MBM: Our Connection to Book Covers and the Characters Within, by Danyelle Ferguson

Author of Sweet Confections & Disabilities and the Gospel

March Book Madness

Welcome to the first day of March Book Madness 2014!

If you’re wondering, March Book Madness has nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with books. My hubby and kids are huge sports nuts, so we do the whole March Madness basketball bracket thing every year. But. I’m a huge book nut, so this is my third year celebrating National Reading Month with March Book Madness.

This year we have 12 guest authors who will discuss everything book-ish on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in March. (Schedule at the bottom of this post.)

I’m super excited to kick it off with my sweet, talented friend, Danyelle Ferguson, talking about book covers and the characters within. So I’ll let her take over.

MBM: Our Connections to Book Covers, by Danyelle Ferguson

Danyelle Ferguson:

It happens to every one of us — readers and authors alike. We see a book cover, check out the character images on the front and decide if it’s worthy of picking up for a closer look or if it will be passed up.

But what makes us pick it up?

The heroine’s sassy smile? Or perhaps her soulful, incredible blue eyes? Or maybe she has red hair and you always wished you had red hair. Or is it the guy? The muscley arms, broad shoulders, and wow – those abs!

What about covers where the head is cut off? Is it the body pose? The clothes they’re wearing? Those totally awesome to-die-for heels?!?

Something drew you to that cover — from a personal trait you wish you had, all the way to fashion styles you love. The cover is a promise of what you’ll find inside.

But what about when the cover doesn’t match the story?

Screech!

Unfortunately, that’s an experience most of us can relate to.

For example, picture a cover with slightly washed out tones of the guy pushing the cute chick on a tree swing in a wide open field. It might make a reader think the setting is a small idyllic town, a farm, horse ranch, etc. The back cover blurb is interesting, but doesn’t confirm the location and you decide to take a chance and buy the book. Only to go home and find out the real setting is in New York City.

Say what?

Perhaps there’s a tie-in to that scene later in the book — but the reader is disappointed right from the start that the author/publisher broke their promise.

Now, let’s talk about book covers from an author’s perspective. It’s not often that an author absolutely 100% loves her book cover. Why? Because she has lived and breathed her characters — and each one has a very specific face, body type and fashion sense. I search the internet to find the perfect picture for my main characters, print it out, save it to my computer file and refer to it often. It’s hard to live up to that image.

For example, check out my characters from Sweet Confections.

MBM: Our Connection to Book Covers and the Characters Within, by Danyelle Ferguson

Yeah, I know it’s Lindsay Lohan, but her shade of red hair, eye color, and freckles are so totally Rachel Marconi.

MBM: Our Connection to Book Covers and the Characters Within, by Danyelle Ferguson

I have a love affair with bald guys. When I was in college, I was asked what type of guy I thought was sexy. My reply? Slightly chubby bald guys. The guy I married didn’t have the slightly chubby, but he definitely was bald on top. Over the years, he’s lost more hair and is a tad rounder around the middle = my fantasy guy. Ahem. So, back to Graydon. Athletic + bald = Vin Diesel (I mean, Graydon).

Sadly, this combo was very hard to find for my book cover. Even knowing the heroine’s hair color could be Photoshopped to be just right — it was almost impossible to find a bald, athletic guy in a fun pose with a cute chick. A stock photo was found that would work if we cut off most of the couple’s heads – but their clothes were summery and my book takes place in the autumn and winter. We searched, discussed, and I chewed on my finger nails to bits. I knew this first book of the series was going to set the tone for the following book covers. I was a bit obsessed with it working out just right. Finally, I made a decision.

I gave my hero short hair.

Some authors would gasp in dismay. You did what?

I decided that being true to my cover’s promise was more important than if my guy was bald or had medium brown hair. After settling on the decision and going through another round of rewrites, I ended up with an incredible cover that totally matches my characters. What do you think?

Sweet Confections by Danyelle Ferguson
coming April ’14

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This obviously isn’t an option authors have very often. In fact, many authors have little to no say at all about their book covers.

But you know what’s even worse than book covers? When a book is made into a movie. Gasp! It’s impossible to match every reader’s or an author’s perception of what book characters should look like. Oh my, I pity the poor directors and film studios who bravely take on popular books and turn them into film. They end up with a combination of WE LOVE YOU + YOU TOTALLY SUCK fan mail. Oy!

Now, I want to hear your stories.

Tell me about the books you picked up because you loved the cover and how the characters inside met or didn’t meet your expectations. I want the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s your turn. Bring it on!
Comment here.

Author of Sweet Confections & Disabilities and the Gospel

Danyelle Ferguson discovered her love for the written word in elementary school. Her first article was published when she was in 6th grade. Since then, she’s won several awards and has been published world-wide in newspapers, magazines and books. She’s grateful every day to work in her dream jobs – author, editor, and nurturing her readaholic tendencies.

She grew up surrounded by Pennsylvania’s beautiful Allegheny Mountains. Then lived for ten years among the majestic Wasatch Mountains. She is currently experiencing mountain-withdrawal while living in Kansas with her husband and four angels-in-training. She enjoys reading, writing, dancing and singing in the kitchen, & the occasional long bubble bath to relax from the everyday stress of being “Mommy.”

Connect with Danyelle:

Her books:

Sweet Confections by Danyelle Ferguson Disabilities and the Gospel

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Rebecca’s thoughts:

Thank you for your thoughts on book covers, Danyelle. The whole You can’t judge a book by its cover never works with me. I’m a judging fiend. Most readers are, too. A cover does so much to convey character, mood, and feel of a book–or its supposed to.

Sometimes I’ll get halfway through a book and flip back to the cover just to rediscover something new now that I understand the story. Being a book designer must be a blast. One of the first comments I get on Sadie is the cover, and I’m happy to give my designer the credit. Heather G. Ward did a fabulous job.

I love your cover, too, Danyelle. I think it’s awesome you tweaked your characters to match it. And I’m so excited to read about Rachel and Graydon. Not only does it sound like a fun romance, but when I read the synopsis–“…Either way, Rachel is definitely going to need more chocolate…”–I knew it was for me. :)

So if you’re self-publishing, don’t skimp on the cover, and if you’re going through a publishing house, make sure to give your two cents. Covers count.

Thanks again, Danyelle!

Make sure to add your thoughts. What do you love/hate about book covers? Or as Danyelle says, share the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

Comment here.

Tune in tomorrow for our next March Book Madness guest who happens to be my dad. :) Gerald N. Lund will talk about four essential elements of good writing.

MBM: Four Basic Writing Tips from Gerald N. Lund

If you’re new to March Book Madness, it has nothing to do with basketball (sorry) and everything to do with books. March is National Reading Month, so March Book Madness gives me an excuse  to discuss everything about writing, editing, and reading books with some amazing authors.

If you’ve missed any posts, here they are:

2014 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:

2013 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:

2012 MARCH BOOK MADNESS:

Don’t miss any posts:
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Author: Rebecca Belliston @rlbelliston

Hopeless romantic and author of CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, SADIE and AUGUSTINA. Music nerd and composer of RELIGIOUS and CLASSICAL-STYLE music. I live in Michigan with my husband and five kids.

27 thoughts on “MBM: Our Connection to Book Covers and the Characters Within, by Danyelle Ferguson”

  1. I love your cover, Danyelle, and I have to mention that I love the covers for Sadie and Augustina too, Rebecca. I was not in love with the cover for my book How I Became a Teenage Survivalist, however, 19 teenage boys (my target audience) unanimously chose it out of six designs, so I couldn’t argue with that. I guess you always have to keep your audience in mind when deciding on your cover.

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    1. That’s a great way to figure out the best cover–ask your target audience. Way to go on trusting them too. Btw, I really like your cover for Teenage Survivalist. When the competition is your cover against 8 million on Amazon, you really need to speak to your audience. Thanks for your thoughts. Do you have a cover for the sequel yet, Julie?

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      1. Thanks! We’re working on a cover now. So many ways we can go on it. Since it is set in a big city (Kansas City), I’d like to use a skyline. We’re toying with the idea of another silhouetted figure or maybe even an edgy abstract. I may have a contest to decide later in the month.

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  2. Julie – Absolutely! Your genre and target audience definitely changes the look and feel of your cover design. I certainly can’t imagine the Divergent series or Maze Runner series with people on the front cover. Their designs really hit the teens who are crazed about them. Likewise, I absolutely love Keira Cass’s covers for her YA series – The Selection, The Elite, The One. I adore it all – from the main character image to her gowns that reflect the opulence she experiences. A great cover is one that grabs readers who love that genre.

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    1. Great examples. Ironically enough, I hadn’t heard anything about Kiera Cass’s novels, but I saw the cover somewhere, fell in love with it, and have read book one and two now. So…yeah… :)

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      1. My daughter is a huge Keira Cass fan. We met Keira at the Romantic Times Convention Teen Day. She is a major sweetheart! I didn’t know anything about the series, until my daughter read the first book. I totally loved the cover and when my daughter started telling me a bit about the story, I knew I had to read it. =)

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  3. Thanks for walking through your experience with your book cover Danyelle (I love how your name is spelled–it’s so cool!). I’m still fighting to find the right cover person to redo my first book cover. I love how yours turned out, and that you tweaked your characters to match the front. Good food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Char. Sadly, I can claim any responsibility for my name – that was all my mom. =) Redoing a book cover – oh no! After going through the Sweet Confections book cover turmoil, I wish I could send a big bag of Red Vines (my sweet treat addiction). What genre do you write in?

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  4. Thanks, Danyelle. Another thing I learn recently about book covers is that they typically don’t depict a scene from the book, but they should represent the genre and overall feel of the story.

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    1. I’ve heard the same Renae, and I’ve read several books that are like this. I’m okay with it as a reader, but for some reason it’s hard for me as the author, as if I want every detail to be a moment in the book. Crazy author lady. :)

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  5. Great post, Danyelle! That’s cool that you changed your character to match your cover–I bet your readers will appreciate that. I’ve got three book covers, I’ve had practically no say on any of them, I don’t see them until the book is ready to go to press, and they all have something off–wrong eye color, wrong weapon–but they have the right feel for the target market. So with the third one, I didn’t even bat an eye when the girl on the front had blue eyes and reddish hair (the female POV characters in the book have brown hair/brown eyes, black hair/brown eyes, light brown hair/unspecified eye color). As long as the right readers pick it up to read the back cover, I can live with it.

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    1. I worked with a publisher who was very hard-nosed about “they know what cover is best, not the author” – and weren’t open to any feedback. You got what you got and that was that. It was so, so hard! Thankfully, the next publisher I worked with was willing to get some author feedback. It didn’t mean they were necessarily going to use it, but they were open. I’ve heard so many funny (read as so horrible, all you could do was laugh) stories from my local RWA chapter about book covers not matching their characters, book themes, or even the time period.

      After experiences like that, when you meet an author who got an awesome cover on the first round, you just want to let the devilish side come out and go do a midnight forking of her lawn. (PS – I’m moving and totally not giving out my new address!).

      Liked by 1 person

        1. All future Midwest Conference presenter dinners will be at restaurants to protect the location of my home. =)

          You are are all fabulous. Thanks so much for the comments today. I’m excited to see how the rest of March turns out. Thank you for inviting me to participate, Rebecca.

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  6. I’m a strange reader. I tend to gravitate toward the books that don’t have people on them. I want my own picture in my head, and not a stock photo. Or maybe books that have landscapes or buildings, possibly silhouettes, but not people. So yeah, I’m strange.

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    1. I don’t think that’s strange at all. A lot of times they get characters wrong anyway. I’d say more than half the books I read either have no characters on the front, or vague images of them. Maybe I’m strange, too. :)

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