Thursday, October 09, 2008

Happy 25th Anniversary The Covers—Behind the Scenes with Harlequin editor Kathleen Scheibling

Hi everyone, Kathleen here, Senior Editor of American Romance. I was delighted to be asked to contribute an entry to the HAR author’s blog to help commemorate our 25th anniversary and thought I’d write a bit about how the covers of our series books are created.

The process starts with the authors, who fill out an Art Fact Sheet (AFS) for each of their books. The AFS will include physical descriptions of the characters, scene suggestions for the covers, and a short synopsis of the book. This synopsis is very helpful for the Art Director (Tony) who really wants just a general overview of the story. Once a month the editors, AD and our marketing Product Manager meet to brainstorm what would best sell the book. This is the chance for the editors to fill in the blanks for Tony—what’s the tone of the book? What did the author’s previous book look like? Is it part of a miniseries and do we want to keep the same look for all the books?

During these meetings, it’s also standard practice to beg Tony to take us on photo shoots so we can meet hot, hunky men. We all have our favorite models—Johanna was recently enamored of a new guy we’re using who kind of looks like Matt Damon. I enjoy drooling over a dark-haired man who resembles JFK Jr. I think he’s on Marin Thomas’s November cover. And guess what—that man actually played JFK Jr. in a made-for-TV movie! Anyway, I think Tony assumes we’ll embarrass him by jumping all over these guys. We keep telling him we will behave ourselves. Really, Tony. Promise!

After our art meeting, Tony books a photo shoot. I did go on one of these shoots a couple of years ago, and was really interesting. The whole thing is quite a production, I can tell you. There’s a makeup and wardrobe person, the photographer and an assistant who helps with the cameras, backdrops, lighting, etc. Things must have been very different before digital technology but now you can look at everything you shoot right away and make adjustments. You can literally take hundreds of shots to get the right one. We were looking at them on a large computer screen as the photographer clicked away. Fascinating. And then you have to imagine what the cover would look like with the branding, title and author name on the picture.

Tony works with the photographer to choose the best shots, and then he makes whatever adjustments need to be made to the photo. (Don’t ask me about that because I have no idea how it works. Voodoo, I assume. I’m still getting to know my own digital camera.) He mocks up the cover and it heads off to Production, where it is placed into a grid—the standard branding on every cover that makes the books easily distinguished as a part of a series. From there, the cover goes through a series of approvals—proofreading (not just for the back cover copy but to make sure there are many pairs of eyes on the correct spelling of the author’s name and the book’s title), marketing, back to me, back to proofreading, back to Production, back to Tony. Whew!

And then we do it all again next month…


Gillian Layne said...

I love the covers of American Romances, not to mention the stories inside ;) They are definitely a necessary comfort read in these troubled times. And I am especially fond of all the holiday stories that will be coming out now!

Marin Thomas said...

Hi Kathleen--thanks for stopping by! I, too, would love to go to a cover shoot :-) BTW, the heroine on the cover of my November book, The Cowboy and the Angel, e-mailed me to tell me this was her first modeling job and she was so thrilled to work with (JFK junior)on my cover :-)


Ann Roth said...

Hi, Kathleen-

We're so glad you shared your time with us. I love hearing about covers, etc., and it's nice to know that even editors swoon over some of the cover models. :-)

Jennifer Faye said...

Hi Kathleen. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing some of what goes on behind the scenes with the lovely HAR covers. Going to a photo shoot sounds awesome especially with the hunky models. ;)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Hmm... I think we need some more pictures of those hot hunky models here. So we can really understand what Kathleen is talking about.LOL!

Trish Milburn said...

Hey, Kathleen! Hey, Johanna, if you're lurking. :)

This was cool to learn all the various steps of the cover process. I was thrilled with my debut cover. I thought the photo peeps nailed it, with the hero, the heroine, and the dog. :)

Hmm, I'm not sure Tony should let you and Johanna lose on a photo shoot. After looking at Marin's November cover, I'm not sure you can be trusted. Hee hee.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone!

Trish, what are you saying? I would behave myself--I think! Hee!

The cover process is an interesting one, though. Tony is brilliant and very creative. And so patient when Kathleen and I drool over his pictures of these hunky heroes! :)


Trish Milburn said...

So, do you two have life-size blow-ups of these covers in your offices? :)

I'm going to get myself in trouble being a smarty-pants today, aren't I? I can't help myself!

Okay, serious question -- when a line decides to undergo an overall change in its look, who makes that decision? I love how American looks, but they have an overall different look to them than they used to as do other lines.

Ellen said...

If Tony get the final say on the covers he does an amazing job on picking the right picture. Does he work only on American? That would be enough for any one person IMO.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone, I tried to post earlier but it didn't work. I'm a novice blogger.

Trish, when we change or tweak the look of a line, it can be a big process. Everyone gets involved - editorial, marketing, sales team, and more. Or sometimes, like when we made a subtle change to our branding in Dec 07, we just asked two people and did it. :)

Tony also works on Blaze right now. He does a great job there too!


Anonymous said...

And I don't have any blow ups of covers in my office. It would be distracting!


Estella said...

Interesting and informative post!

Hope Chastain said...

Thank you so much for sharing this great information! I was wondering whether HAR used photography rather than paintings. I thought so, but with some of the photorealistic artists around these days, I wasn't sure. The covers are gorgeous!

Megan Kelly said...

Thanks, Kathleen. I doubt I'm the only person to ever buy a book because of its cover--or the hero on it. ;) The picture and the back cover blurb are vital to sales. When I saw the purple outfit on my heroine for my April book, I just sighed; it was perfect. The color epitomized Spring and just popped! I loved hearing how the process works, but how cool would it be to see my own cover shot?! So if Tony can't trust you two, but he needs someone to blot the model's sweaty cheek... ;)

Lee McKenzie said...

Thanks, Kathleen! What a great post.

Sounds as though it wouldn’t take much to convince some of us that a field trip to a cover shoot is in order. It’d be strictly business, of course. We could thank Tony in person doing such a great job.

But I guess it couldn’t hurt to thank the models, too;)

Linda Warren said...

Thanks for the post. It was fun hearing about the cover process. And what a perk that you and Johanna get to meet these handsome cover models. Now that's a fun job.
I've been very pleased with all my American covers. And I'm hoping I get one of these hunky guys on my Mar cover.

Barbara White Daille said...

Hi, Kathleen and Johanna.

Kathleen, thanks for the fascinating post.

I've been SO happy with my covers. As my second book had one of those hot, hunky heroes, I can't tell you how much I appreciate Tony! And the first book cover was of my heroine's adorable little boy, so I won't complain there, either!

Thanks again for the peek into an important part of the publication process.