Covers to die for

I’ve been having a wonderfully interesting time lately with my new covers. Until now I've put them together myself – buying the photos from sites like after exhaustive searching. I have a small publishing program, and it's the work of a few minutes to turn out a birthday card or a bookmark – or indeed a book cover. But although the old ones were clear and colourful they never looked professional enough to really please me. The time had arrived for a real designer.

For various reasons I chose Robin Ludwig, and you can find her work here:

I really didn't know quite what to expect. I hoped (naïvely) that I could keep the same photos of my carefully chosen people and just give them a new look. Nope – Robin wasn't having any of that. When I saw her first suggested design, I absolutely saw why.

I wanted to include a piece of beautiful New Zealand scenery on all my kiwi covers. After all, that's my point of difference. This triggered another enormous photo search until I had suitable scenes for each one. Well, I thought I did. Robyn is very scrupulous about having the colour values etc. in harmony between the people and the scenery. She didn't like some of what I chose. She did her own searches and suggested quite different scenes in some cases, and quite different people in others. What? But hey, didn’t they look good! Almost all of them, anyway. A little more time spent choosing and we were ready to go.

All of this took longer than I expected. Only after we'd settled on two suitable photographs for each cover was I allowed to buy them. If you check out her site you'll see she charges a flat rate per cover that doesn't include the photos. The photos (big files) went into our joint Dropbox, and she uploaded them from there. A few days later I received an e-mail with exciting attachments. Oh they were gorgeous! So much so that I decided to do several more than I'd originally intended. More searching, more samples…

Once I’d okayed the emailed samples, the final versions arrived for checking. After I’d signed them off, the magic Dropbox started to fill with the real thing – a thumbnail, a small file, the actual cover, and the 3-D version for every book.

Are we finished yet? No – not nearly. Next I had to upload them onto all the books on Amazon, and on Smashwords so they could be distributed to iBooks, Nook and Kobo. And get them all onto my website. And design new Twitter and Facebook banners to show them off. The jobs seemed to go on and on.

We’re now at the stage where I'm waiting for the final two covers for my Sheikh novels. You can see at the top what they're going to look like, but these aren't the final photos. The ‘watermarks’ on them show they haven't been paid for yet. But aren’t they great? I spent ages searching for suitable desert castles to put on the bases. Robin countered with dramatic palm trees to harmonise with the dark and sexy upper shots. Hugely better than my castles, so she definitely won there. As an aside, it’s the same couple on both the original and the new version of Taken by the Sheikh.

You can’t imagine how difficult it is to find photos of sheikhs embracing women. Arab men choose not to be photographed like this, and that’s absolutely their business. It’s the reason you’ll see lots of sheikh-type book covers where their heads are cut off. They might have great tanned bodies but they’re probably topped by blond curls!

There’s a New Zealand fern frond on many of my new covers. I decided to be clever and have a palm frond on the sheikhs, but after seeing these samples decided against it, so it’ll be gone once the final versions arrive.

I’ve enjoyed this process so much that already I’m searching for a suitable photo of my next tall dark hero and the girl he calls ‘Frosty’. I can absolutely see them – but can I find them? Not yet.