Friday, October 3, 2014

Behind the scenes: Covers


 ...By Senior Editor Victoria Curran

Not sure if people like to hear the behind-the-scenes of cover design…? It’s easier to talk about than the highly personal work between an editor and an author that goes into the editing of the stories! For some reason, this was a difficult month for our vision team (art, marketing, editorial). I’m pleased to say the cover that sent us back to the drawing board more times than I care to admit is the one the author loved so much, she sent her editor a note to thank the art director. All to say, the most difficult journey can be the most rewarding…as long as nobody ends up brawling over concepts on the conference room floor.

  
In general, we try to get a strong blend of content, colour and composition that distinguishes the four books from one another: couples, possibly a hero alone, possibly adults with children or babies, and usually at least one cover without people that features an iconic image from the story or beautiful landscapes evocative of the setting. In October, though, you’ll notice we don’t have any couples—which is unusual.
 
 
I believe it was our really catchy titles this month that led to a struggle to find the right images. Mary Anne Wilson’s A Father’s Stake and Cynthia Thomason’s This Hero for Hire seemed to set the tone: one demanded a father and child, the other a rugged protector-type man alone.
 
 
 
 
And Liz Flaherty’s Back to McGuffey’s (a title I LOVE) seemed to work best when we highlighted the inviting exterior of what could very well be the McGuffey’s establishment….although for the first time I’m wondering why nobody’s stealing that unlocked bike while our hero and heroine are in McGuffey’s…! Easy pickings for a bicycle thief.

 
 
 
 
That left us with Lee McKenzie’s The Parent Trap. Lee, like Liz Flaherty, is writing for Heartwarming for the first time this month and we couldn’t be happier to have them both aboard! Liz came to us from NYC editor Charles Griemsman, after having written for Special Edition. And Lee has an established relationship with Toronto editor Johanna Raisanen—the pair have worked together on American Romance. I was thrilled when Charles and Johanna brought us proposals from two authors who tell the kind of emotional, romantic stories—without sex—our readers can’t get enough of.
 

But back to The Parent Trap cover. In a riff off that tried-and-true Hayley Mills Disney movie, two pre-teens decide to match-make for their parents. This led us to try to put two pre-teens on the cover: it didn’t say “romance”. So we tried to put a couple on the cover: it didn’t say “matchmaking kids”. Then we tried different romantic beach set-ups: they didn’t say “set up by juveniles”.  We finally arrived at a way to make the “set-up” appear a little bit cheesy, if I may, to indicate that this was kids’ idea of what a romantic beach setting might be. And, as I say, Lee loves it—and was excited to get her first iconic cover without a couple.

Note to self: Sometimes really catchy titles are harder to create covers around!

***
 
At the end of September Harlequin made a couple of tech announcements. First, we’ve launched a Read Now ereading feature on our website harlequin.com that enables ebook buyers to begin reading the book instantly and easily, no matter what device they’re using. (Not being a big ereader and having all the Harlequins I could ever possibly want to read without having to order them online, this sounds as if it was difficult to do before this advancement…so yay!)

Second, we just got the news this week that Harlequin has struck a deal with Scribd, a subscription service akin to Netflix for TV and film, and 15,000 backlist titles will be added to its ebook catalogue.  As I say, I’m not big on high tech (don’t ask me where my Kindle went…I have searched everywhere) but I was forced to subscribe to Netflix last fall when I came late to “Breaking Bad” and had to cram five seasons in before the final episode aired live, so to speak.

All to say, I very much like the idea of subscription service now that I’m addicted to Netflix. And we certainly already have an old-school subscription service in place through our Direct to Consumer mail-order division. But I haven’t heard a word from readers or authors about Scribd—maybe that’s because it was just announced and not everyone’s caught up with the news yet. I’d love to know what you guys think!

41 comments:

  1. I love the Back to McGuffey's cover! That looks like a place I'd want to hang out with my husband on one of our day date/work date things we do lol. I'm not good with technology either, but everything above sounds great!

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    1. Hey, Jen! I have to ask, though: do you guys have Netflix? (I consider myself the lowest common denominator when it comes to high tech, so I'm very proud of myself for having Netflix.)

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    2. Wait, what's a "work date"? Is this romance writing research? Do you assume false identities?

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    3. Yes, my husband is the I.T. guy and we usually only watch things once the season is done and we can do a marathon of shows:)
      Ha! Unfortunately our 'work date' is a lot less interesting than that...though you do have some wonderful ideas lol. It's a day date when my son is with his dad on a Sat-we go to a coffee shop or pub and spend the afternoon together-him working and me writing. Productive but fun:)

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    4. I love that cover, too, Jen! I have done more happy dancing about it than I think I ever have. Like Victoria, I thought about the unlocked bike, but not for long. :-)

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    5. It crossed your mind, too, Liz? That's too funny! Remind me: Are you a big city girl or small town?

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    6. Rural! I would never lock anything if it weren't for my city-boy husband, but our kids went to large and semi-large universities, so locking things became the norm.

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  2. Victoria, I appreciate how much time is spent in creating Heartwarming covers that truly represent the story. Marion

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    1. Thanks, Marion. Makes the brawling over concepts on the conference room floor worth it!

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  3. We're always telling each other on our blog how fabulous our covers are - it is interesting to know what goes on behind the scenes. I'll have to check out Scribd. How great that we're available in more places. That can only be good. From the author's perspective - and I'm sure editorial's as well - there's always a strong moment when you see that beautiful cover for the first time and realize the miracle or cooperation that brought it to life. Thanks to all of you.

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    1. Me, too, Muriel. Just like Netflix, you can get a free month's subscription to Scribd to test the waters. As soon as I figure out my reading devices, I'm going to check it out.

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    2. Ron - at 82 - loves Netflix. Lots of marathon Ken Burns historical stuff, military history movies, and secret affection for all things Star Trek!

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  4. I think Heartwarming covers are so beautiful they should be front and center on all of the book shelves. I read the info on Scribd and like Muriel I think any outlet to get our books to more readers is positive. And people don't only read in paperback which I prefer. I have a Kindle Paperwhite my kids gave me, but I only have one book on it that they downloaded. I just like to read a book in book form. But maybe one day I'll change my mind. A lot of readers have.

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    1. Roz, I'm at home continuing to edit (late, sigh) your wonderful book! Except of course I haven't begun yet today because I've been blogging PLUS our deadline to submit the SYTYCW category finalists is noon today. I've been going over the team's picks and getting excited about story possibilities!

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  5. I love, love, love Heartwarming covers, especially mine last month--Mathew's Choice. I've had people say they bought the book on the cover alone. :-)

    I'm very interested in Scribd since I read most of my books on a Kindle, iPad or iPhone. :-)

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    1. Ah, Patricia, you're way ahead of me with the devices. I do have an iPhone but it's three generations old and collapses on me just when I need it most. Am waiting for the bigger-sized 6.0 to be available through my flight points.... So glad to hear you loved your cover last month!

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  6. Another month of lovely covers. I have to say, I've never been disappointed in my covers. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks, Tara. Will make sure the art director sees all the glowing comments in this blog.

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  7. As a reader I must admit that I will sometimes buy a book based almost solely on the appeal of the cover. I just did that last week at Harlequin.com...I just couldn't resist the warm cover of the book I purchased. I know I will read Back to McGuffey's because I fell in love with the cover from the very moment I saw it about a month ago. That's one of the reasons why I prefer reading paperbacks as opposed to e-books, I can always relish the cover as it sits on my nightstand beckoning for me to read it. It's too bad Heartwarming books are not on bookstore shelves because the covers are so visually alluring that I think they would be an easy sell.

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    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Laurie, and for shopping at harlequin.com! I'll add your note to the list of reasons we need a Heartwarming test at retail--easy sell--thanks for that!!!

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  8. I am definitely not a technology person (no Netflix, no DVR, no tablets etc.). My laptop still feels like a mystery to me much of the time. I learn everything technology related strictly on a need-to-know-basis. Although...I love my Kindle (first-generation, still going strong). It was a gift which I only reluctantly removed from the box after I had it for several months because I knew my nephew would eventually ask me if I liked it and I thought I should probably at least take a look at it LOL. So, this Scribd sounds pretty great!

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    1. Carol, you're a woman after my own heart. (Wait, why does that phrase sound wrong when I see it in type...? Must look up the origins of that one. I miss Harlequin copy editor Val Francis, who retired last year! I used to shoot her my etymology questions and she always had the answer to everything.) BTW: Your nephew should've taken it out of the box for you and set you up. My two cents.

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    2. I agree! He should have! Although I can't complain too much--I've had two laptops in my life and he set them both up. He actually bought the last one for me, too. Hey, now that I think about it, maybe he was trying to teach me to do some of these things for myself? Well, I've got news for him these sneaky tactics will not work....

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  9. I love the Heartwarming covers. You all do such a great job at evoking a sense of place and tone for the stories. :)

    As far as Scribd, have to admit, I'd never heard of them until I read the announcement, LOL. And I"m still on DVD subscription for Netflix...guess I have to start a streaming service now (as I have yet to start Breaking Bad ).

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    1. I had no idea Netflix still continued the DVD subscription, Anna! Interesting. (I still have a VCR, btw. Too cheap for this PVR nonsense.)

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    2. Victoria! Been wondering what to do with all my old VHS tapes. I'm sending them all to you! Lots of romances.

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  10. I always love reading behind the scenes info (yep, I often watch those special features/making of vignettes on the DVDs I rent from Netflix!) so this was a great post. And the covers are lovely, as always. I've had my eye on Back to McGuffey's for awhile, but I'm equally enamored with The Parent Trap (title and cover!) I only recently managed to get decent internet service at my place, so I've never streamed Netflix. I wonder if you can get the special features via streaming... Don't want to miss out on that Behind the Scenes stuff. ;)

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    1. I was just over at Dear Author and people are weighing in on the first Harlequin book they would read if they had a free subscription to Scribd. Interesting, some of the books and author names that are coming up!

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  11. Thank you for sharing the behind-the-scenes stories, Victoria. The October covers are again beautiful. (I've admired Liz's cover a number of times and not once did it occur to me that someone would steal that bike. I'm not sure what that says about you . . . or me!)

    Also, much thanks to Harlequin for always innovating to better meet the needs of our readers!

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    1. I'd worry more over what it says about me, Kate. Your new series focused on rescue animals is going to be a fun one to conceptualize covers for!

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  12. To add one more comment about this month's and every month's covers: they are all gorgeous! I love Netflix. My husband doesn't care for movies so Netflix allows me to indulge my own love for film. Yay!

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    1. Should I confess that my TV is decaying and now only shows me black and white images, so Netflix on my laptop allows me to watch movies in colour! (I should be tech embarrassed, so I wonder why I'm not...)

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  13. Victoria, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the time, worry, consideration, angst and heartburn (has to be there) that you and your team put into our covers. Frankly, I haven't see one YET that I didn't love.
    In my own experience I can't tell you how many times I've had top members of publishing sales forces say to me, "IF they'd NOT used that black rose on the cover, we would have sold more." "If they'd have NOT used the SILVER lettering that no one could see on the racks, we would have sold more."
    Recently, I read yet another article, this time in the Wall Street Journal, I believe, I read so much, I'm not sure, that said that when a reader is choosing a book, THE COVER is still the number one consideration. THEN the blurb. THEN the reviews (like on Amazon).
    So, after all the sleepless nights I, and my fellow authors endure, trying to bring our characters to life (or try to shut them up so we CAN sleep), to know in our hearts, that you and your team are doing so very much to help us get those books sold by creating our wondrous covers, is a dream come true. Personally, I wish I could give each and every one of you a great big hug of thanks!!!

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    1. Catherine, that is so sweet of you! I consider myself hugged and will make sure the rest of the in-house vision team feels hugged, too. Have a great weekend!

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  14. I love my cover--can't say it too often--and am as thrilled as a kid to be writing for Heartwarming. I don't do Netflix because or connection is too slow, but I'm a fan of DVR. I signed up for the Scribd freebie but don't have a clue how to use it. :-(

    I enjoyed the post, Victoria!

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    1. Thanks, Liz. When you figure out Scribd, can you let me know???

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  15. We don't have Netflix. I think it has more to do with the fact that we're never home. We have DISH, which provides the HALLMARK channel. I still haven't watched all the Christmas movies I saved last year!

    Our covers are awesome :)

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    1. Wouldn't some of our Heartwarming books make excellent Hallmark movies?

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    2. Oh my, yes.
      I'm reading Jennifer Snow's right now and just finished Karen's (I'm behind. The Jennifer one I'm reading is the jilted bridegroom and the Karen one is the cancer one).

      Both would be great. Jen's for comedy; Karen's for tear jerker.

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  16. Aloha, everyone! I'm a little late to the party because I just stepped off a cruise ship. Life has its challenges but we cope as best we can, right?

    Thank you, Victoria, for sharing the cover journey for THE PARENT TRAP. I adore this cover so much, especially the beach towel heart on the sand. I mean, come on...who isn't itching to draw some initials in the center of it?!

    I also appreciate the attention to detail because the color of the water and the forest backdrop capture the Pacific Northwest setting perfectly.

    I must confess that I was a teensy bit surprised (and a whole lot overjoyed) when Johanna told me that my working title would be used, and I somewhat nervously anticipated the cover (as authors always do!). Thank you again for exceeding my expectations!

    Happy reading, everyone!

    Lee

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  17. Great post! Love the behind-the-scenes info and how the covers came to be! Congrats to all and happy writing! Lisa McManus Lange

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