I’ve been fortunate to get to know Vanessa Lillie through her work on the national board of Sisters in Crime, and by reading her articles in the Providence Journal. I’m thrilled to welcome her to the blog today, celebrating the release of her second book, For the Best.
As an author, one of the most exciting parts of the publishing process has very little to do with the words you’ve written. And yet, it’s likely one of the main reasons someone will read your book.
I’m talking of course about the book’s cover. I wanted to share an inside look into the cover design process for my second thriller, For the Best. In fact, I liked the cover design so much, it actually changed the content of my book. Here’s what For the Best is about:
When Jules Worthington-Smith’s wallet is found next to a dead man, she becomes the prime suspect in his murder. After struggling for years to build the perfect family and career, she’s dangerously close to losing everything.
Sure of her innocence, Jules is desperate to clear her name. But there’s one big problem: she was blackout drunk when the murder took place and can’t remember what happened.
Unsatisfied with the police’s handling of the case, Jules embarks on her own gin-fueled murder investigation. As she uncovers fresh clues, she starts a true-crime vlog that becomes a viral sensation, pushing her into the public eye. It’s not long before the ordeal forces Jules to confront her demons, including her turbulent childhood and excessive drinking.
The deeper Jules digs, the more dirt she uncovers about the murder and herself. Unexpected truths pile up until she’s buried so deep even finding the killer might not be enough to set her free.
My publisher, Thomas and Mercer, asks authors to fill out a questionnaire for the cover designer. I answered questions about what my characters look like, themes and an excerpt from the story that reflects the overall tone.
I also sent a link to a Pinterest board with different covers that I thought might provide inspiration to the designer.
Then the designer sent along two main concepts, one similar to the broken wine glass, and another with the pool (and two different background options). That mysterious illuminated pool drew me in right away. The only problem? There wasn’t a pool in my book!
Others may feel differently, but it bothers me if the cover doesn’t match the content. I know a book cover is a marketing tool, but to me it’s also a promise of what’s within.
Because I received this design while I was editing For the Best, I could actually add a pool. Rather than just dropping it into a scene, I was able to develop it into a metaphor for how my main character, Jules, and her family try to keep up appearences, even when everything is crumbling.
Once we decided to go with the dark house in the background, the only small change was adding a glass of wine by the woman staring into the pool.
I appreciated that my publisher used the same cover designer, Shasti O’Leary Soudant, as they used for my debut, Little Voices.
And it’s not just me who absolutely loves this cover. I was thrilled to see Parade Magazine listed For the Best as one of the best book covers for Fall 2020!
Readers, I’m so curious: do you judge a book by the cover? Is that one of the main reasons you decide to read?
Vanessa Lillie is the Amazon Bestselling author of Little Voices, which received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Best Debuts 2019 by Bolo Books. She’s a Board Member of Sisters in Crime and weekly columnist for The Providence Journal. Her next book, For the Best, was released September 8th, and she’s currently working on her third, which is set in rural Oklahoma.