Over to you: Margaret Lake on her journey through cover design

You've finally done it! You've overcome writer's block, distractions and procrastinations and finished penning your first book. Well done. Choosing a cover should be easy in comparison, right?

I asked some of the lovely authors over at http://www.kboards.com/ to share their experiences of developing their first cover. Some decided to do it themselves, some worked with designers. All of them learned from the experience and have shared their thoughts here so you can learn from them too.

Today Margaret Lake shares her journey through the design of her books' covers.

When I published my first book, I had all these lofty ideas about cover art. Fortunately, I had an experienced (and patient) mentor. I can’t begin to tell you the horrors I submitted to him. Okay, since you asked, I’ll tell you. The book is historical fiction/romance set during the Wars of the Roses. I actually scanned a piece of beige burlap material and overlaid a white rose and a red rose. <insertredfacedemoticonhere> Finally, Jeff sent me two classical paintings in the public domain and I picked one of them. He set it against a black background with beautiful typography simply laid out. I followed suit for the next two books in the trilogy. (Ariana’s Pride, Catherine and the Captain, Diana and the Gypsy), branding that trilogy before we’d even begun to talk about branding.

My next book was Listen to Your Heart. This cover went through many iterations and I was never happy with any of them. Later on, I wrote a prequel and a third book (The Brave Heart and The Bold Heart) and I wasn’t too unhappy with those covers. Here are some of the covers for Listen to Your Heart that I came up with. View at your own risk.

In the meantime, I wrote a four-book series, two twelve-book series, put together three collections, and also wrote a two book series. I was getting more technically proficient with my designs, but the composition was amateurish and the typography ordinary.

One day on kboards.com, a professional designer, mocked up a cover for another author that was struggling. That’s when I knew that I had to work with a professional and that Kerry Hynds was the professional I wanted to work with.

At first, I thought I would have Kerry re-do one of my twelve book series (Twelve Months of Romance) but then I decided that those covers were at least well-branded and they could wait. What couldn’t wait was the Listen to Your Heart trilogy. I was happy with the images I had for the first and third books, but not for the original book, the one I had struggled with over and over. I sent Kerry the image for the prequel. When she sent me the proof, I actually gasped and tears came to my eyes. I told Kerry that I didn’t want a “romancey” cover. What she gave me was a completely beautiful “romantic” cover. Exactly what I had in mind.

The next series I handed over to Kerry was my most popular. Regan O’Reilly, Private Detective set during World War II. I’d changed these covers twice. I knew these covers were the next to be done because if they did okay with the old covers, they would certainly do better with professional covers. These books are romantic suspense and the covers were a definite departure from the previous series. We changed all four covers plus the bundle cover. Here are the two covers I did for the first book in the series. The third one is the cover designed by Kerry for book one and the fourth one is the bundle she designed. I think you can see a big difference.

Since then, Kerry has redesigned the two Slice of Life books, and the Twelve Months of Romance series (book one below).

I did a free run with the A Slice of Life (novella) and A Slice of Life Christmas (novelette), featuring illustrated covers. Over 3K free downloads, over 1K pages read, and, big surprise, 10 audiobooks sold. The page reads and sales continued on for at least two weeks.

The success of this free run convinced me as nothing else could that professional covers are essential. I definitely will not launch a new series without professional covers.

To read more authors' experiences of creating their first book covers, take a look at previous stories here, here, here and here.