Cover images and branding

by Terry Odell

Used to be, you looked at books in a bookstore window, on special displays, or on the shelves, where the ones placed face out could catch your eye. If you were looking at spines, perhaps a title caught your eye, or the name of a familiar author. If the cover enticed, you’d move to the back cover copy, or the jacket flap copy, and then maybe flip through the book. But, odds are, it was the cover that started the process.

Now, even though many book purchases are made from on-line bookstores, the cover is still vital. More so, because books have an everlasting shelf life, so even “old” books are new to many readers. And the cover is just as important, if not more so, than in the brick and mortar stores.

If your publisher creates your cover, you probably have very little input. But if you’ve got rights back, or are creating an original title to publish yourself, you have to understand the importance of good, professional-looking cover art.

I published three books in a romantic suspense series for a traditional publisher that sold primarily to libraries. Although they employed an art department, the tended to look at each book as an island unto itself. This is what they did for my three books with them:

covers 1
Although there’s nothing “bad” about any of the covers, there’s no continuity. No branding. Nothing that says ‘This is a Blackthorne, Inc. book by Terry Odell.’ And with all the competition out there, you need that branding.

I had hired a cover artist to create covers for another series, where I held all the rights. I asked him to use scenes rather than people on the cover (although for my newest book, I changed my mind because research showed that readers want to feel connected to a character). These are the covers he designed for my Pine Hills Police series:

covers 2

I think these covers say “Series” and “a book by Terry Odell.” By keeping the fonts similar, and the name placement, there’s continuity. (And, if you’re wondering, covers at one of the big e-book stores often have the lower right corner “dog-eared”, which is why my name is stacked rather than reaching all the way across the bottom. Less chance of it disappearing).

When I got the rights to publish  my Blackthorne, Inc. books as e-books (the publisher did hard cover only), I went back to my cover artist. This is what he came up with for the original 3:

covers 3

And, he did the two original books I wrote for that series as well:

covers 4

Now, regardless of the series, my name is the same.  Within each series, there’s continuity in title fonts.

And, the last thing, the one thing I tell anyone who asks my opinion when they’re deciding on a cover is to look at it in thumbnail. All those nifty cover quotes and blurbs are going to disappear. Get your name, the book title, and maybe a series name on your e-book cover. The rest can go in the book’s description.


About the Author

Odell_200x300Terry Odell began writing by mistake, when her son mentioned a television show and she thought she’d be a good mom and watch it so they’d have common ground for discussions.
Little did she know she would enter the world of writing, first via fanfiction, then through Internet groups, and finally with groups with real, live partners. Her first publications were short stories, but she found more freedom in longer works and began what she thought was a mystery. Her daughters told her it was a romance so she began learning more about the genre and craft. She belongs to both the Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America.

Now a multi-published, award winning author, Terry resides with her husband in the mountains of Colorado. You can find her online at:

Her website – http://terryodell.com
Her blog – http://terryodell.com/terrysplace
Facebook –http://www.facebook.com/AuthorTerryOdell
Twitter – http://twitter.com/authorterryo
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