How Do Covers Become Covers?

Hello and happy Friday to all the Story Empire readers. P. H. Solomon here today with  our post about covers. Normally, one of us shares something about some covers we like and why. Today, I wanted to veer a bit from just sharing a cover into the how and why of a cover design.

Of course, not everyone is skilled with the actual work of creating a cover and several of the authors here at Story Empire rely on their chosen artists. There’s an entire process for finding an artist but you still must communicate with someone to have a completed piece of artwork. As you view the covers in the post, keep in mind that all of them are clickable so you can find out more about the book and gauge the reasons behind the development of the artwork – the main purpose being to advertise the book.

For instance, Joan Hall is a mystery/suspense/romantic suspense author. She chooses covers that are different from Craig and I since we write more speculative fiction. Joan’s covers have a more contemporary feel with her settings and communicate a sense of the unknown to match her genres. These covers are from her current series which illustrate her approach to attracting readers who expect a certain feel in her genre.


Harmony Kent has written a variety of genres too, ranging from urban fantasy to non-fiction. She has chosen original artwork for her own fantasy books while veering into other genres with covers consistent with those books. Here are a few of her covers which vary by genre, but all remain consistent with her book categories.

polish-your-prose-kindle-cover-with-new-apple-seal elemental-earth-book-01-the-mysteries-series-harmony-kent

Meanwhile, Craig writes a variety of speculative fiction including urban fantasy and some alternate-world fantasy. His most recent books closely convey the essence of the stories within his books.

My own books are epic fantasy so they are very representative of the genre with a scene of characters that offer a glimpse of another world, inviting readers for an entertaining read in fantasy adventure.


Mae Clair and Staci Troilo also have several books available but these are mostly traditionally published. As such, the covers are created by the publisher using their own artists. The choice of cover is consistent but done by the publisher which points to the main difference you can expect between traditional and indie publishing. Even with these covers from traditional publishers, you can still learn a lot about what to look for in cover art for your books, or even choosing a publisher such as, do you like their cover art?

Type and Cross Bleeding Heart

Book cover for A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair has creepy dark forest at night at top with stark red bottom and lettering in white End of Day (A Hode's Hill Novel Book 2)

But what goes into covers? I’ve invited everyone at Story Empire to leave a comment about their own covers and how they were created whether by a publisher or our own independent projects using artists. Scroll down to find out more about how covers are created and you might be surprised with the stories we have to tell behind our covers. With all the covers, can you guess the genres? What moods, setting and topic do they communicate?

I’ll start here with a bit of my own background with getting to my final covers. While I was writing The Bow of Destiny, I knew I needed original cover-art which both conveyed some of the story to the reader while being easily identifiable as fantasy. I was wracking my brain for something useful as a concept without really knowing where to find an artist.

One day, someone I followed on Twitter posted several pieces of fantasy art that drew my attention – one being a piece named “Robin of Locksley” by Christopher Rawlins. The image was distinctive and based on Robin Hood which, of course, included an archery theme. Since my own story relied heavily on archery, captured my attention.  I contacted the artist and explained what I needed and, once we agreed to terms, he supplied what became the cover of The Bow of Destiny.

The tricky part came with the next books since those were not based on anything he had done. I communicated what my ideas were and he replied with his own suggestions. Each time, his work completed my ideas well which is the power of using a professional artist whether self publishing or working with a publisher.

My lessons learned were that I need a concept that plays on some central theme in my book. Also, finding an artist isn’t hard, unless you aren’t looking. Either way, you need to understand what’s generally expected in your genre. Fantasy leans heavily on original artwork because the reader needs to see a sense of setting. Too often, I see some fantasy books that use the same basic cover as used by several other authors. Readers see this and shy away, so be willing to find a good artist based on recommendations and spend a bit more – it helps your work stand out and creates a feel that the book is published with the same care as a traditionally published book.

Now, I leave the rest to my cohorts to discuss their experiences with their covers in the comments. If you have books you’ve published, please share how yours came to life and anything else about it that stands out. Please read the comments from our authors, feel free to ask questions and we’ll get back to you as soon as we are able. Have a great weekend!

P. H. Solomon

52 thoughts on “How Do Covers Become Covers?

  1. I don’t have the ability to create my own covers. I went with a woman who was recommended to me on Goodreads, and I fell in love with the cover she made for my first book and used her for the other 4. I got lucky, I guess. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great post on covers, P.H. When I hired the graphic’s designer for my book covers, it was important to me that she knew the significance of each image I sent to her and she did. However, I’ve been told I designed the covers from the heart, not the head and that they aren’t commercial. Sigh. Oh well! That’s how I’ve lived my life.
    Of all the covers discussed here, in my opinion, “The Lanterfish” is the most amazing cover with Mae Clair’s covers coming in as a close second. Thanks for this awesome discussion platform!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for an excellent post and fine examples, P..H. I’m working with my first cover designer (Tanja Prokop/The Cover Designer)for my soon-to-be-published poetry and photography collection MY MAINE. Prior to that, I designed my own book covers using CoverCreator/CreateSpace. I was pleased with the covers for my children’s books, but my fiction covers leave much to be desired.

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  4. Enjoyed this post. It’s interesting to read the differences in the self-publishing and traditional formats. I’d think an author’s perspective would be important considering they know their story, but I see that’s not always the case.
    Most of mine are done by a professional- The Killion Group. Kim has a good eye for the romance genre. She has a form to fill out with things such as hero/heroine eye and hair color, setting: urban or country, mood and a bunch of other factors. Then she gets me to choose a couple of pictures I like from Shutterstock and covers that match my genre on Amazon. After that she goes to work!
    I rarely have to ask for changes. She sees my vision and makes it happen 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  5. Although my covers are designed and produced by my publisher, I do have some say in them. At the start of a new book, I receive a CAF from the publisher (Cover Art Form) which I use to input my vision of the cover. The art/design team then goes to work on matching an image to my vision. But it doesn’t stop there. Once designed, the cover has to go through a marketing team and the editor before final approval is given. After that, I receive the cover. I have to say, the publisher has been excellent in producing book covers to match what I envisioned. I’m extremely pleased with them.

    Excellent post, P.H.!

    Liked by 6 people

  6. Most of my covers come from the publisher with little or no input from me. It’s frustrating. Most of the time, I don’t like the look but don’t get a say in it.

    The Cathedral Lake series (Type and Cross, pictured above, is book one of three) all have stark white covers with bold type and blocks of color (red, blue, and green, respectively). And a single image. These were supposed to be for mainstream fiction, but the series went more suspense as it went on (all mine seem to go that way), so now I don’t feel the design fits. You can see all three covers here:

    The cover you chose for the Medici Protectorate series (Bleeding Heart) followed the same style for the first two books. I liked the places on the covers but hated the people and the font. The series got a new look before book three came out. The geographic details were gone but the faces remained. (It’s worth noting there are geographic details on the back covers of the print books.) I would have gone the exact opposite way. However, the series does fit the genre better now. The font choice is strong, and the colors relate to the content of the books. (I still wish there weren’t faces, though.) If you’re interested, you can see the new look here:

    This was a fascinating look at covers and authors, P.H. Thanks for sharing some of mine and starting this discussion.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. I’ve used several artists over the years, but Sean Harrington has prepared most of my covers. Since he also does all the Lisa Burton art for me, we have a long history of working together. He has a natural understanding of the rule of thirds, S curves, and more. I usually send him a few photos and tell him what I want. Then I get out of his way. Unlike some, I like people on the covers, but more specifically eyes. Eyes tend to draw the eye. Even the Lanternfish cover and one for The Hat suggest eyes. I avoid photographic covers, but I have one. Readers can contact Sean at

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Thanks for featuring our covers, P. H. When I first published Unseen Motives, I sought someone to do the cover. I had photos and told him what I wanted. Then, I republished with AIW which mean designing a cover. It was our own Staci who suggested the silhouette images. I chose a water background because the series is set in the fictitious town of Driscoll Lake. I decided to go with a sans serif font which was different than the first time around. I usually don’t like people on covers but in this case, using a silhouette seemed to fit.

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  9. Thanks for this, P.H. I’ll never forget my first book, The Battle For Brisingamen, which is a magical fantasy novel. I designed the cover, and it was awful. And I mean awful. I had no idea what I was doing. A very kind man from the Goodreads library team (before Amazon got it) messaged me and gave me some excellent prompts. I changed the cover for what it is now, but it still shows my lack of experience. I fully agree with what you say about original artwork for that genre. After that, I put my learning cap on, and my second cover was for The Glade. That cover earned a couple of awards, which was nice since it followed directly on the heels of the first cover debacle, lol. Since then, I’ve designed all my own covers after looking at other books in the genre. For my current WIP, it might be a good idea to source original artwork. I’ll have to have a think about that. One thing I have found I love nearly (not quite but almost) as much as writing is playing in Photoshop making book covers, lol. …

    I have to say how much I love the covers that Mae’s publishers produce. Probably largely because they’re in a genre I love too, and the spookiness is right up my street. I especially love the Hodes Hill series covers.

    Thanks, again, P.H. … Have reblogged this on

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  11. I create my own covers for my Sir Chocolate series because I use my own photographs and all of the books feature a confectionery scene of some kind. I had my cover for While the Bombs Fell designed and I loved it and I have done the same for Through the Nethergate and I love Tim’s design for this forthcoming book too. Of all of the covers included in this post, I like Craig’s the best. They are very bold and tell you exactly what the book is about.

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