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Beneath the covers

Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.

All rights reserved.

One of the fun questions I’m often asked when I speak to schoolchildren is, Do you draw the covers for your books?

I wish I were that talented an artist!

So, how do the artists hired by Harlequin/Silhouette know what to depict on the covers? They don’t have time to read the books first — often the cover art is in process before the book is even completed. So, the author has to somehow convey to the artist enough information that the cover fits the story, which isn’t easy. Usually, I find it less stressful to write the scene than to try to describe it.

For each category book, the author fills out an “art fact sheet.” We give a brief synopsis of the story, describe the characters as best we can envision them, and then suggest three scenes that might make a good cover. We tell the artist what the characters are wearing, what’s the mood and setting of the scene, any little details that bring our story to life. And I’m often amazed at how well the artist translates our words into pictures! I don’t see the covers until I receive my books because with the tight schedule of producing category romances there is little time for pre-approval on the author’s part. It’s always exciting for me to open the box from the publisher and see those new covers. No, the people on the books don’t always look exactly the way I imagined them, but even with as many covers as I’ve had, I’ve rarely been disappointed by the results.

Maybe sometimes there are picky little details I would change, being the control freak I am. For example, the cover above is for my July release, THE DOCTOR’S UNDOING. The hero’s white coat on the cover is too long for a medical student — med students wear thigh-length coats; after they graduate they switch to the knee-length coats he’s wearing in the drawing. My daughter will certainly point that out to me when she sees this cover — so I’ve preemptively let her know I’m aware of it. But that’s not really important. I was very pleased when I received my copies of the book and saw the cover; the people look very much as I pictured Ron and Haley and the setting really conveys the hospital atmosphere of the story.  I think it’s a great cover — and I hope you enjoy the book!

I must confess to a more serious quibble about one cover I had several years ago. The book was set in the South, as so many of my stories are, and the artist wanted to convey a Southern feel, so magnolia blossoms were used as a border. Unfortunately, the magnolia blossoms on the cover were growing on a vine! Obviously, the artist was not from the South. And yes, I heard from a few readers asking what I was thinking putting “magnolia vines” on the cover. I thought you might find it interesting to know the process of cover art for category romances — and how such glitches occasionally occur. (I still can’t explain how a friend ended up with a three-handed heroine on one of her covers many years ago, but that’s a different story — and a different publisher.) Yet somehow, with such little information, most covers are excellent and amazingly fitting for the stories they accompany.

I have to applaud the very talented artists employed by Harlequin/Silhouette for such consistently excellent artwork.


Award-winning, best-selling author of women's romance fiction.

One thought on “Beneath the covers

  1. Gina, I’ve always wondered the process of the cover art! I actually thought it was a total hands-off experience for the author; that the artist picked a scene and put it on the cover. Thanks so much for sharing!

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