If you’re publishing a series, you want readers to identify books at a glance as belonging to that series. This is a bit easier to do if you’ve got one designer doing all the covers, but what if you’ve got more than one?
Zoe Chant is a prolific writer, putting out about one story a month. Before Zoe started publishing she contacted me and explained that while she was asking different designers to do her covers, she wanted the covers to all have a single look, and asked if I’d come up with that look and create a template that she could supply to the other designers.
The stories Zoe writes are m/f paranormal romances focusing on animal shifters, and tend to be lighter in tone, without much angst, so the covers all needed to show this. The covers also had to be obviously Zoe Chant books when displayed as thumbnails in Amazon search results lists. We both felt pretty strongly about having her name readable at the thumbnail size. [1. It’s worth noting that there are designers who don’t think that’s necessary—who say that a strong cover design is more important, because that’s what gets people to click. That makes a lot of sense unless your name is the primary selling point of a book—see how Stephen King’s name takes up a lot of cover real estate on his books. But let’s be honest: if you’re not Stephen King or his equal in popularity, your books are probably not reliant on name recognition for sales, and the size of your name on the cover is a personal choice.]
Most importantly, we had to make sure that the covers signaled “paranormal shifter romance” when someone was scanning through the Amazon results list. So I researched the genre by going through the bestseller lists and comparing covers. Paranormal shifter romance covers are created with stock photos, with human models on the cover. They tend to feature men with bare torsos, often with the head partially or fully cut off to focus attention on his abs and to allow the reader to project her ideal fantasy man onto him. They usually—but not always—include a picture of the animal that the shifter turns into. In general, the covers of shifter romances are brighter and more colorful than paranormal romances featuring vampires or dragons,[2. Zoe also had a couple of dragon shifter novels planned (one, two), but since their tone was light and not angsty, we chose to stick with a brighter palette for them.] which tend to the darker, more Gothic side with splashes of red for accents.
Continued next Monday in Part 2.