Keli Gwyn
Great Covers Begin with Art Fact Sheets

After you sell a book (!) and the contract is inked, one of the documents you’ll receive from your publisher is an Art Fact Sheet, which an author is asked to complete in order to help the publisher’s design team create a cover that fits the story inside.

Not all houses refer to this document as an Art Fact Sheet. My publisher uses the term Cover Direction Questionnaire, an appropriate name since it’s chock full of questions.

I’ll use my Questionnaire as an example, since it’s the only one I’ve seen.

The first questions dealt with the basics: release date, title, series, and author.

Six sections followed, some with subheadings. These may vary from house to house.

Background/Setting

In this section, I was asked to state the year and time period covered in the book and to give information on the locale, including such features as the lay of the land, the season(s), the vegetation, and other geographic features.

I provided information about the town of El Dorado and described the stores owned by Miles and Elenora, the hero and heroine, since they’re important locations in the story.

Summary

What my publisher wanted was a 50-100 word blurb that gave the set-up of the story. I used the summary from my proposal, which was worded like back cover copy.

Character Descriptions

Because my book is a romance, I provided descriptions of Miles and Ellie, including physical features such as age and occupation, hair and eye color, hair and clothing styles.

"Miles Rutledge"

In addition, I was asked for an overall description that could include height, build, personal style, and countenance. This is where I was able to include the fact that Ellie is determined and a bit feisty, elements my publisher captured so well on the cover.

"Elenora Watkins"

I was asked to include information on up to two secondary characters. I listed Miles’s mother and Ellie’s nine-year-old daughter, since they appear in the story quite a bit.

Story Conflicts

I included two major conflicts in the story that could potentially be shown on the cover.

Tone

I was given several choices and asked to pick the one I thought best fit my story. I chose “romantic showing the heroine.” I had the benefit of having seen the cover for the first two books in the line and knew they’d included just the heroine, so my choice was an easy one.

Symbols

In this section, I mentioned the silk flowers Ellie wears at her throat, an aspect of her shop that is very important to her, and her violin. I didn’t expect to see the violin on the cover, as I said in the post where I revealed the cover of my book, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, so I was delighted to see it used.

Photos

Following the sections, I was invited to submit any photos of the characters or setting that would help my design team. I sent the historic photos of Miles, Ellie, Miles’s mother, and Ellie’s daughter that I’d used as the models for those characters.

I’d purchased reprints of two photos of El Dorado taken around the year my story takes place from our local museum and got permission to send them to my publisher.

• • •

Do you work from photographs when you create your characters, or do you locate pictures of your characters to match the images in your mind after you’ve written the story?

Were you surprised by any of the elements requested in an Art Fact Sheet?

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Keli Gwyn
Cover Love

Covers are important. I know we’re advised not to judge books by them, but I do anyhow.

My publisher sent me the finalized version of my cover, which I’m now able to share.

I think Barbour’s team did a great job. Why? Because it’s my book, and I’m biased. 🙂

In all seriousness, I’m delighted with the cover, in part because it answers many of the questions I ask when I look at a book’s cover.

Is it a romance? The use of the word “bride” in the title lets readers know it is, and the beautiful cover model reinforces that fact.

Is it a contemporary or a historical? Several factors show the reader that the book is a historical: the style of the model’s dress, her hairstyle, the Old West town behind her, and the use of the Western-style font for my name.

Where does the story take place? The use of “El Dorado, California” in the title makes this quite clear. The number and sizes of the buildings show that El Dorado is likely a small town, which is true.

Is the tone of the story dark, funny, or sweet? This can be harder to determine, but I like to think the cover hints at the fact that the story is a sweet romance. What gives me this impression are the choice of colors, the light sky as opposed to a dark one, and the absence of a fearful look on the model’s face. There aren’t any obvious humorous touches, so I wouldn’t expect an overly funny story. (I’ll let you in on a secret. There are some fun places I hope make readers smile or maybe even chuckle a time or two. 🙂

As the author, I can look at the cover and see how Barbour’s design team worked hard to add some important elements from the story.

  • The intent look on the model’s face, coupled with her stance, do an excellent job of conveying Elenora’s determination.
  • The tall building beside the model’s left elbow is Ellie’s shop, and it contains some important features that play a part in the story.
  • Ellie plays violin, and I’d hoped to see her instrument on the cover, although I didn’t see how that would be possible, since her shop is the primary focus of the story. Barbour’s design team figured out how to include it, using it as the icon between the title and my name.

I’d dreamed of seeing my name on a book cover for years and wondered what the cover would look like. Would I like it? The answer is yes. I’m delighted with the cover and am grateful to Barbour for doing such a good job.

• • •

If you’ve had a book published, what was your reaction when you saw your cover?

If you dream of having a book published, what do you imagine your cover will look like?

If you are a reader, what questions do you like to be answered when you see a book cover?

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Keli Gwyn
Friday Fun Victorian Style

Texts, instant messages, emails, Facebook messages, DMs on Twitter, cell phone calls.

We make use of all those means of keeping in touch today.

The Victorians had snail mail, telegrams, and calling cards.

The precursor to business cards, calling cards were used by men and women for a number of social occasions. Men usually kept their cards in their vest pockets. Women carried their cards in elegant cases. A man’s card was somewhat smaller than a woman’s for this reason.

Both men’s and women’s cards often included flowers. The heroine of my debut novel, Elenora Watkins, loves violets, so she might have chosen a card like the one above.

A person’s name could be found on the back of the card, on the front, or hidden under an attached flap on the front. A man might include his address, but a woman would not.

One use of a calling card was to convey a message when making social calls. A particular corner on the card was turned down before the caller handed the card to the servant who answered the door. Which corner was bent depended on the reason for the call.

A folded upper left corner indicated a visitor came in person.
A folded lower left corner said goodbye.
A folded lower right corner offered condolences.

What message do you think a folded upper right corner sent?

• • •

Leave your guess in a comment. To make this more fun, use only your current knowledge rather than performing a search on Google or making a dash for your reference books.

At the end of the day, I’ll update the post to include the answer and leave it in a comment. If you want to know the answer, you could subscribe to the comments on this post.

Have fun guessing!

• • •

Update and Answer

I had such fun reading the guesses left in the comments.

One person, Dianne, guessed correctly. She said she thought the folded upper right corner indicated congratulations. That’s it exactly. Having that corner folded was the way a person congratulated the recipient of the card on an engagement, a wedding, a birth, etc.

A number of you wondered if a gentleman would use his card to convey romantic interest. No. The main reason is that it wasn’t proper for a gentleman to call on an unmarried woman who was alone. His card would have been taken to the girl’s mother, who would have determined if he was to be admitted or not. Therefore, he would have turned down the upper left corner to indicate that he’d come in person and desired to pay a social call. Then he would have hoped like crazy that the girl’s mother was willing to admit him.

If a gentleman asked to escort a woman home from an event, he would have handed her his card. If she wanted to accept, she could have returned it with a certain corner up to indicate yes. Although I didn’t find out which corner that would have been, the man and woman would have known, since the Victorians were well versed in the language of the calling card. Another way for her to say yes would have been to give him one of her cards.

After reading this, which is only a small sampling of the rules involved in the use of the Victorian calling card, aren’t you glad we don’t have to know all this? I sure am. 🙂

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Keli Gwyn
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