received this in my inbox:


Does that silhouette look familiar? The publisher’s designer took my initial sketch and created something that I think is fantastic. I love the bold use of red and the art deco influenced typography. It’s certainly going to pop on the iTunes/Amazon/Kobo page and by ‘pop’ I mean jump out and grab you by the throat. No matter what the commercial fate of Claudette in the Shadows I feel a great amount of pride when I look at this cover. It feels right. It feels like me. I hope you like it.