Got It Covered

Ebooks were a new thing when the rights for the first nine Jeri Howard books reverted to me. I wanted to republish the novels as ebooks myself. That was a time-consuming project, as I had to have them converted into electronic files, which involved having the actual books scanned. I found a service that would do this, but spent the next six months proofreading. All sorts of things affected scans, from the quality of the paper to specks of dust on the page.

I still find mistakes, though not as often now. The quality control gremlins at Amazon do point out those errors. At least now I’ve become quite skilled at correcting those files myself, thanks to Calibre software.

Cover art was an important aspect of republishing the books. Kindred Crimes, first in the series, was published by St. Martin’s Press, while the next eight were published by Fawcett Books. The US covers were all over the map. Some good, some that left me scratching my head.

The British covers? Awful. Really awful. Dreadful, even. The Japanese covers were terrific.

Original Paperback

For Don’t Turn Your Back on the Ocean, which mostly takes place in Monterey, I told my Fawcett editor that it would be nice if the cover had something to do with the contents of the book. I remember being quite pleased at the pelican that appeared on the cover. The new cover has a more brooding look, but still has that all-important ocean.

As for that business about the cover having something to do with what’s in the book, that’s apparently an author thing. People in marketing tell me that it doesn’t matter to the potential reader. After all, said reader is looking to buy a book and often that’s based on what they see in a small thumbnail on a computer screen.

New Ebook Cover

Back to those ebook covers. I really wanted to have a unifying look, something that said: this is a series. I’m now on my third set of covers for those first nine books and I’m please with them. The artwork for each cover is different but you can certainly tell they are all books in the Jeri Howard series.

I also have nine books published by Perseverance Press. The covers for the Jeri Howard books are quite different. Those for the Jill McLeod/California Zephyr series have a unifying look: trains, since they are historical mysteries about a Zephyrette on a long-distance train. Now that Perseverance Press is closing, the rights for those books are reverting back to me. For the Jeri Howard books, I’m working with a cover artist to put new covers on the ebooks, covers that jibe with those on the first nine ebooks.

As for the train books, as I call them, those will get a cover reboot. Back when they first came out, I was hoping to use the old California Zephyr advertisements, which have a distinctive 1950s look. But I couldn’t figure out who had the rights to those images. The train images that we used are great, but this is a cozy series and I’d like to rebrand them as such. The new covers may have illustrations that resemble the old ads.

Earlier this year I published The Sacrificial Daughter, the first in the Kay Dexter series, which features a geriatric care manager in a fictional Northern California town. The series is more cozy than hard-boiled. I wanted a great cover, but I resisted the impulse to add a cat. I tried designing a cover myself and quickly discovered that’s not really my skill set.

I turned to a cover designer who read the book and came up with several designs based on suggestions I gave her. None of them worked. Some came close, but… Then the cover designer came up with something on her own, an image we hadn’t even discussed.

Yep, that was the one. It clicked. It was just right.

And that is what’s on the cover of the book.

5 thoughts on “Got It Covered

  1. Having read many of Janet’s books, I can say that the cover may act as a teaser for a new buyer, but those of us who read her work know it’s a case of ‘a rose by any other name’. She’s one of the best mystery writers around.

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  2. Janet, I think the hardest part is getting a cover that feels like it conveys the story and gets a reader to pick the book up. I have an old historical western romance series that needs recovered but I have recovered it so many times that I’m at a loss for what to put on it now. But the covers over time change in each genre and trying to keep the books relevant is time consuming. I love your Jeri Howard series. I need to pick up one of the Zephyr books.

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  3. I love your train mysteries. I can remember when so many people said ebooks would never make it. Was once ridiculed at a conference for even bringing them up. My, how times have changed.

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