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.
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.
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.
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.
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.