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Guest Chef – Piper Huguley- Cover Magic

By Piper Huguley

 

Despite what my husband thinks, I did not ask the artist to draw a hero who looks like Idris Elba.  That

Despite what my husband thinks, I did not ask the artist to draw a hero who looks like Idris Elba. That’s in another story.

For years,  I was not very interested in covers.  As a reader, I’m all about the blurb, not the look of the book.  I read the back cover  make a decision about whether or not I should read further.  I was not interested in covers.  Ask my buddy Julie Hilton Steele. Or my Spelman colleague who teaches visual critical analysis.  I didn’t care.

However, as writer, I became  aware of how important covers were to other people as a part of marketing.  Then I became interested. When I had a story that I thought people would want to read, I despaired that I would find the right cover for what I could afford to pay.

I wanted people, not objects.  I’ve heard the wisdom before from others that having people on the cover limits the readers’ imagination.  Even worse, there’s a belief that having people on the cover might limit the audience. That non-ethnic covers, in particular, sell better.  Still, I was willing to take the risk.  I wanted people.

African American authors have a careworn joke about the same couple  from stock images keep ending up on various covers—an alarming phenomenon that can be likened to some other woman wearing the same dress that you have on. Yikes.  A group of us had contemplated pooling our money and getting a photographer, models and costumes to avoid this particular problem.  Since I write historicals, I knew my costumes for the models would be more expensive than anyone else’s.  Where in the world would I be able to find a cover that would be suitable for my stories?

Then, one day, my friend Vanessa Riley casually brought up Designcrowd.com.  I could pick a price level for a book cover design.  Then, I could provide a description and let designers all over the world compete for the project and select a winner. That sounded promising to me, even though I still wasn’t sure how historical African American people would look.  Honestly, some of the designs came in looking very strange.  There was one that came in at the beginning for The Preacher’s Promise, but Amanda looked middle-aged. March resembled a waif from a developing nation stuck in the middle of a cotton field. There was  no depiction of Virgil at all.  I tried to work with this designer to make some changes, but it never felt right.

Another designer, (I’ll call him Divo) submitted a lovely design but refused to make any changes.  He refused to show me how the back cover would look. Once he left me a message:  “Do you know what it’s like to work, and work and not get paid any money for it?” Well, yeah buddy, I actually do.  Thank you very much.

I tried to get more information or changes from Divo, but he would not budge. Well, that was it.  I would have to settle for him and just learn how to be very assertive for my covers for however many books I would write for the Milford College series.  The contest closed. So in the morning of the next day, I prepared to select Divo as the winner.

I opened my account to deal with Divo and saw Virgil and Amanda staring at me, beckoning me to come into their world. I couldn’t breathe. Something had grabbed me in my throat. Where had this come from?  This design had slipped in before the deadline.  The cover, from an artist in Sri Lanka, said everything that I wanted to say. My story would be about a proud, dignified Christian couple who fell in love. They would be willing to look you in the eye, confident about who they were in building a proud academic tradition. They would not be stereotypes, not caricatures, but human beings who deserved to make choices about who they came to love.

I first saw my cover and knew that God was involved.  Particularly Virgil on the cover of The Preacher’s Promise.  How else do you explain how an artist half way around the world knew my heart so completely? All I said after the blurb was that the characters had to have clothes on. I did not even explain in the description what I wanted him to look like, but his look–bearded, stern and sexy–was exactly how I thought of him.

I asked the artist to do another cover  for The Lawyer’s Luck, and he did. This time, in addition to the blurb I said, make the heroine look like Lupita Nyong’o, but not quite. And he did that too. He even put the horse in he blurb on the cover!

The third time, my cover artist was a lot busier. I like to think that I had some part in that.  Yet still, he came up with another throat grabber for The Mayor’s Mission.  All I’ll say is that the cover is not of a couple this time, but it is still amazing. Wow.  So by divine intervention, I have the covers that I’ve always wanted. Now, I am going about the business of writing stories that are worthy of them.

Not everyone likes the covers,  just as not everyone likes my stories. However, the covers have helped me to fulfill a dream.  They have allowed me the capacity to show my characters in the way that I’ve sought to show them on paper– as fully human, proud Americans of faith who made the choice to fall in love with one another.

 

To celebrate my first guest chef post here on Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, I’m giving away an e-copy of  The Preacher’s Promise to a lucky commenter!

 

Journey to Milford, Georgia and follow the development of an academic tradition across time…. The Lawyer’s Luck is now available in  Kindle e-bookNookKobo and iTunes. Print copies are available on AmazonThe Preacher’s Promise is now available on Amazon,  NookKobo, and iTunes.  It will be available in print on Amazon in mid-August.

 

headshot bwBook one in Piper Huguley’s new 19th century historical series, The Preacher’s Promise, in the “Home to Milford College” series was published in July 2014. She is also the author of “Migrations of the Heart,” a five-book series of inspirational historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters. Book one in the series, A Virtuous Ruby won the Golden Rose contest in Historical Romance in 2013 and is a Golden Heart finalist in 2014. Book four in the series, A Champion’s Heart, was a Golden Heart finalist in 2013.

She blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

 

 

Twitter: @writerpiper

Facebook: Piper Huguley

 

Marilyn Baron - August 20, 2014 - 6:22 am

Piper,
This is a great post. I’d never heard of Designcrowd.com. I love that you got your dream cover from the other side of the world. I always specify to the cover artist not to use people on the cover because I can’t imagine getting a good likeness of my characters. The times I’ve used people I’ve wished I hadn’t.

sandra Elzie - August 20, 2014 - 6:53 am

Piper,
Great article. Like Marilyn, I’ve never heard of Designcrowd.com, but I love what you ended up with. You have a knock-out cover. I love that HE intervened at the last minute to give you a cover worthy of your (and His) story. Can’t wait to read your other books.

Piper - August 20, 2014 - 8:03 am

Marilyn,

I know what you are saying. You describe them one way and they show up on the cover another way. The reader reads it and is like: what? It has the tendency to take the reader out of the story–why risk it? I lucked out, but I think that may happen less and less since writers are given more choices now. Let’s hope so–for the ones of us who want people. Thank you for your comment!

Piper - August 20, 2014 - 8:05 am

Sandra,

Thank you for your kind words. And you are right–it’s great that it is a cover on a story meant to honor Him. I appreciate that you stopped by!

Wayne Jordan - August 20, 2014 - 8:26 am

For the day I saw your cover art I fell in love with your books. The artist is super talented and when I finally did read the books, I realized that the covers were perfect.

Of course, I love the books to.

Can’t wait to see the cover of THE MAYOR’S MISSION.

Julie - August 20, 2014 - 8:30 am

Love. Love. Love. That is all. :-)

Maxine Davis - August 20, 2014 - 8:37 am

Piper, I love the stories about your covers. So glad you found some you liked. Things were brought out by you and commenters that I had not thought of, and now Ihave lots of things to consider before I get a cover. Thank you for the lesson.

Monica - August 20, 2014 - 9:53 am

Cover art is important to me. That’s sort of the premise of my blog. I buy books because of the cover, at least most of the time. If a cover looks kind of “janky” to me, chances are what’s inside is probably just as bad. Yeah, it’s very judgementental, but sometimes you only have one chance to make a first impression. If I hadn’t known about this series prior to its release, I would have bought these books solely based on the cover art. Why? Because the covers are beautiful, they feature people of color, the time period is historical, and did I say that they’re beautiful?

Piper Huguley - August 20, 2014 - 10:00 am

Thank you for stopping by Wayne! I’m so glad you like the covers, and the books! You’ll see the cover of the next one soon!

Piper Huguley - August 20, 2014 - 10:01 am

Thank you for stopping by Monica! I liked your thought about first impressions. I guess when I see other covers, I do tend to come to certain conclusions about what’s inside. I appreciate your kind words and comments!

Piper Huguley - August 20, 2014 - 10:02 am

Thank you Julie! I appreciate the support!

Piper Huguley - August 20, 2014 - 10:03 am

Maxine,

So glad you enjoyed the stories. It’s wonderful you’ve gotten something out of this and I’m looking forward to seeing the results. Thank you for stopping by!

Asa Maria Bradley - August 20, 2014 - 10:31 am

Your covers are so beautiful and you nailed it with “beckoning me to come into their world.” That’s exactly how I feel when I look at them. Am excited to see what the third one looks like.

Piper Huguley - August 20, 2014 - 10:33 am

Thank you Asa! I’m glad that you agree! And soon enough…the third one will be revealed! Thank you for stopping by my fellow Dreamweaver!

Vanessa Riley - August 20, 2014 - 10:36 am

I am so happy for my friend Piper. Having a cover that expresses your heart and the beauty of the story written is a gift, one worth sharing with the world. I am so glad that people can see your vision.

Piper Huguley - August 20, 2014 - 10:37 am

Well it wouldn’t have happened without you Vanessa Riley! Thank you very much for stopping by!

Bonnie Staring - August 20, 2014 - 11:29 am

Oh my goodness, Piper! Your covers are so beautiful — I can’t imagine your books without them! Thanks for sharing your cover adventure so we can all learn from it. Congratulations on finding a true artist who understands what your books need.

Piper Huguley - August 20, 2014 - 11:30 am

No problem Bonnie! Glad to share! Thank you for your kind words and for stopping by!

Amy Patrick/Amy DeLuca - August 20, 2014 - 11:49 am

A beautiful story-behind-the stories! I absolutely believe God cares about your covers and every aspect of you career- mine too! You mentioned the way your characters look right at the “camera” so to speak– I never focused on that aspect of your covers before, but I really love that. It’s different, and they seem so real. Wonderful post!

Piper Huguley - August 20, 2014 - 11:56 am

Thank you Amy! I appreciate your kind words. I’ve heard–I couldn’t get any confirmation on this–that the hero on a cover should be looking at the heroine. Otherwise, people get the impression that he’s looking for his next woman….but we know that’s not true of Virgil and Lawrence! Thanks for stopping by!

Kiera J. Northington - August 20, 2014 - 12:13 pm

Piper, I am absolutely in love with your covers! They just seem to speak to me! They are so expressive, you can imagine a whole story before you even open up the book. A cover can truly make or break a first impression; thank you so much for sharing your post with us! :)

Piper Huguley - August 20, 2014 - 1:43 pm

Thank you Kiera! I appreciate your kind words and comments! Thank you for stopping by!

Sia Huff - August 20, 2014 - 3:55 pm

Piper, I’m so glad you found an artist who understands your vision. And all the way from Sri Lanka. Cover art is important to me. It’s that first glance that sparks my interest. I believe others feel the same way. Look forward to seeing your other covers.

Carol Burnside - August 20, 2014 - 4:04 pm

Piper, I’ve “fan-girled” over your covers before, so you know I love them. I enjoyed reading The Lawyer’s Luck and am looking forward to The Preacher’s Promise.

Piper - August 20, 2014 - 4:57 pm

Thank you Sia. It was a blessing for sure. As I said in the post, not everyone loves the covers, but for the most part they have been well received. Thank you for stopping by!

Piper - August 20, 2014 - 5:17 pm

Thank you for your fangirling, Carol! I appreciate your kind words about The Lawyer’s Luck and that you stopped by to comment. :)

Connie Gillam - August 20, 2014 - 5:42 pm

What a great story!
Piper, I too was afraid I’d never be able to have the cover I wanted with the couple looking the way I wanted them to look. So, I went with a landscape instead. I’ve been very happy with the cover for Lakota Dreaming, but you lucked out.

BTW, the cover is the first thing I look at when buying a book, then the blurb.

Piper - August 20, 2014 - 6:03 pm

Hey Connie,

It’s a hard call to say how people will look on a cover. However, I have hopes for that changing. The cover artist (unless he’s Divo) will make changes, almost immediately. It seems in a circumstance like Designcrowd, you can have people if you want, although your cover (and the story, too!) are great! Thanks for stopping by!

Walt Mussell - August 20, 2014 - 11:22 pm

Piper,

It is a beautiful cover. God must have been giving it to you in His time.

Leslie Lynch - August 21, 2014 - 8:18 am

Piper, I have LOVED your covers from the get-go! I had no idea you had so much trouble finding them, but I’m glad you did! Thanks for sharing this part of your journey. I had never heard of Designcrowd, either. Might have to give ‘em a try! Best of luck with sales of your wonderful books!

Piper Huguley - August 21, 2014 - 9:29 am

Thank you so much Leslie! It was trouble, but it was worth it! I appreciate that you stopped by to comment!

Miranda Liasson - August 21, 2014 - 11:17 am

Piper, thanks for sharing this amazing story. Yes, I believe there is more than fate involved! When I was twelve, I devoured Phyllis A. Whitney’s adventure books for kids of that age–it was always a boy and a girl discovering a place, solving a mystery, etc. Well, they were paperbacks with the most amazing covers, usually of the boy and the girl doing something related to the adventure. I used to stare at them for hours. I feel the same way about your covers–the characters have true heart and soul, and it draws you in to want to get to know them! Congrats for a beautiful cover look!

Angelina (Barbin) Jameson - August 21, 2014 - 11:27 am

I’m so glad you finally got the cover you wanted. I often hear authors complain that their cover didn’t represent their story or their characters. On another note, parts of your blog post made me laugh a bit whether that was your intention or not. Your style is engaging and now I’m excited to read some of your work.

Jacqui Nelson - August 21, 2014 - 1:11 pm

I love your covers, Piper! And I loved hearing more about how they came to be. Thank you for sharing their creation with us!

Piper Huguley - August 21, 2014 - 2:08 pm

Hi Angelina! Thank you so much for commenting. I don’t mind laughter at all. Laughter is a part of life. Despite the sober looks of my characters on my covers, I always make sure there is something funny in my stories. Thank you for stopping by!

Piper Huguley - August 21, 2014 - 2:09 pm

Miranda,

Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! I really do believe with the rise of self-publishing that authors will get more of what they want in the way of covers. At least I hope so! I have to look up those Whitney books–they sound cool. I appreciate your kind words and I’m looking forward to yours!

Piper Huguley - August 21, 2014 - 2:11 pm

I’m glad that you like them Jacqui! You have great covers too–and they have a connected look, too! Thank you for stopping by!

Laurie Cooper - August 21, 2014 - 2:43 pm

I never realized how difficult choosing a cover was until I went through the process. It’s so hard to decide what element of your story to focus on. Thanks for sharing. Your cover is beautiful!!

Piper - August 22, 2014 - 12:44 pm

It is hard isn’t it Laurie? Thank you for your kind words and for stopping by!

Piper Huguley - August 24, 2014 - 3:53 pm

Angelina Jameson is my winner! Congrats Angelina!

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