Covers Deb Kelly Would Die For

For some reason I find it impossible to avoid hyperbole in my post titles. And everything else, for that matter. Universe: please do not kill me over this cover.

Anyhoo… if we’re just meeting for the first time, I wrote this book, see, and it has THE WORLD’S MOST GORGEOUS COVER.

Here it is. If you don’t like it, you are cray. That is to say so crazy you cannot even spell crazy.


I love this cover for so many reasons, and one of them is that it is NOT what I would have chosen if I had been in charge of the process.

If I were in charge, I would have picked something brainy and quiet. There would probably be the bottom half of a girl in a vintage dress and she would be darning something, and all the colors would be muted and blah and even owning the book would be a huge downer. In fact, I actually told my editor I loved nighttime covers. Never mind that exactly two scenes in the book take place after 5pm, there are no vintage clothes, there is nothing muted about the beauty of coastal Maine, and my writing is neither brainy nor quiet. Never mind a lot of things. Ever heard of Body Dysmorphic Disorder? I have Novel Dysmorphic Disorder. I have no idea what my book looks like to the outside world.

This is why I am not an art director.

Luckily my editor did as I asked her when she first asked me for my thoughts about covers: ignored my bad ideas.

Which brings me to this amazing thing I learned when I first started out in the book business: authors really don’t have much to do with their covers. Basically, most authors get up or down votes, and, in a pinch, a veto.

At 21, in my uncomfortable shoes and ill-fitting Ann Taylor blazer, this fact blew my mind. Somehow I’d gotten the idea that authors, from the lowliest debut author with no track record to the superstar bestseller with millions of copies under her belt, basically roughed out sketches of how they wanted their covers to look, delivered them to their publisher, and the publisher Made It So.

Hahahahah, ah ha, ha ha ha… sigh.

If that were the case the bookstore would be the ugliest place in the world. Sorry fellow authors, but have you seen what you are wearing right now? Hint: IT IS PAJAMA PANTS. Here is how it really is: Sometimes authors and art directors have a meeting of the minds. Sometimes art directors think bigger than their authors, as in my case. Sometimes something gets lost in translation and cover and contents are in conflict. Sometimes–maybe usually?– there’s some aspect of all three outcomes all on one 8×5 piece of cardstock.

But cover design is a rigged game. No matter how winning, appealing, or original, I’ve yet to find a cover that every single reader loves. Not even mine. So. If I called you crazy at the beginning of this post–if you, for whatever reason, don’t like my cover, know this: it had nothing to do with me.

Lucky for us all.

21 Replies to “Covers Deb Kelly Would Die For”

  1. Hahahahaha! Pajama pants!! Yes! I am picturing the girl on the cover of my book in pajama pants now, holding the little ball with the dragon in it. Whole new slant… This post is hilarious, as always, and I LOVE your cover so I am not crazy. Which is a good thing to know as I venture out into the world today.

    1. Honestly, I think its a triumph for writers every time a character appears in a book NOT wearing pajama pants. Write what you know? So much for that.

  2. I love your cover too! I’m glad I had no real idea what kind of cover would work for my book, but luckily others did. I knew I wanted it to be vignette-y as opposed to person-y (look up those words, they’re in the dictionary) but had there been women on the cover, I think I’d have come around.

    All the Debs seem to have lucked out in the cover department.

    1. Thanks, Amy! And thank you for adding those important terms into the lexicon. OED researchers, I’ll have you know vignette-y appeared here at the Deb Ball first!

  3. I am touched that my editor asked for ideas about my cover, but like you, I am very grateful they did not take any of them. I would have had a headless woman book too, and I love my cover so very much more.

    P.S. I am wearing yoga pants. Somehow I think this in no way undercuts your point.

    1. Ha to your PS! Only if you are actually doing yoga right now. Otherwise, a rose by any other name will feel as stretchy and unbinding…

      Your cover is one that came up when I was thinking of my all time favorites for non-headless-lady covers. Love it when good covers happen to good books!

      1. Here’s the really sad part. I own two kinds of yoga pants. Yoga pants for working out (including actual yoga), and yoga pants I wear just as pants. So I’m wearing my workout yoga pants right now, I’ll go to the gym in a bit, and then I’ll come home and change into my regular yoga pants.

        This is how far I’ve sunk. Thank heavens no one wanted to put a picture of me on the cover!

        1. Sad? No, that is inspiring! Someday I am going to start an online retail operation called AuthorPants which just sells author pants–pajama pants, stretch pants, yoga pants, leggings, and Jag Jeans (which are regular sized jeans with maternity style bands instead of waistbands). Eleanor, I will want you to be a buyer for the shop, if you don’t mind. 🙂

          1. Buyer? I’mma be a PARTNER. This is a business idea with legs.*

            *Pun, sadly, unintended. What kind of writer am I?

  4. I am, not surprisingly, a HUGE fan of coastal Maine scenes on book covers–and this one does not disappoint, Kelly. It’s beautious!!

    Oh, and I too am wearing yoga pants. I haven’t re-read the Deb by-laws lately but I’m fairly sure there’s a line in there about yoga pants being the official uniform. And maybe some fine print about a few requisite coffee stains…

  5. I am wearing leggings right now…which, let’s be honest, are basically the fashion industry’s answer to pajama pants. And, frankly, the only reason I’m not wearing straight-up pajama pants is because all of my pairs are currently in the washing machine. Also? My leggings are technically maternity leggings, which is pretty embarrassing at nearly 9 weeks post-partum. But I digress…

    More to the point: I LOVE YOUR COVER.

    1. 9 weeks! That’s no time to put on real pants! Talk to me 9 months postpartum. That is when I switched over to the Jag Jeans. (See comment thread above…)

      I wish I had a crystal ball so I could see your next cover, Deb Dana. I bet you do too!

  6. HOW DID YOU KNOW I AM WEARING PAJAMA PANTS???? You have a spy satellite, don’t you?? Great. That means you’ve seen the Secret Happy Dance too. Sigh.

    Seriously, though … I love your cover. I love the house overlooking the ocean, and I adore the title font. I want to spend a weekend (or a year, or ten) in that house overlooking the ocean, and I really, really can’t wait to read your novel. I feel like I’ve been waiting for it forever!!!

    Also? I’m so happy that you love your cover. Hearing that an author loves his or her cover always makes me happy, because at the end of the day, as you said, nobody loves every cover but if we love our own, that’s really what matters most. (But, for the record, I love your cover too.)

  7. This cover is totally beautiful and intriguing.There’s nothing like a house on a cliff by the ocean to get the cogs whirring. It makes you think about the kind of person who lives there and all the weather they see and the wild beauty right before their eyes.

    I’m anxiously awaiting my cover and PRAYING they have better ideas for it than I do. I don’t have the foggiest idea what it should look like. I’m too close to the story. I’m so thankful to have experts in my corner!

    And by the way, what is it about us writers in pajama pants? I’m wearing mine now. lol.

    1. Ooh cover suspense… And that moment when you get the email before you see the jpeg… I’ll be keeping an eye out to see what happens, heather! Thanks for your comment!

  8. LOVE this post! It had me laughing at the pajama pants part, and I can so relate. I’m in the process of putting together some cover ideas and input for my publisher this week, and a part of me is excited but the other part of me (the one that knows I really know nothing about design, hence, I’m a writer) is kinda hoping they’ll ignore my ideas because they’ll probably be terrible anyways. Any time I try to imagine what my cover will look like, I create something pretty pathetic in my mind. Which is why it’d be great if I get a cover beyond my limited cover-imagination 😉

    Your cover is gorgeous, by the way! (Yay! I’m not cray!)

    1. Natalia, sounds like our approach to cover design is very similar and involves lots of prayer! Thanks for your kind words and be sure to drop by and share your cover when it winds up on your door…

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