Behind the Scenes of a Historical Romance Cover

Posted by on Dec 10, 2013 in Covers | 60 comments

Today I have the pleasure of teaming up with Kristopher Orr of WaterBrook Multnomah and we’re bringing you the design process for the third book in the Cadence of Grace series! I was amazed by all that’s involved in putting together a book cover and in addition, the added technicalities with bringing a series home with the final art design.

We begin with a few stills from the photo shoot. Courtesy of a studio in Colorado Springs (and our fantastic model and photographer!), our heroine, Lonnie Sawyer, comes to life!

Kristopher: Which shot completes the series and also hints at her inner struggle??

Joanne: Can I just say how fun it is to see these outtakes? Bravo to the model, Rose, for all her hard work! P.S. I love the 6th shot. Can we have a fourth book just to use it?! ;)

Onto Gideon… One thing I asked my publisher early on was if we could please (PLEASE!) get Gideon on the cover. If you’ve read the story, you totally get this. So onto the hunt for a man who has reddish-brown hair, is rather tall, pretty much swings an ax for a living and could be believable as the most handsome man in Rocky Knob.

Er… no pressure.

A few early samples my publisher looked at:

Choices… choices…but the hunt was still on.

In the meantime, there’s also the background and the sky to figure out. So far in each book, the skies have been very vivid and strong with a mountain landscape beneath, so Kristopher would have been looking for something to match that.

As part of all this, he emailed me for a description of what the Bennett’s home and farm was like. I sent him the details and layout and here are a few of the ideas he pulled together:

Kristopher: What location? How will it composite into a different background? Is the lighting right? Should it be at sunset or sunrise to compliment book 2? Does the color palette complete the color curve of the series?

Joanne: Here are some early drafts of the cover (including a different title!)

Kristopher shares that these cover comps didn’t make the cut because the man was wrong and also it was too hard to see the title.

Joanne: I especially like Lonnie in the second shot. The sky is beautiful, but it’s not quite as bold as with Be Still My Soul and Though My Heart is Torn. I can see now why it was revised down the line. Also, Gideon is *almost* there! This guy’s not bad, thought his hair is a bit dark…Either way, my publisher was looking for something a bit different…

And what about that title? Yes! That was the working title for the story and while I was fond of it, I ended up suggesting My Hope is Found to my editor later on in the publishing process and she and her team agreed that it was the one. 

More changes in the works:

Kristopher: Distillation into comps. Title Changing to My Hope is Found. Typography needs to fit with the series. Where does the script face come in? Where does the flourish float?Where does the all cap Serlio go? Is it family with the series?

Joanne: At this point, I’m yet to see the final cover. Of the two designs here, the one below is the one I’ll first see. I loved a lot about it-the vivid sky, the landscape and background and Lonnie’s beautiful expression, but there were a few tweaks I was able to suggest…

Kristopher: Comp 3 is chosen and finessed. Problems: Light on character’s face is opposite of where the sun is setting. (oops!) Problems with the historicity of the dress (circa 1970’s, not early 1900’s) Background character on the horse is wrong.

Joanne: At this stage, I wasn’t keen on the dress, for the reason Kristopher mentioned above. But the biggest part that I was hoping we could work on was Gideon. I wasn’t a fan of the small figure leaning against the house. It just felt like the wrong visual for Gideon and his character by the time we reach this third book. I talked to my publisher about capturing that feeling of his heart change over the course of the series and finally coming home to Lonnie… so, the hunt for the perfect Gideon continued! 

At this point, I also asked about the “F” in “Found” and if maybe he had another font on hand that could go there as me and that backwards “F” weren’t entirely seeing eye to eye. 

This is where a girl is so thankful she has such an amazing designer! Because he happily took those ideas and went back to the drawing board. 

At this time, he sent me 4 new dress options and this is the one we both thought Lonnie would have worn:

The dress was quickly rented from the costume place, re-shot and with a bit of design magic, Lonnie got a brand new look.


But still, no Gideon. As I waited for Kirstopher to send me the final cover, one of the things that kept circling my mind is how the hero of this story would end up being portrayed. He’s so integral to the plot and so much of the story centers around his own spiritual and emotional journey, that my hopes to get him just right were still alive and well… though I was a bit nervous as we were running out of time and I still had only seen the one cover comp at this point. Early on in the revision process, I asked Kristopher this: 


Readers have been so eager for Gideon to come home…can we engage him in a way that shows he cares? His heroic qualities? He’s fought so hard to get back to Lonnie, can we capture that?


And this was the result:

Kristopher: Gideon found!

Joanne: (She can’t speak because she just fell out of her chair.)

The skies parted and there may have been angels singing.

The search was officially over and everything put together on Kristopher’s end as he finessed the final design. The cover was complete and sent to the author (me!) to go gaga over. 

Kristopher: Final composite with correct Gideon, correct lighting, and beautiful but sad expression of Lonnie with slightly falling hair catching some hints of daylight and wind all sending signals of romance and drama.That’s all complimented by the warm color palette. 

Joanne: Wow. What he said!

From Lonnie’s expression to the connection between her and Gideon who’s now walking toward her, it’s all perfect. It all just fell into place, with a lot of hard work from the designer and his artistic magic. My hats off to Kristopher at WaterBrook Multnomah and his fantastic job on not only the cover for My Hope is Found, but for the entire Cadence of Grace series.

So let’s chat: Are you surprised by how much work goes into the making of a cover?

What do you think about the differences in versions and looks?


  1. Joanne! I love seeing all the behind the scenes shots and the progression of the cover. Kristopher is awesome. And so are you, having such a clear vision and fighting for the perfect Gideon. He was worth it. :)

    And yes, the right dress is very important!

    I hope to see some outtakes for Tamsen one of these days.

    • Kristopher really is awesome. He’s such a great designer and so thoughtful towards our thoughts on the process and how the stories are reflected. Hehe… the perfect Gideon really was worth it :) OH, I’d love to see some outtakes for Tamsen. It’s always fun to see the process.

  2. LOVE this!! It’s so amazing to see the incredible amount of vision, precision, detail, care, and work that goes into this. And thinking back to that blog post of yours a few years back wherein you first announced your three-book contract… then to see this, with all 3 covers lined up in a row like that? *Sniff!* Such joy!! Well done to Kristopher, and well done Joanne and Waterbrook Multnomah!

    • awww…that seems like such a long time ago, but it really wasn’t. How time flies! Still praying for your own stories and that they will be lined up one day and we’ll be talking covers. :) :) Hugs, dear friend.

  3. WOW, Joanne~ How cool to see the process and the careful time and attention to details from the dress to lighting. The “Gideon” picked for the cover looks great and “Lonnie” is so beautiful and all the shots of her were amazing-it would have been hard to choose. Love the other title option and the picture of her on that cover was amazing as well. What a series! And now when I look at covers I will have all the more appreciation for the time put into them. Truth be told, a good cover intrigues you into the story of those characters.

    • You are so sweet, Julie! it really would have been hard to choose. I’m kind of glad that I wasn’t involved in the beginning process because of that.

      I think it’s so amazing how a book cover really does symbolize the story inside. It’s such a thrilling and also nerve-wracking process for the author. Our books spend so much time just being manuscripts, that when it goes into the publishing process, we wonder what our “baby” is going to look like! :)

  4. What a fun post and a complicated and fascinating process. Amazing covers! Hugs, Mona

    • It truly is, isn’t it Mona? We are so blessed to get to work with such a great art department.

  5. This was so neat to see, Joanne! I had no idea. :) Excellent work, Kristopher! :)

  6. Wow–how amazing to see this process! All the different versions and how God brought it all together…beautiful. I am greatly looking forward to reading these books, as I’ve wanted to for some time–and now finally have the first two! :)

    • Hi Kiersti!
      Lovely to see you here! I’m so glad you’ve got the first two books and that you’ll be reading the series. I do hope you enjoy it! :)

  7. LOVE THIS! So fun, thanks for sharing Joanne! :)

    • Hi, Amber!! Isn’t cover design fun?? I’m particular to those historical romances and I know you are too ;)

  8. Wow! I loved hearing about the process of getting the cover just right. I think it’s great that you were able to work directly with the cover designer. That isn’t always the case. Kristopher does indeed do wonderful work!

    • It really was great, Keli. They took my ideas really well and that was such a blessing. Kristopher really does do wonderful work! He’ also designed Lori Benton’s Burning Sky, Carrie Turansky’s latest and many others!

  9. Thanks for sharing it was very interesting. There sure is a lot going into the covers. But I think it is what helps sell the book. Your covers are beautiful glad I have them in my collection.

    • I was surprised by what a process it was and am so thankful for good designers who do it so well. So glad to hear that the books are in your collection, Diana! :)

  10. Joanne,

    Thank you so much for showing us all the steps leading to (most) covers! I usually feel it does not match the synopsis and/or the title but this lovely model (Rose) is so photogenic and seeing it all come to life was a wonderful experience! Thank you for sharing!!
    Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Holiday Season and may His light shine upon you and yours always,

    • Noelle,

      So nice to see you here. I’m so glad that you enjoyed seeing it come to life! Yes, the model… she was just fantastic. I’m so blessed by how she portrayed Lonnie.

      I hope you have a merry, merry Christmas!

  11. Remarkable. I love seeing this process – thank you for sharing, Joanne, Kristopher, Lonnie and Gideon.

  12. Never would I have guessed the amount of time, the do’s and re-do’s of a cover. Hats off to Kristopher for getting your vision Joanne, it certainly has been worth it to all of us readers. Thank you all so much.

    • I wouldn’t have either, Melody! It really is a process! Yes, hats off indeed. It’s so great to see the book all come together in the final image. It’s one of my favorite parts.

  13. Loved this behind the scenes! It is so wonderful to have a cover artist you can bounce those thoughts and ideas off and who will listen to you so your book puts off JUST the vibe you wanted it to. You all succeeded wonderfully!

    • It really is wonderful to have that artist… which is what amazes me so about your beautiful cover. You really did a top notch job!

  14. What a cool process!! The various outfits and poses are so cool. But, umm, the wanna-be Gideon in yellow? Noooo. And that flowery dress? SO glad they switched it up!!
    I’m hoping I have this nice designer someday!!

    • Glad you liked it! And oh yes, that’s a great thing to hope for!!! :) I know there are so many great designers out there and Kristopher is the only one I’ve worked with, but it’s been a wonderful experience.

  15. Oooh, I loved seeing all of this together! What a process. But they got it right! Hooray! Your series is gorgeous, inside and out!

    • Hi Jocelyn! I’ve been thinking of you with your own cover adventures and so far, they haven’t let you down. ;) Cheering your cover on as it goes through the process again! I cannot WAIT to read your next story.

  16. I love all your book covers Joanne! They did such a great job on them, but I have to say the stories inside are even better. : )

    I just finished the last book and wow! I especially loved Gideon’s journey in experiencing God’s grace, so beautifully written. I’m so looking forward to your future novels!

    • Thank you, Cathy! You are so sweet… that gave me quite the smile. :)

      Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed how it all wrapped up! Such a bittersweet thought as I DO miss those characters. Glad they are alive and well in those stories!

  17. Joanne…this is Amazing! I love seeing the back story of the cover. Your covers are simply gorgeous and really pull you into the story. I love seeing/hearing how it was completed and how you wanted it tell a story before you read the story. Great job!!

    • Why thanks, Melissa! It was really fun to get to share and Kris was so great with all his help! Glad you stopped in for this and that you enjoyed it!!

  18. Love, love, love seeing a bit of this journey to create the final covers. The models, clothing, lighting, hair…so many aspects to consider and then to have the final covers wrapping your amazing stories! It makes me think of the wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree and these covers really are the wrapping for the gifts of your stories. Best to you and to Kristopher – what an amazing artist he is.

    • Aw, that’s so sweet! Love that picture you paint of the wrapped gifts. :) YES, Kristopher really is such a great artist. This is one of my favorite parts of the whole process. SO many aspects to consider… and just one more reason why I’m so thankful to have such a great team.

  19. All these covers! They are just gorgeous!

  20. Joanne, thank you for taking the time to share all this with us! I knew a lot was involved, but not the extent to which you described. You may have said this and I missed it, but what was the time frame for all of this? The process is absolutely fascinating and I’m thankful you were allowed so much input. I think covers really are important because they can make you reach for a book that you might not pick up otherwise – and it was the cover of Be Still My Soul that drew me in the first place. In fact, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Knowing the story and characterization of this series, I would say that each cover is perfect.

    • Carole,

      It was such a pleasure. Hmm… that’s a great question. The time frame for this one was a bit different as the photo shoot happened months and months before the release of Be Still My Soul and at that point, I think Kris may have been consecutively planning the covers from then on, though we collaborate a bit together as each one nears the three month promotion period prior to it’s release. (I hope that made sense!) :)

      I’m so glad the cover for Be Still My Soul drew you in. That’s wonderful to hear! And thank you for your sweet words on the stories themselves!

  21. Always so awwesome to see how covers and books come together.
    Linda Finn

  22. I LOVE this behind-the-scenes look at the cover design process! It is so fascinating to see how it all comes together. You all did such a fabulous job and I can’t wait for more! :)

    • Hi Britney!

      I was fascinated myself as I hadn’t seen all these images prior to putting this post together, so it was a real treat! Glad you enjoyed it. :) P.s. your package is officially in the mail!

  23. Thank you so much for the sneak peek into the cover! I never realized all the time, thought, & research that went into the project! I love your covers, especially the last one because I can’t wait for this couple to get it together & finally be a family! :)

    • Becka-

      My pleasure! I never realized either until I got a bit involved. It just amazes me. So glad you like the covers of the series… and I agree… that #3 is my favorite too :)

  24. I never dreamed there was so much to the cover process. I loved seeing this…thank you! All of this hard work is why the covers are just fantastic to these fantastic books.

  25. What a great post! I really enjoyed seeing the steps they went through. Really cool.

    • Regina!

      So fun to see you here. :) Glad you liked the post and oh… the process of covers can be a bit nerve-wracking as an author, can’t it? You have some of THE prettiest covers. I think 60 Acres and a Bride may remain as one of my all time favs.

  26. Loved, loved, loved this post and finding out how all of this came together!

  27. That is really neat to see how the cover is put together. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  28. It’s so cool you’re allowed to share all this. So much of my cover process was shrouded in secrecy. It was wonderful when my illustrator put up sketches for my cover on his website. I could see his creation and revision process was much like mine!

    • I thought the same thing, Caroline. I’d always kept it under tight wraps but when I got to talking with the designer about acquiring an outtake, he suggested we put a whole post together. It was a fun surprise! I’m always curious about the revision process and it sounds like your own has been an adventure. :)

  29. Wow, this is so fabulous! There was so much work put into it — and it looks wonderful!

    • Oh, Stephanie I somehow missed your comment here! A VERY belated thank you!! :)

  30. Thank you, Joanne, & Kristopher – for this wonderful post!

    I truly enjoyed reading & viewing the many things that go into making the perfect cover – & all three of your covers are absolutely perfect, & beautiful, Joanne! I SO agree with all of the revisions, & your choices – were mine, also, Joanne. SO happy, & impressed, that you knew just exactly what needed to be on the cover, & that Kristopher & your publisher were so accommodating, & worked so hard – to get it just right.

    It really does require a lot of work, revision, & patience – getting the perfect cover, doesn’t it? But – I’m sure you, & everyone else involved, must feel it was all worth it! I love beautiful covers, they tempt me to buy a book, & are one of the reasons why I will always prefer an actual print book to an e-book.

    Thank you, so much, Joanne, & Kristopher – for this “behind-the-scenes” tour! I’m looking forward to many more beautiful covers, and books!

    And Amanda – I feel that God is going to bless you by fulfilling your desire to be a published author. He has bestowed on you – too much talent, in putting words together so beautifully, not to fulfill that desire! I anxiously await the time when I will be viewing YOUR beautiful book cover.

    Hugs to you, Joanne!

    • Bonnie,

      And a very belated thank you to you too! Somehow I missed these comments and I’m so sad. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post and Kristopher’s work. He’s truly a great talent with covers. I’m just amazed.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly on Amanda’s books and future cover. We’ll be cheering together when that special day comes! :)

      Still thinking of you and praying for you and I hope that you are having a good week!

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