About the Cover — (Gerry’s Lion)

April 24, 2015




This is Ashavan Doyon again, here to talk to you about Gerry’s Lion.

Covers matter, a LOT. Often it is only the cover that first attracts a reader into taking the moments to read the blurb, and so it is an element, I think, that tortures authors. We want a cover that says EVERYTHING there is to say about our story. But it can’t. And if it tries, it can break the conventions of the genre so badly that no one will read it. I’ve seen incredible stories that just didn’t perform as expected, and sometimes I have to wonder if the cover is the reason.

Gerry’s Lion breaks the pattern for my covers with Dreamspinner. All my previous covers have been either photographs or photo montages. This one was drawn, which brought a new element into trying to find the perfect cover. When you submit an art request you give a brief character description, and that’s really almost all the artist has to figure out the best model for the character. They have that and a very brief synopsis. And a brief statement about the dream cover that you most want to see.

I described Leo like this: Leo Ystrabov is on the lower side of average height (about 5’6″), blue eyes, black hair. As a [spoiler redacted], he’s exceptionally well built and muscular. He favors tropical shirts.

And for my dream cover? This is what I asked for: An art gallery… the walls are white, but the room is dark shadows, a light shining on a single piece of art. It was radiant, like the sun. Yellows and reds and oranges, a mane of light around a dark figure, dancing–Gerry, engulfed by his lion. A man is seen from behind looking at the painting – this could be either Gerry, Leo, or the two of them together, all three situations happen in the book [minor spoiler redacted].


I think I got pretty lucky, that comes really close. My experience has been getting a couple of covers built from watermarked stock images that give an impression of what the cover artist is going for. With a drawn cover it was quite different. I received sketches to show those ideas, and then the one I chose was drawn. Most of my editorial decisions once I’d picked which of the sketches I wanted were limited to how the title would be displayed.

What were the other two drawings? I don’t think I’m allowed to show you but there were two alternates. One depicted Leo, pulling off his shirt, in front of an abstract background of empty frames. The other showed Gerry, with Leo craning his neck over Gerry’s shoulder in front of a row of frames. I confess I had a hard time deciding, in part because Gerry’s character is African-American; I think there’s value in showing that on the cover. Unfortunately the depiction of Gerry just didn’t feel right to me (he was too tall, too muscular, the character didn’t make me think of the Gerry from my story) and I elected to go with the final cover shown here.

What makes a good cover, and what good stories do you think may not have been as popular because of the cover? Don’t forget–Responses will be used to help decide on a winner for one of the e-books I’m giving away!



or in print:


(in the interests of making people happy: the e-book version is part of the Wet Dream sale from today until 4/28 – 25% off)

11 Responses to “About the Cover — (Gerry’s Lion)”

  1. Denise Dechene says:

    I think a good cover is something that draws the eye. Something unusual. Drawn covers are not the norm so I can see stopping to see what a book is about because it’s different.
    Good stories not doing well because of the cover….I’ve seen a cover recently with a hand holding a heart and there is blood. The depiction made me not want to even read the blurb.

  2. Yvonne says:

    Gerry’s Lion definitely has an eye catching cover. It’s different and stands out. Covers are very important; I liked the blurb of a book but was reluctant to buy because of the cover. Then it was recommended to me, I took a chance and loved it. But without the rec I wouldn’t have bought it.

  3. ashavandoyon says:

    Denise: A cover can tell the wrong story. I think in addition to just making the reader not want to read the story, it can also break a convention in a way that stops the reader from even looking. My friend Cindy Sutherland really believed in her story Hunt and Pray — and it’s one of my favorites of hers, with just a bit of thriller in the mix, a real departure from her usual work. But the cover reads as all thriller, and I think that really impacted the story’s success compared to her other releases. You can check out the cover on the Dreamspinner store page – Hunt and Pray: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3748

  4. ashavandoyon says:

    Yvonne: you can see why authors obsess about covers! It’s interesting, because another publisher I work with does that part differently. I feel very lucky with my Dreamspinner covers, they’ve been really great so far. I sort of live in dread though, every time I put in a request, that I won’t get a cover that speaks to the story for me. I like that Gerry’s Lion has a very different cover. I’m hoping it will draw in people who haven’t read much of my work before.

  5. Denise Dechene says:

    Along with the cover I think the title should mean something. There are some title you look at and shake your head.

  6. ashavandoyon says:

    Titles are also important. This one started out as a Christmas story, and was titled The Christmas Lion (I think that was it, I’d have to go back to my submission records to be sure).

  7. Denise Dechene says:

    I have been impressed with most of the covers that come out of Dreamspinner. They have some talented artists.

  8. Susan says:

    I will confess to buying a book just for the cover, an illustration by one of my favorite artists. So covers are hugely important. I like photos, montages, illustrations all, but only if they fit the book. I hate it when the author clearly gives the MC green eyes and the stock photo has brown eyes.

  9. ashavandoyon says:

    Susan: For A Wounded Promise the cover model had brown eyes. Justin has blue, and it’s his most mentioned physical feature. My cover artist indulged me in fixing that.

  10. Susan says:

    And that is just one reason why I usually like DSP cover artists better than any other press!

  11. ashavandoyon says:

    Susan: In fairness, I also publish with Torquere, who even adjusted the shade of blue for me for the cover of Steven’s Heart (it sparkled so much in the draft that I was afraid it would be misread as a paranormal)

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