I've brought in some of the best cozy authors out there to share their secrets and their insights about the booming genre of Cozy Mysteries.
Cozy Cover Artistry
By Nancy Haddock with Sarah Oberrender, Senior Cover Designer, Berkley Art Department
Did you know crafts and foods figure largely in majority of cozies? When I book shop, I look at the cover art to get a feel for the general setting, i.e., country, bookstore, flea market. I also notice if a particular craft or food is front and center, as those details give me a clue what the story might center around. And, yes, I do notice if animals are on the cover. Cats, dogs, horses—I’m open to any and all creatures!
Now I don’t necessary buy a book based solely on its cover, but I’ll sure give it a second look. If I see an eye-catching cover over and over again? Wow, yes! I definitely want to know more about the story behind the art!
Being traditionally published so far, I’m not in charge of my cover art, although I do have input. I will say I’m consistently amazed and delighted by the quality of my covers, and by those of other authors – traditionally or independently pubbed.
So, what is the process in creating cozy covers that are unique to each author in traditional publishing? For the answers, I turned to Sarah E. Oberrender, senior cover designer for Berkley (Penguin Random House). She graciously gave me a short course in the artistry of cozy covers.
Nancy: What is the first step in designing a cover, especially for a new series?
Sarah: The art department’s first step in the cover design process is a meeting with the editor and publishers to go over ideas. The editors and authors have conversations prior to this meeting to brainstorm ideas, and then the editors present those ideas to us. There’s a bit of discussion and then we’re off!
Nancy: How do you go about designing the unique “looks” for author covers?
Sarah: We want each series cover to have a unique look that sets it apart from the others and really makes it stand out on a bookshelf. But at the same time, we don’t want to deviate so far from a genre look as to confuse our readers. So, the balance is to incorporate unique elements and details into each cover while maintaining that cozy mystery charm and intrigue. Whether that is in the illustration style, medium, type design, or series logo.
NOTE FROM NANCY: I chuckled in pure joy the first time I saw my Basket Case cover. The artist who created that cover was Diana Kolsky, and my “logo” consists of six pairs of reading glasses marching along the top of the cover. What a wildly clever way to subtly represent some of my main character—the Silver Six!
Nancy: I know authors supply ideas, and perhaps mention what kinds of building, colors, materials, etc. might be prominent in the stories, but how much do you incorporate those into the covers?
Sarah: The art department does our best to incorporate all elements and details into the cover art to make it as accurate as possible. Sometimes, there simply isn’t enough room to include every element or detail since we also have to consider type placement and legibility. We want our readers to be able to clearly read those great covers quotes and taglines! Sometimes editors pass along reference photos to us (to either convey mood or particular details), which are always helpful in executing the author’s vision. And often times we comb through the manuscript or story synopsis (whatever is available to us at the time) for particular details to pull out.
Nancy: Is the cover artwork done primarily by computer or by hand drawing/ painting?
Sarah: A combination of both. We work with a tremendous network of illustrators who work in a variety of mediums. Some work traditionally on a canvas and scan their work in digitally. Others work exclusively on the computer from the start. The variety of illustration styles is one of the things that makes each series unique!
Nancy: Anything else you’d like to add to the general understanding of cover art design from your perspective in traditional publishing?
Sarah: Each publishing house has their own process for cover design, so I can only speak to what I know in the Berkley Art Department. But I do know that the common thread amongst us all is that it’s truly a collaborative process with a common end goal – to make the best covers possible for both our authors and readers alike.
In my humble opinion, the Berkley Art Department succeeds in spades!
Before I wrap, I want to thank Sarah again for answering my questions, and for working me into her schedule so quickly! Here’s another round of kudos to Sarah and to Diana Kolsky for their brilliant cover designs, too!
I also want to acknowledge my Silver Six Crafting Mysteries artist, Anne Wertheim (represented by Munro Campagna Artists Reps). In Sarah’s words, “[Anne] is a delight to work with and has such a keen eye for bringing cozy mysteries to life.”
She truly does! I’ve been bowled over by each of my covers! (And, yes, I’ve seen the art for the third book that will release in December 2017. It’s TOO COOL!
With the thousands of books published every year, creating cover art that is unique to the authors and their series is an enormous task. I salute the artists and designers with traditional publisher art departments, and the many independent artists, too. Thank you for giving our books their beautiful faces!
Blurb for Paint The Town Dead:
Leslee Stanton Nix—aka “Nixy”—thought moving to small-town Lilyvale, Arkansas, would be about as thrilling as watching paint dry. But keeping up with her retired Aunt Sherry and her housemates—collectively known as the Silver Six—has proven to be as exciting as it is exasperating.
To kick off the grand opening of their craft shop, the Handcraft Emporium, Nixy and the Silver Six invite Doralee Gordon to teach a gourd painting class. Nixy isn’t happy when Doralee’s ex crashes the class with his new fiancée, but things really get messy when the bride-to-be later turns up dead.
Now it’s up to Nixy and the Silver Six to use their melons to find the killer—before someone else gets painted out of the picture...
Nancy Haddock is an award-winning and national bestselling author of mystery-romance and cozy mysteries. Basket Case and Paint the Town Dead are her current books in the Silver Six Crafting Mystery series with Berkley Prime Crime. The third book in the series, A Crime of Poison, will be released in December, 2017.
Nancy’s earlier books, also with Berkley, are La Vida Vampire, Last Vampire Standing, and Always The Vampire. These paranormal mystery-romances feature Cesca, aka Gidget with fangs, and are set in Haddock’s current hometown, St. Augustine, FL.
Nancy draws on historic wealth, southern culture, and the plain old quirkiness of places and people for her books. She lives with her husband and rescue dog Baron.