This is a chicken or the egg question. Does the cover come first, thereby influencing the book? Or does the book come first, informing the elements of the cover?
For me, I can honestly answer both those questions with a resounding YES!
Case in Point(s):
The Walking Bread, Deadly Patterns, and the upcoming (April 27th!) Death Gone a-Rye are both great examples of the book coming first. I was well in to the writing of both of these books by the time my editor asked for cover input. I was able to give some very specific elements for each, all of which made it onto the cover. For example:
The Walking Bread
A major element in The Walking Bread is the Art Car show. I modeled this after a similar annual event that takes place in Houston every year. I found the event fascinating and fun. Incorporating that into this book was so much fun. The best part was creating Billy’s tribute to his mother, based on Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass. Jabberwocky! I love that the cover artists worked several cars onto this cover.
This is a holiday-themed book from my Magical Dressmaking Mysteries. You have to look pretty hard to see the holiday elements. Still, I like the cover.
One year, my mom and I attended a class on making these very cool and artsy Santa dolls. I wanted them in the book and on the cover so I shared photos of the ones we made with my editor. The artist put two of the dolls on the cover (look on the table). I was so happy!
Death Gone a-Rye
This spring time cover is so fun! I had the spring fling elements worked out by the time I gave cover input to my editor. They added the Cake Walk on the floor and the Van Dough Focaccia, which was inspired by Vineyard Baker on Instagram. The details on the focaccia are perfect as is Agatha. 💛
There have been a few times when I’ve been behind on the writing of a book but my editor has asked for cover input. In these moments, I go, “Yikes!” The covers come and there is some element on there that I didn’t give. It’s so prominent that I feel the need to work it into the book! For example:
Dough or Die
In Dough or Die, I had Olaya take up grinding her own wheat for her artisan bread. I added a mill to the bread shop’s kitchen and described it based on one I’d researched. When I saw the mill on the cover, I had to go back and revise that description, and the image helped me describe it in more detail in a subsequent book.
Murder in Devil’s Cove
Murder in Devil’s Cove is the first fully Indie book. I had a vision of what I wanted the cover to look like, worked with a cover artist, and it turned out perfectly!
Then I met Finnegan Count Smooshie Tushie. Finn is such a beautiful dog and from his antics, I knew: 1) he was going to be the model for the rescue dog in the book, and 2) he needed to be on the cover.
I got photos of Finn, courtesy of his “hooman”, and went back to the cover artist to have him added. Then I went back into the book to change the description of the dog (coloring and breed, though in my book the dog remains a girl).
There you have it. Sometimes the book comes first, but sometimes the cover comes first.