Fourteen Covers Later
by Una Tiers
Years ago (2010) everyone insisted the publisher made the cover decision and the author was not involved.
At Printer's Row in Chicago, IL, I heard a perfect example of this practice. The publisher made a new book cover that included a cat. The author complained that there was no cat in the book, they responded that cats sell books.
When I received the cover for my first mystery, I cringed. The typeface was distorted, rendering the title illegible. I brooded and I carried the cover photo around for a week. I asked people what they thought of the cover. The response was the same as mine, the title was not legible.
After a few glasses of wine, I wrote an email to the publisher expressing my dissatisfaction and re-attaching covers I had drawn. The cover was changed.
So the lesson here is that the publisher has their experience and you know your book.
A year later, by mutual agreement, the contract was canceled. It was ugly, but I can only be so polite in the face of criticism.
When I released the book as an independent author, I used a picture I took for the cover. I was rushing in the rain on Wabash Street in downtown Chicago, Illinois. When the rain stopped where we were, the sun came out north of us, across the river. It seemed everyone was taking a picture. I did too, with my trusty flip phone. Later I saw the subway train (that operates above ground) had come around the corner as a took the pictures. The headlights were not even and it added to the intrigue of the photo.
Twelve books later, I have several options to share:
1. Go to Smashwords or Amazon and look at book covers in your genre. Take pictures of what you like and maybe what you hate. Take 25-100 pics. Keep in mind that you don't have much room for a thumbnail.
2. Go to your library and repeat step one.
3. Go to a bookstore and repeat step one or until they ask what you are doing.
4. Send the pictures to your computer to compare them. Note what you like or hate again.
5. Draw 5-20 covers. Don't worry about accuracy. I still cannot draw a tombstone. When I drew a portal (round window on a ship) it resembled a lunar eclipse. Print your author name and title in different sizes and paste them into the picture. You may find a you tube tutorial to draw a picture for your cover. With one video I drew a fairly good picture of President Lincoln.
I use crayons.
Sometimes your title will not work. My title, Judge vs Michigan, was changed to Judge vs Water. It fit better on the cover and had the same meaning. Always google the title so that you don't write Harry Potter Learns to Day Trade. Titles are hard but not impossible.
6. I draw covers on an 8 1/2 x 11 paper, folded lengthwise and then into three so you have six panes. Draw the variations of your cover until you run out of ideas. On some books, I've drawn 25-30 + covers. On others, the obvious choice comes sooner. You may want to find a font where the letters are equal in width.
7. Carry your cover ideas with you and ask people to look at them and tell you which cover they like best. Do not be disturbed if you ask why they like a particular cover and say they don't know.
8. Take a photo of your best cover to send to your cover person. Talk about the cost, revisions and turn-around time first. Ask whether or not there is a charge for revisions.
9. Send me a copy of your new cover and I will promote it on twitter.
Una Tiers is a pen name for an attorney who writes mysteries where judges mysteriously die. You can contact her with questions or accolades here:
You can find more tips and occasional blogs on her website. You can join our mailing list. We're on Goodreads and twitter @unatiers
WHAT'S IN A NAME by UNA TIERS
What’s in a Name? Plenty! Pen names (nom de plume-French for feather an older writing instrument), alias, literary double, nome de ghere-French for war name) have been used for centuries. Some create distinct identities to avoid confusion when an author writes both fiction and non-fiction or if an author writes in more than one genre. They can separate two parts of a career such as writing and editing, or fiction writing and law.
One of the allures about a pen name is that it may keep people guessing about your identity.
Some authors write under a pseudonym for anonymity, to stand out with an unusual name or to avoid confusion with other authors who have similar names. Others write under a pen name to avoid repercussions much like the witness protection program. In the past, female authors wrote under gender-neutral using initials instead of a first name, or male names for the sake of acceptability.
In a more unusual way to think, at least one author has used two or more pen names to have multiple articles published in the same magazine issue. Another author writes under different names since he finishes more than one novel a year and thinks people will not buy two books from the same author in one year.
Do you write smoldering erotica with heaving bosoms? Want the neighbors to know? Many writers use their legal name along with their pen names to maintain their followers and to bring in new ones with a name that is sculptured for fiction writing.
Pointers on selecting a pen name include choosing letters to put you alphabetically near the top, like Aaron, or away from the popular letter S. A few authors select pen names that are confused with famous authors, although this seems cheesy.
Names that fit a genre are another point of pen names: Lana Loving, Amber Asp, Dark Alleys or Sky Cubes. Names at the start of the alphabet and those with one or two syllables seem to be preferred. Try the names out in the beta stage to see how they sound to friends and your writing group. Check existing website availability.
Places to find ideas for pen names include my favorite: obituaries and of course the internet. Once you have your pen name, start branding and use it in your website and social networking sites.
Famous writers with pen names include Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain); Jean Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere); Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell), Theodore Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and Esther Friedman (Ann Landers).
Photographs of an author with a pen name could defeat the purpose. I've noticed one author in disguise with a hat, wig and sunglasses. Another author took a photo of the back of his head, and a third took a picture of his cowboy boots.
I have a few reasons for using a pen name for my mysteries. My stories include corruption and judges are murdered in several of my Fiona Gavelle series.
Since I developed the name UNA TIERS, one person, another author, honed on it the first time we talked. One person in about nine years surprised even me.
Una Tiers is the pen name for an attorney in Chicago IL who writes about corruption in the courts. Her debut mystery, Judge vs Nuts has a female sleuth, Fiona Gavelle, and has been described as a humorcide, a traditional mystery, a cozy and a legal mystery.
©Una Tiers 2020 - contact us for permission to reprint. firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2012, just before my debut mystery was published, I went to a workshop about women and book reviews. The panel said the majority of reviewers were men.
After the discussion, I approached the woman from the newspaper. Learning I was with a small publisher, she declined, describing the room full of books that were available to her.
Barbara D'Amato was signing books and I had a chance to talk to her. I asked her if she would look at my book, Judge vs Nuts. She agreed!
My publisher flat out refused to believe Ms. D'Amato would read my book and discouraged me from following up. It took many requests to get her to send a copy of the book.
Ms. D'Amato went to great lengths to do the review, and it is spectacular.
The lesson was not to be afraid to ask. The second lesson is that writers helping writers has amazing results.