Book Cover Design: Creating a Book Cover for ‘Becoming Lady Beth’

Progress on my novel, BECOMING LADY BETH is…well…progressing. I am halfway through some minor rewrites and tweaks and then it will be out with the fine tooth comb for a line edit before the manuscript is sent to the proofreaders. As time is ticking by, I wanted to get started with designing the book cover. This can be a lengthy operation with lots of ‘over and back’ between publisher and artist. Most publishing houses will spend months developing a book cover, using an artistic team -yes team- run by a creative director or artistic director. BECOMING LADY BETH does not have an entire team, it has me (the author) and my sister, Ann Kiernan (artist, graphic designer, story-boarder and animator extraordinaire) working in tandem to try and create something special. In reality, this kind of collaboration involves me being impressively vague about what I’d like and Ann coming up trumps as usual.

So how should an author decide what type of artwork their spanking new book should sport? In my mind, a book cover should do one of two things. It should intrigue or reassure. In other words, with a quick glance a book cover should make a reader think:

Oh! I’ve not seen this before, this looks interesting


Oh! I’ve read one like that before and I really enjoyed it.

This is the cold, hard face of marketing for you. People like to invest and spend their money on something they feel they will enjoy. This is why you so often see aspects of certain book covers recurring depending on what is selling fastest. If you’re going to step outside what the reader expects and make your book cover hugely unusual, you’ll have to make it extraordinary. But then, even unusual and quirky artwork is becoming trendy for a ‘certain type of book’. Take a look at this site for ten book covers that take the phrase ‘influenced by’ to a whole new level. For me, I want the reader to easily recognise the fact that my book is humourous and that there are romantic elements. Below I have shared some of the book cover journey for my novel, BECOMING LADY BETH.


Early development: Beth in masquerade ball with fencing sword.

Early development: Beth in masquerade mask with fencing sword.

I wanted the book cover to have some aspects that were emblematic to fun parts in the story. You don’t want to overdo this as it will clutter the image and you don’t want to give away too much story on your book cover. You only need to set a mood or give a sense of the story or genre. As Beth is a modern day girl trapped in a historical setting, we did consider having some suggestion of the present day world in the image. For example, a mobile phone or have Beth wearing jeans but we decided that this would be too confusing alongside the historical appearance that I wanted the cover to convey. In the end, we decided that the artwork should suggest Beth’s modern day attitude instead. The hand on the hip and leaning stance gives us this side of Beth’s personality and is not typical of the more formal postures of a regency heroine.

Early Sketches for Book Cover: Beth with mask and sword.

Early Sketches for Book Cover:
Beth with mask and sword.

The second sketch gives us a clearer image of Beth’s face and also adds a little romance by having her hold the masquerade mask rather than wear it. Will there be a masquerade ball in this novel, I wonder? The chin tuck and the slight lean in her posture along with the presence of the sword maintain her ‘modern day attitude.’

Plain background so that Beth is more prominent. Early development of final cover.

Plain background so that Beth is more prominent. Early development of final cover.

I was more than satisfied with how Beth was illustrated on the cover. Everything about her image feels true to her character and so I feel that she is not likely to change much more than this with any further book cover developments. Next we decided to add the Earl and hero, Robert Asherton into the background. It is a romance after all!

Trying font out for size and effect.

Trying font out for size and effect.

Ann then worked on a font that would compliment that artistic style of the book cover. It’s important in today’s digital world that font size on a book cover is pretty large. This helps readers identify your book from the thumbnail images presented to them on sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It’s also another reason to keep your book cover relatively uncluttered with complicated images.

Some definition on sword needed.

Some definition on sword needed.

Happy with the font design and size, we corrected the title but I felt there was a little more definition required on the sword.

Colour tryouts for Robert. Sword more defined.

Colour tryouts for Robert. Sword more defined.

Next it was deciding on colour scheme and depth for the hero, Robert. And Ann also added more to the sword and some nice detail where the point of the blade hits the top of the ‘B’ in Bright.

Further Colour Tryouts for Robert.

Further Colour Tryouts for Robert.

More shading and deciding what colour would work best on Robert. No further changes to Beth.

A few further touches to go. Slight detail needed on clock but almost there!

A few further touches to go. Slight detail needed on clock but almost there!

Finally, we have Robert’s colour scheme decided upon, but we are still working on how the colour should be filled. I think that having him in full colour might be detracting from Beth in the foreground. And so there is more ‘over and back’ to be done. Hopefully this won’t take us long to work out. But as the cover now stands, this is almost the finished product and I love it! I only hope readers love it as much.

There are many more elements to discuss with regard to your book cover. Namely margin size, blurb, barcode and bleed (which I’ll get to another time). It’s not quite as simple as, right we have a front cover let’s go with it. You also need a spine and a back cover but once the overall ‘mood’ of the cover is decided, these are easier to get on with. When the time comes, I’ll write up the process and share it with you.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions on the BECOMING LADY BETH book cover or any comments on the process, I’d love to hear them.


BECOMING LADY BETH is due for publication in December 2014.

All images on this page are subject to the usual copyright laws.


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