Heartbreaks and Half-truths

Our friend from our neighbor to the north, Judy Penz Sheluk, has compiled and edited a new anthology of short crime fiction. Heartbreaks & Half-truths: 22 Stories of Mystery & Suspense includes a slew of talented authors, including several long-time Friends of the Wickeds.

Lovers and losers.

Whether it’s 1950s Hollywood, a scientific experiment, or a yard sale in suburbia, the twenty-two authors represented in this collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “heartbreaks and half-truths” in their own inimitable style, where only one thing is certain: Behind every broken heart lies a half-truth. And behind every half-truth lies a secret.

Judy’s here to present something special – how she ended up with the final cover!

Creating a Cover

It doesn’t matter how good a book is, if the cover doesn’t speak to readers, they aren’t likely to part with their hard-earned cash to buy it. I’ve also learned the importance of branding, an expensive lesson as I had all my book covers redesigned last year after a marketing expert at Left Coast Crime Vancouver told me that she “had no idea my books were part of a series.” But I’m guesting on The Wickeds today to talk about Heartbreaks & Half-truths: 22 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, the second anthology under my Superior Shores Press imprint. And pondering various ideas, I decided to share my cover art experience, start to finish.

The first thing I knew was that I wanted the same background, font and style as the first anthology, The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense.

I liked the moodiness of the background, and I wanted all the authors names listed on the front. In my opinion, whether they’re a Derringer Award winner or a relative unknown, they all deserve equal billing. I immediately turned to Hunter Martin, the mega-talented graphic artist who created the concept for Plans. The first step was to develop a blank template for the concept art.

This was sent to S.A. Hadi hasan, who drew the very creepy hourglass. Along with the template, I sent Hadi a rough sketch and instructions to create a blood-dripping heart, pierced by a rose.

The first heart was a bit on the skinny side, and it didn’t seem “broken enough,” but I thought it might work. I even went so far as to “finalize” the cover once Hunter put it all together. But as the days went on, I knew I couldn’t live with it. And so, back to Hadi to plump it up, give it a more distinctive crack, and add a leaf to the top of the rose.

The end result is exactly what was inside my head…I really need to be a better sketch artist when I send my instructions. Anyway, I love it, and I hope you do too.

Readers: what draws you to a cover? Title, artwork, blurbs, author(s)?

Edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. Featuring stories by Sharon Hart Addy, Paula Gail Benson, James Blakey, Gustavo Bondoni, Susan Daly, Buzz Dixon, Rhonda Eikamp, Christine Eskilson, Tracy Falenwolfe, Kate Flora, John M. Floyd, J.A. Henderson, Blair Keetch, Steve Liskow, Edward Lodi, Judy Penz Sheluk, KM Rockwood, Peggy Rothschild, Joseph S. Walker, James Lincoln Warren, Chris Wheatley and Robb T. White.

An Amazon International bestselling author, Judy Penz Sheluk writes two mystery series: the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, and Heartbreaks & Half-truths: 22 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, which she also edited. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors as Chair (2020-21).

Release Date: June 18

Publisher: Superior Shores Press

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21 Thoughts

  1. Weird, I wrote a longish post about 2 hours ago and it is not here, so trying again.

    Congratulations on the newest anthology, Judy. I am glad to hear that you had so put input in the cover concept and design.

    Contrary to that, I have heard several authors on panels at Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon state that they had NO input on the book cover design. Sometimes, the setting or cat/dog portrayed on the cover looked nothing like they were described in the book!

    As a reader, it would be nice to have a relatively consistent set of covers for a series. One example is the lovely academic mysteries written by Cynthia Kuhn. Same font for the titles, the same silhouette of the protagonist are depicted on each book cover. But a different solid background (pastel) colour, book title and a few other minor changes are made with each book. You could easily recognize one of her books on a bookstore or library shelf for their distinctive (and attractive covers).

    Sometimes I read the blurb since I often recognize the author, but this is not so important for me.

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    1. Hi Grace, you’re right, Cynthia’s covers are great. So are those by Susan M. Boyer and Annette Dashofy. All three by Henery Press, so they have a good cover artist. Since Superior Shores Press is my imprint, I have full control over everything, from cover art to story selection. Of course, I also have to pay for all of that!

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      1. Judy, I agree that most Henery Press mysteries have great covers. And the smaller publishers do allow some/a lot of author input on the cover design. It was probably authors with books from the Big 5 publishers that did not get any say on their covers!

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      2. I don’t know, Grace. There are some cozy covers that all look the same to me. Picket Fence, Cat…that sort of thing. Outside of the title, they just blend. I do think it depends on the publisher.

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    2. That is true, but this similarity is not just for cozy covers, Judy. I also read a lot of thrillers and there seemed to be trends or “flavour of the day” in covers. Like, having a woman wearing a red coat and running away. Or covers with the book title in huge bright fonts, and that’s it. So it is hard to distinguish which books are written by different authors in these examples. And going WAY back, my bookshelves are filled with Penguin Crime Club mass market paperbacks. That distinctive green and white background is the same one used for all their books, good or bad.

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      1. Ah yes, the red-coated woman. That can bring us to the title duplication. Girl or Woman in the title was a huge thing for a while. And you’re right about the just title/name. That seems to be for really well known authors. I like to think my book covers stand out, and keep branding in mind.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your cover process. I recently went through something similar. Sometimes cover design can be fun, sometimes frustrating. Much the same as writing, I suppose! Congrats on the new anthology.

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  3. Congratulations on the release of “Heartbreaks & Half-truths”. Love the cover! And yes, the cover most times is what draws to initially to a book if it’s not one I know about already. To me a cover is not part – the title and the picture. Both need to intrigue the mind and make me wonder how they connect. I start to see how the story may go. Then while reading it are right after reading it for sure, I look at the cover to see if the story unfolds before my eyes now that I know how it really played out. I do appreciate all authors listed on the cover. For one thing an author I really love would entice me to give the others a chance. Maybe they are new to me and after reading I want to explore them more. Maybe I’ve heard of a lesser known author and by reading a short story in this compilation, I’ll have a better idea of their writing style and if it fits what I enjoy reading. Meaning that I am more apt to pick up one of their books later.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. Thanks Kay. I got the idea from all authors being listed on the cover from The Whole She-Bang series (1, 2, 3) published by Sisters in Crime Toronto. I have stories in 2 of the 3 collections and at the time was a very unknown newbie. It meant a lot to me. It’s one reason I wanted to publish anthologies, to pay that feeling forward. I hope you check out the book, there are some great stories in there.

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  4. Very excited to have a story in this collection and Judy is such a serious editor. Covers? Critical. When I was a young author, I had the most awful cover of the mass market of my first book. A quarter of a century later, I still can’t look at it. Covers matter and it’s a mystery why publishers so often fail to include authors in the design. This one is so intriguing and captures the essence of the book.

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  5. Thanks for visiting with us today and sharing a behind the scenes look at cover design, Judy! I am always drwan to covers that convey as sense fo the sort of experience I am likely to have reading the book. Melancholy Nordic mysteries draw me in with their bleak covers. Cheerful vintage romps through the English countryside tell be about themselves with a sort of travel poster look. I always love an informative cover!

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