The Cover Story


George Eliot is credited with the saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” And yet, is it not true that the first thing that attracts your attention is the cover? 

It All Starts With the Cover

After the cover, we look at the blurb; either the back of the paperback or the blurb on the site where the e-book is up for grabs. And we decide whether the story interests us. Then we may flip through a few pages to see what the contents look like. 

Don't judge a book by its cover ~ George Eliot. True? Or false? Read about how Returning to Amanda got its cover. Click To Tweet

In A Debut Novel at My Age, I mention there were two special friends who nudged me on to completing Returning to Amanda, Ruth Dell and Marion Ueckerman. When I got serious about writing this novel, I took the teaching, Write What You Know, and decided to write about a family in the ministry. I chose my main character as the pastor’s wife of a workaholic minister in a demanding congregation. You can read my interview of this once-stressed-out lady here: Character Interview: Mandy Douglas.

Looking for Inspiration

As I worked through the story, Mandy took over the reins of the story.  I knew the time had come to do a cover. Partly for financial reasons, and partly because I love playing with graphics, I  do my own covers, with advice from others. My mind went to something that would show a runaway pastor’s wife—which was what Mandy had done. She’d run away from her life as a pastor’s wife in search of the Amanda of her past. Obviously, the cover should portray this. However, when I chatted to my two friends online, Marion, who designed brilliant covers not only for herself but for many other authors, disagreed.

Mandy used to be a talented artist, so Marion felt I needed an artist on the cover. One day, she phoned me. The site where she got most of her stock photos had a free offer on several photos of an artist. She emailed me one to show me, and I could see the potential. The model looked just like the Amanda I had visualized, but the studio was indoors and very cluttered. My Amanda loved to paint outside in nature. I couldn’t see that image working for me.

Assembling the Ideas

In the meantime, I met Kit Kittlestad on an online blogging site. One day she shared a photograph she had just taken of an incredible beach scene with a spectacular sky. I wanted that sky! Amanda, the artist, would have loved to paint it. I played around with the original photo I had received from Marion, and cut away the studio completely. I sat her on a deck with a garden behind and added the sky from Kit’s photograph. I felt good about the result.

By this time, I had completed the novel, and I loved the story! Sadly, by the time the novel and cover were both complete, Marion had passed away from COVID. But I know she would have liked it. You can see some of the sky in the picture at the top of this page.

Over the next few weeks, I will share a little more of the cover each time I post on Facebook and in future blog posts. I hope you love it as much as I do.

If you’d like to know more about the story, the e-book is currently available for pre-order on Amazon at a discount price. You can read the blurb (back-cover story) at that link before ordering. The price will be going up later this week, so do follow this up today. It will be going up again at least once before launch day. And by the way, you can always cancel your pre-order if you change your mind.

If you’re one of my launch team and you’ve read the book, I’d love you to leave a short comment below. (Please, no spoilers about the story! Just your initial reaction to the story.)

8 comments on “The Cover Story

  1. Yup I agree Shirl. As a serial browser of second hand book stores and people’s book shelves, a good cover always catches my attention. Also the title caught my attention and the blurb drew me in. Also as a finder of errors and software tester I always look for slips. Isn’t George Eliot with one l? Thanks for the fun

  2. Designing the cover is an exciting element of writing a book, and I am looking forward to the full reveal of this one. I enjoyed the way Shirley was able to address a problem that was both personal and spiritual, that affected not only the family but the church as well. Fictional characters can work out the nuances of social problems without pointing fingers but also open the conversations to take place in real life. A good read.

    • Thanks so much Deryn. Yes, I enjoy working with covers once I have a basic idea to work with. Its finding that initial spark of creativity that gets to me!

  3. People underestimate the importance of a well designed cover. It can make the difference between a reader buying or rejecting your book. Really looking forward to seeing how you have embodied the spirit of Amanda/Mandy in your cover

  4. Marion would be so proud of you, for every aspect that goes into publishing a novel, especially for writing such a meaningful story.

Comments are closed.