Tag Archives: covers

Re-illustrating the Cover for WISH YOU WEREN’T by Book Country Member Sherrie Petersen

Posted by June 23rd, 2015

Old and new cover for WISH YOU WEREN'T by Book Country member Sherrie Petersen.

We were pleasantly surprised to see the new cover for WISH YOU WEREN’T, a Middle Grade novel by Book Country member Sherrie Petersen. WISH YOU WEREN’T is currently up for peer review on Book Country. Below, Sherrie shares what it was like re-illustrating the cover for WISH YOU WEREN’T with artist Fabián Cobos.


We all know that the adage about not judging a book by its cover is ridiculous. EVERY book gets judged by its cover.  And while I had a lot of love for the original cover of WISH YOU WEREN’T, I knew it wasn’t conveying the excitement and adventure that readers would find between the pages.

I started studying the covers of my favorite MG sci-fi books, concentrating on stories that were similar to WISH YOU WEREN’T, which blends sci-fi, time travel and magic. When I found covers that demanded to be picked up, I looked inside to find out who the artist was. I discovered that one of my favorite artists had illustrated covers for several books that I liked, so I contacted him…and found out that he charged more to do a cover than I had earned in royalties for the past year. So that was a no.

I kept looking and was lucky enough on my second attempt to find an artist who was super talented and affordable. Hooray! Continue reading

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Guideposts for Writing Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Posted by August 21st, 2013

One of the biggest additions to the Book Country Genre Map is Young Adult Fiction, on the east side of the map. If writing Young Adult Fiction interests you, by all means, explore it!

Young Adult is a genre rich with innovation, and by reading and reflecting on recently published Young Adult titles, we can learn a lot about good writing of any genre.

Over the next two weeks, I’m going to be sharing some approaches to writing Young Adult Fiction, especially Young Adult Contemporary. To go along with the Genre Map metaphor, I’m calling these suggestions “guideposts.” They aren’t rules. Instead, I’m imagining myself coming upon various crossroads in my Young Adult writing, and needing to make choices about the path I want to take through this area of the Genre Map. The guideposts are there to—you guessed it—guide those choices, with the ultimate goal of writing my best Young Adult Contemporary book.

Here’s the first:

How contemporary is contemporary in YA fiction?

Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #1: How contemporary is contemporary?

Continue reading

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Posted by May 2nd, 2012

Book Country user Mike Underwood shares the cover for his forthcoming urban fantasy novel.


Back in March, we were ecstatic when one of our long-time super-users,Michael R. Underwood, sold his debut book GEEKOMANCY and its sequel to editor Adam Wilson at Pocket Books. GEEKOMANCY – an urban fantasy that Mike describes as “Clerks meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – was first workshopped on Book Country, and instantly became a community favorite. It’s now scheduled to come out on July 10, 2012! You can pre-order the book here.

We’ve been keeping up with Michael’s progress and are happy to be able to share his amazing book cover:


GeekomanyCover small


The cover is a stunning drawing of GEEKOMANCY’s main character, Ree Reyes, a “barista-and-comicshop slave.” It does a great job of capturing the quirky charm of Michael’s heroine. The novel follows her adventures in an urban version of Alice’s Wonderland, as Reyes helps a scruffy-looking guy named Eastwood investigate a string of mysterious teen suicides.

Congratulations to Michael on his success!

We wish him luck with putting the finishing touches on his book and planning out the sequel. To keep up with Michael and the publication of GEEKOMANCY, follow him on Twitter @MikeRUnderwood or read about his writing joys and travails on his blog, Geek Theory. Michael is represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency.

* Cover art by Trish Cramblet, Design by Min Choi

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Cover Art: An Aesthetic Marketing Tool

Posted by February 2nd, 2012

Book Country Twitter Chat (January 26, 2012)

Cover design masters Irene Gallo and John Picacio share some tips and experience about the aesthetic aspect of trade publishing.


Judging a book by its cover. We’re always told not to do it, but that’s kind of a cover’s purpose. To hook a reader, to catch an eye, to express in an external way that which is internal to the book itself. So, how do illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, and art directors do it? What makes a strong cover, and how do they take the heart of a book and put it on the cover’s sleeve, in the first place?

With a lot of hard work, creativity, and passion, for sure. That much even I know. But to give us more details, Book Country chatted with some of the top pros in the business: Irene Gallo (@IreneGallo) and John Picacio@JohnPicacio).

Irene is the creative director at Tor.com and Tor/Forge Books, one of the largerst science fiction and fantasy imprints in publishing. She is also a member of the Society of Illustrators Board of Directors AND the Spectrum Advisory Board.

John, too, is brimming with experience as one of the the most beloved and well-known cover artists in the science ficton, fantasy, and horror genres. His covers have won multiple awards MULTIPLE TIMES, as well as received numerous Hugo Award nominations for his work.

Check out some of the chat’s highlights and/or find the full transcript embedded below for your learning pleasure:

@JohnPicacio: I think the most challenging [thing] is also the most central — it’s trying to connect the book w/ its audience.

@IreneGallo: [Cover artists] need to grab the readers attention _fast_. That’s usually more about tone than detail.

@JohnPicacio: I begin by listening to the art director’s brief. Then I go read the manuscript and start breaking down the text. The reality is though (and Irene knows this all too well) — the manuscript isn’t always available to the artist.

@IreneGallo: Authors’ can often be too close the project. Fixated on too many subtleties of the book.

@JohnPicacio: [The book’s] title can have influence [on design], but I’m looking @ spirit of the book & its strengths first. Macro before micro. 🙂

@IreneGallo: Talk to [freelance designers] frankly about the revisions stage. I think self-pub gets stickiest when authors want more revisions than is sometimes called for. Keeping everyone on point is important. Marketing image,not a retelling.

If you missed the chat or want to remind yourself, we’ve posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Remember though that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the end of the PDF and work your way up.

Thanks to all who made this chat such a great success!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday nightfrom 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look! And follow us on Twitter@Book_Country.

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Collaborating to Make a Great Book Cover

Posted by December 3rd, 2011

A freelance designer advises on how to approach the make a great book cover.

“It’s your book, your baby, and you have every right to have input into what the cover looks like.”

ROOM_feature placement

Whether you’re publishing an eBook, paperback, or hardcover book – a custom cover designed specifically for your book is always your best option. So, what I’ve cobbled together here are a few guidelines for working with a cover designer, because unless you are very experienced with sophisticated image manipulation software – such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator – and have professional design experience yourself, you really need to work with someone who does. The keywords here are “work with someone.”



1. COVER DESIGN SHOULD BE A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT BETWEEN THE DESIGNER AND THE AUTHOR. Nobody knows your book as well as you do. In fact, it’s highly unlikely the designer will have read it or will have the time to do so. I ask my clients to fill out a questionnaire that gets us started on this collaborative process and then follow up with phone discussions and numerous email exchanges along the way. If your designer is not a collaborative type – find someone else. Period. It’s your book, your baby that you’ve sweated blood over, and you have every right to have input into what the cover looks like.







Deadly Voyage

2. LISTEN TO YOUR DESIGNER. Now that you’ve read #1, I must point out that you work with a designer for a reason – to help you put out an eye-catching cover that will attract buyers/readers. You may have your heart set on 72 pt. puce-colored type for the title, but if you’ve got a decent designer who says, “Uh, no…I don’t think so, and here’s why….” you need to listen. Keep an open mind.

3. BE HONEST. As an avid reader myself, few things tick me off more than buying a book based on a snazzy cover (lots of buyers/readers do this) only to discover that the cover has little or nothing to do with the content of the book. It’s dishonest and I will dump a client rather than do this.

ROOM_feature placement

4. WHAT ABOUT TYPE-ONLY COVERS? Unless your name is Tom Clancy, it probably isn’t a good idea. And even Clancy covers usually have some sort of art element on them along with the big type – a chopper, blood splatters, weapon, etc… Clancy has a huge following of slavishly loyal readers. Do you? If the answer is “No,” you need more than type on your cover. There are very rare exceptions to this rule and here is one of them – the U.S. and Canadian cover for the New York TimesBestseller ROOM by Emma Donoghue. I don’t know who designed this cover, but it’s a good job. Why is it an eye-catching exception?

a. The super-short title allows for a huge point size in the type – easily readable from a distance (for book store browsers);

b. The font chosen is an unusual, childish (HONESTY!) one and is presented in a different bright color for each letter;

c. Colorful letters against a stark white background make for high contrast that attracts the eye.

5. CHOOSING STOCK ART.  I suppose Nora Roberts might be able to command a pricey photo shoot with models of her choice (think several thousand dollars), but don’t fantasize that you’ll have the same option. Most covers are designed with stock art. Stock photography can be expensive, or it can be free (see the Deadly Voyage cover above), and everything in between. The quality can also vary wildly. Lean on your designer here. From decades of experience, I can spot a lousy photograph with limited possibilities at a glance; chances are the author can’t. Things I look for in a photo, other than whether it is context-appropriate for the book, are: sharp focus, sufficient contrast, adequate foreground and background (for placement of the title, author name, and additional art elements as needed), appropriate color, and that indefinable quality that I call JAZZ (it’s got to turn me on).

golden cover

6. YOUR COVER ART CAN – AND SHOULD – DO MORE FOR YOU.  The most wonderful book in the world (even with a terrific cover) may well remain inadequately sold and read without promotion. Successful authors learn this lesson early on and live it. Can the art elements on your cover be easily used promotionally on items such as: book trading cards, bookmarks, ads, website banners, merchandise (mouse pads, coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc…)? There is no reason why you should have to purchase additional stock art bannerWEBgoldenor promotional purposes if you’re smart about it from the start. Discuss this with your designer (hopefully your designer offers these services as well) and let her/him guide you to wise choices that can easily be re-used in marketing your book.

7. WHAT ABOUT USING A PRE-MADE COVER?  The trick to using a pre-made cover is finding one that suits your book. Not all designers offer them because they really aren’t good money-makers. I do because I have a weak spot for fledgling authors with skimpy purses. You can see my current stock of pre-made eBook covers here.  If you must go the pre-made route, look for two things: the best fit for your book; and, a designer who will insert the title and author name for you at no additional charge (the designer will have a wide selection of fonts to choose from – I have hundreds – and a good eye for the best placement, size, color, etc…).

Turquoise Sea WEBFarm Boy WEBDream Catcher WEB


I asked a Twitter pal of mine, Robin Bradford (aka @Tuphlos on Twitter), who is very savvy about book covers to choose a few she’s seen recently that really grabbed her attention. Robin is the Collection Development Librarian at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library and doubtless sees thousands of covers every year – so she should know! Here are her selections and insightful comments:

the watchtower (1)

“[The Watchtower cover is] a very menacing image that tells the reader a little of what they may get on the inside. It looks like a genre fantasy book, you wouldn’t open this book and expect space ships or a police procedural or a cozy mystery.  It tells you what to expect without gimmicks or tricks.  It’s a tower with some swirls and color and a bird but it looks slick and professional. You CAN do more with less!”







“[The Hereafter cover] also telegraphs the story a bit; you get the ghostly angle right away. Even though it tells you, it’s still mysterious and draws the potential reader/purchaser closer.”










“[Maps of Hell is] another one that seems almost tactile. I look at this cover and it almost hurts. I don’t think the pages inside are going to be soft and fuzzy.”







Dawn Charles - logo bio photoAbout Dawn

After a long career as a journalist – newspaper, magazine, and public relations – Dawn has taken the leap into creative writing. She currently has three books in the works – two novels and a cookbook. As the editor of a professional magazine for educators, she did her own design work and won numerous awards for cover design. Early in 2011, Dawn applied those skills to design eBook covers for some author friends and several web and print ads as well. Now she offers a freelance design service specifically for authors: Book Graphics. Find her on Twitter at @bridgemama, on Facebook as Book Graphics, and on Book Country as snurf.

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A Conversation with Billy Freda

Posted by November 9th, 2011

Cover model Billy Freda tells us what it’s like on the other side of the book…

Bill Freda headshot_smallest_cropped

“There will always be a character my age. You know, all your heroes aren’t 28 years old and buff.”

New Brunswick, NJ — Sitting across an IHOP breakfast table from a male model makes it a little difficult to focus on your omelet, let me tell you. It’s even more difficult when you have a copy of a romance novel in your bag of which said model’s image graces the cover. But when he’s known in the industry for his comedic tendencies and light-heartedness like Billy Freda is, it’s more than manageable.

With 83 books covers in his portfolio, Billy has been involved in the Romance community for more than eight years. From literal “knight in shining armor” to “midnight cowboy,” he’s run the gamut and lived to tell the tale.

There’s more to being a cover model than just a pretty face, though, and I, for one, was eager to learn more about this facet of the publishing industry that gets so overlooked, despite its über-visual nature. And with a tape recorder on the table, I was about to get some insight:

DP: So, how did you start modeling?

BF: Fell ass-backwards into it? [laughs] I started in college for some extra money. As a matter of fact, my college girlfriend saw a posting in…remember these things called the “Classifieds” in the newspapers? — Yes, I just dated myself about how long I’ve been modeling. — But she saw in the Classifieds, ya know, “Model Wanted yada yada.” I went in, and I got the job. My first big job I was a Claiborne guy for a while, for their men’s division. And then I just started getting into it. I got my shots done, found an agent, and just snowball, snowball…

DP: What made you get into modeling for book covers and the publishing industry?

BF: Really funny that you asked that following when I started….The photographer from my first shoot was literally the first person I ever shot with, and I had moved on from him but maybe two or three years later, out of the middle of nowhere, he saw that the romance world was looking for contestants [for the Romantic Times Mr. Romance competition].  He submitted me with the pictures that he had shot.

DP: [laughs] Without your knowledge?

BF: Yeah, I didn’t know! And the next thing I know, I get a phone call from a Cindy Walker telling me I’d been selected to make it into this competition and I’m like “huh?” And that’s how it all started.

Medallion cover - Bill Freda

DP: That’s too funny….What made you want to model? Or was it just that it fell into your lap?

BF: I mean, it kind of fell into my lap, yeah. Did I think when I started modeling in college for money that that would be a third to fifty percent of my career? No, never. But we’re all starving college students. It was money at the time and now it’s an integral part of my career.

DP: What about after college? Did you continue right into the modeling world?

BF: Kind of. I did modeling while I was a practicing engineer. And you know, it’s a little tougher obviously, having a 9-to-5 and trying to model. But if people want you, they will work around your schedule. You know, your bigger shoots—the higher paying ones, the commercial shoots, stuff like that—no, they won’t work around your schedule. But that’s why God created sick days, so… Yea, I continued to model right through while I worked as an engineer for six years, and then really stepped it up and put myself out there when I went into entertainment full time.

DP: Tell me a little bit about that experience with the Mr. Romance competition. You were not only one of the winners, but you’ve hosted it a number of times too.

BF: Like I said, I had no idea what I was getting into. It was a great experience though. There are a couple guys from my year that I’m still in touch with and friends with. After I won, they found out that I do a lot of TV hosting and emceeing live events, so in ’05, I hosted one of the segments with Cindy Geyer, who is like the Mrs. Fabio. She’s been on hundreds and hundreds of covers, if not more, and she’s a doll, great to work with. And then in ’06 I co-hosted it, and in ’07 and ’08 I wrote it and hosted it.

DP: Can you walk me through a typical cover shoot?

BF: Well, there are two different types of cover shoots. There’s one where they’re shooting for a very specific cover in mind. The author’s requested this [scene, etc.]. A lot of times I ask for a synopsis of what the hero is like so I can portray that. And then there are shoots where publishing companies just want ten clothes changes, different time periods, and are just going to sit them in a database and use them as they are needed.


DP: About how long does a shoot take?

BF: If we’re shooting for a specific cover, we can bang it out in an hour. I’ve done a couple of Harlequin covers where they have it down to such a science: you walk in, you meet the girl who you’re about to quote-unquote sleep with, who you’ve never met in your life, which is always a little awkward… You’re literally on set, under the covers, in fifteen minutes. The shoot’s done in 30 after that.

DP: How long would it take if you were to do ten covers at once?

BF: That’s an all-day affair.

DP: What makes a cover shoot good or bad?

BF: I think what makes a shoot good is just professionalism and…well, professionalism. Just like you want an actor to show up and know his lines, I don’t want to show up to a set and the lighting isn’t set, we don’t know what we’re shooting, “oh crap, we forgot a prop,” et cetera et cetera et cetera. Get in, gone on, get done. Boom.

DP: How do you get jobs? Do you have an agent? Do companies call you specifically? 

BF: A book cover is one of the only print-type work I don’t do through my agents for. Everything is self-promotion. And honestly, at this point, between being a former Mr. Romance winner and hosting the show for three years, everybody knows me so I really don’t need an agent. The covers kind of come to me.

DP: So people will come to you—there’s not an audition process or anything like that?

BF: Yes, there is no audition process. Occasionally you will see a cover model request in the breakdowns, though. The breakdowns are the list of all available work in the acting-modeling world. So, when I see a breakdown, I just basically send a quick cover note saying, “Listen, I’m a veteran at this. I’ve done 80+ covers…” and I’ll probably send them two or three samples, and if I’m the right look, then I’m the right look.

DP: So after you get a gig and shoot a cover, do you see it again? Do you get to approve anything? What’s the process after you’re done the modeling part?

BF: There are a couple houses that I do ask for approval from. They will say, “Is this good or not?” Now, is this a formality? Are they extending a courtesy? If I said, “Actually no, that is terrible” well, you know…

A Scots Honor_small

DP: Do they send you a copy of the book or anything like that once it’s published?

BF: Yeah, I have a copy of a lot of my covers. Some of my favorites, like Kate Hofman’s My Love, Forever and Carol Carson’s Fortune’s Treasure, are cover facing out in my library. Just because it’s like anything else, you know. It’s like if I were a painter and I had one of my own pieces hanging up.

DP: I hear you also have a sword on display in your home–is that from a shoot?

BF: Oh, yeah, I do. The sword that sits on my mantle is actually a sword I brought home from Spain. It’s a real sword made of Marlow Spanish steel, and obviously I took it back prior to 9-11. [laughs] It’s a little tough to get on planes with them now. That was the sword I used the year I competed [in Mr. Romance] actually.

DP: How did you use it to compete? What do you mean by that?

BF: Each year it’s slightly different, but usually you have to portray certain characters throughout the competition. I had a contemporary—my contemporary was from a book written by Beth Ciotta and I was a billionaire—and then for my historical hero I came out full chain mail, the real boots, the gloves and the cuffs, and that was what I wore for the competition…and I carried that sword.

DP: In addition to the Romantic Times convention, you go to a lot of other romance conventions and signings. So, I’m curious, do you get hit on at these events?

BF: [laughs] Yes.

DP: What’s the craziest, weirdest encounter you’ve had? 

BF: Oh, man. You want me to put this on-the-record? Okay, so a lot of the times people will hand you a book or a calendar, ask you to sign, and then ask “Can I get a picture?” Sure! I’ll say. And, as you know, a lot of these conventions and signings are at hotels. So, in the middle of a picture, I actually had a woman slide her room key in my back pocket, and after the picture was snapped, she said the room number and walked away.

DP: Wow. 

BF: Yeah…and now she’s my ex-wife. [laughs] No, no, I’m kidding about that part. But yeah, I get that kind of thing a lot.

DP: So, what’s next for you when it comes to working in publishing?

BF: Well, first of all, book covers is a very small facet of my whole entertainment career. I’ll say maybe print comprises half of what I do, and then this, the book covers, is just a small percentage of that half. I enjoy the industry, though; I like it. It’s a billion-dollar industry, and it’s not going anywhere. I mean, it’s going to move digital, but it’s not going anywhere. I’ll continue to do covers, I’m sure. There will always be a character my age. You know, all your heroes aren’t 28 years old and buff. So, there are always going to be heroes—I’m sure there are heroes in some romance books that are 60—so I’ll probably be doing covers for a very long time.

DP: It’s a tough profession to be in, though, no?

BF: Yea, well, the entertainment industry is the most miserable profession in the world. And I mean that whole-heartedly. But here is how you know you’re doing what you want to do: The alarm goes off in the morning and you turn it off and you say “I am in the worst profession in the world” and you get up and do it anyway. That’s how you know you’re doing what you want to do.

Bio: Billy Freda started his acting/modeling/hosting career while attending Rutgers University College of Engineering. Since then, Billy’s career has consistently been on the rise, and has included countless prints ads, national campaigns, billboards, calendars, fitness magazines, and book covers. Billy’s favorite facet of his career, acting, has been receiving attention lately with his performance in the lead role in the TV pilot, “Bodies of Work.”Soon, you can find more info on his website, http://www.billfreda.com, which is currently down for maintenance.

Photo courtesy of Billy Freda.

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