Evolution of a book cover: Hill Country Greed

When I started writing Hill Country Greed I had no idea of the importance of the cover to the marketing of a novel. I didn’t know anything. I was too busy learning how to write an entertaining story to worry about marketing. But after I had invested five hundred hours in the story and was ready to share it with friends and family, I wanted a visual image to accompany the manuscript.

The first book cover, inspired by the prologue

The first book cover, inspired by the prologue

Back then the title of the book was We Happy Few, a snippet of Shakespeare that recurs several times throughout the story.

My vision for the first cover was inspired by the nightmare described in the prologue. I sketched that vision with pencil on pad and then asked my daughter, Alex, to turn it into a full-color image. Alex produced this cover in about an hour, and it was distributed to eight beta readers.

My beta readers encouraged me to keep writing, and I invested a few hundred more hours in polishing the manuscript. I also began researching the marketing aspects of publishing and read several articles espousing the importance of the book cover.

A dramatic scene at the Driskill Hotel

A dramatic scene at the Driskill Hotel

I had heard from several readers that the dramatic Driskill Hotel scene was the hook that compelled them to read the entire book. Hoping to capitalize on that sentiment, I hired a professional cover designer and asked him to create an image of that scene.

Over the same period of time, I changed the title to Beware the Brass Ring and introduced the notion of a subtitle. Here’s the result:

The artist did a fine job of rendering the image; however, once I saw the cover, I found it too ghoulish for my story. My beta readers felt the same way.

Over the course of writing the book I took several day trips around Austin to do scene research.

Climatic scene occurs at bluff overlooking the Pennybacker Bridge

Climatic scene occurs at bluff overlooking the Pennybacker Bridge

On one of those trips I took several photos of views from the Overlook above the Pennybacker Bridge. That location is important to the story, and I thought the view might make a good cover. For the second time I asked my daughter, Alex, to help. By this time I had adopted the title Hill Country Greed: An Austin, Texas Mystery.

I really like this cover.  Alex did a fantastic job; she created the clouds and changed the hue just enough to give the cover a suspenseful look.

Meanwhile, I continued to research book covers and learned about the importance of visibility of the title on the Thumbnail-sized photos that are shown on retail websites. The title was too small on the third cover, and I couldn’t envision how to make it bigger with the bridge as the central focus.

Final cover photo is from the Overlook

Final cover photo is from the Overlook

I hired a second professional designer and got lucky with Jason Alexander of Expert Subjects, LLC. To begin, I gave Jason several photos I had taken from the Overlook. The next day he gave me three different cover concepts to consider, including what would become the final cover. At first, I found the different font sizes of the words in the title and the bubble-effect of the letters strange, but they grew on me day by day, and now I love it.

What do you think?

Hill Country Greed: An Austin, Texas Mystery will be published in February, 2014.